2132 – An eagles nest high on a cliff, Simonos Petras

The most iconic monastery on Athos is, no doubt about it, Simonos Petras. Built as an eagles nest high on a cliff, more than three hundred meters above sea level. Byron compared it to the Potala in Lhasa (Tibet) which I do understand. Close but unreachable. Untouchable. Autonomous. Impossible to concur. The monastery was founded in the 13th century, but due to several fires the building we’re looking at now is erected after the great fire of 1891.

Here we see this world wonder with an impressive flowering Judas tree in the foreground. One can clearly see that the left and the middle flat were built on top of the bare rock.

The Russian pilgrim Vasily Barsky made this drawing during his visit in 1744. (From: Graham Speake, 2002, Mount Athos, renewal in paradise). At that period the situation was very vulnerable with only 5 monks left. They were very poor and loaded with debts. The drawing gives a good impression of the walk up.
It is 330 meters up from the arsanas. Mostly stairs or close to stairs. Halfway is a kiosk with fresh water. That is the point where the path down to Gregoriou and Dionysiou, both on sea level, starts.

At last we got a possibility for a group portrait, the men in blue: Herman, Jacques and Barry. I was wearing a black thermo shirt. A passing pilgrim was so kind to take this picture. I want to thank him for that. I hope he reads this.

The long building is the new guesthouse where we would spend the night. It is situated just outside the actual monastery.
The impressive aqueduct brought water to the monks. The building in the sunlight under the aqueduct houses the local shop. We went there to buy some souvenirs; monastic products and olive oil.

In the shop I pointed out an art work that pleased me. It was not for sale, but I could have it. It was very kind of them to give it away and I’m still happy with it.
It is a print of a linocut by Reinhold Zwerger. The same man who played such an important role in mapping the ancient mule paths and pilgrim routes between the monasteries. Wim mentioned his art before in weblog 1630.

The interior after passing the entrance gate. It feels as if you walk inside a grotto. It is cool and dark. The path to the left leads to the entrance gate.

The outside passage with the famous bell. The height, so far above the ground, is dazzling. An open balcony on a skyscraper. Sometimes you can look through the wooden floor to the gardens below. Not everybody in our group was relaxed about the situation there.

We explored the surroundings of the monastic complex. From the inland perspective you have nice view over the aqueduct. From there the road (to Dafni) takes a right turn. There is a kiosk with a brilliant view overlooking the monastery.

The view close to the kiosk. The cliffs that bears the structure are clearly visible. The steepness can’t be surpassed.

Three monks on the top floor are having a conversation in the late afternoon sun. From this side there are even four floors with overhanging balconies. We see two domes of the katholicon and the square tower of the trapeza.

The last sunrays of the day touch the upper floor of Simonos Petras. The monks withdrew from the balconies. It is almost time for a sunset. In the distance lures the fingertip of Sithonia.

The choir of Simonos Petras is famous and has made several recordings.

Next time we will take a look at the vertical vegetable garden.

Bas Kamps

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1 Response to 2132 – An eagles nest high on a cliff, Simonos Petras

  1. Barry Oreck says:

    So amazing to revisit this adventure while in forced isolation — sort of monk-like without the 3am services. I too am reveling in photographic memories of Greece and Mt. Athos. Like those hermit monks in their tiny cliff-side houses except we have more room to move around and the groceries don’t have to be pulled up by pulley from the sea.

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