The Dutch curator, visual artist and art historian, Antoon Erftemeijer (1954), visited Athos in the spring of the year 1988. It was his only visit to the Holy Mountain until now.
He has a lifelong fascination for holy places and cloisters. As a young man he considered to become a monk. He travelled to many monasteries for half a century. In the Netherlands, in Belgium, Germany and in Greece. He witnessed the transformation of cloister life. Recently he published an autobiographic book about his travels to many monasteries in Europe.
Here we see one of his pencil drawings; the monastery of Dionysiou. It is one of the thirteen illustrations in the book.
He travelled with two friends. They received the diamonitirion in the Epistasia in Karyes, as was the custom in the old days. They were so fascinated that they prolonged their trip a couple of days. He described: “It was like walking in a paradise”. He cherishes unforgettable memories of the walks. He mentions wild roses, yellow broom, orchids, waterfalls, cypresses, lizards, mules and several snakes. And he describes an almost medieval atmosphere.
They made an impressive tour in 1988. As young men with lots of energy can do. First they walked from Karyes via Filotheou to Simonos Petras, Grigouriou, Dionysiou and Skiti Anna. From there they took the boat to Panteleimonon and walked to Esfigmenou and Chilandariou and took the boat from arsanas Chilandariou back to Ouranoupolis.
Antoon and his companions wore small orthodox crosses on a chord their necks. When talking to a monk they admitted they were protestant and Roman Catholic. The monk told them that the pope had made a big mistake by making himself the infallible substitute of Christ on earth. And that all the protestants see themselves as little popes.
Skiti Anna made a lasting impression. In that period only six monks lived there. The monks painted icons on order. Antoon payed 300 guilders (now €136) for his order. A year later the nicely wrapped Mandylion icon arrived at his house in Holland.
In skiti Anna they enjoyed a meal with the monks. Antoon tells that the monks were smacking very loudly. He felt like laughing but he could resist that temptation. Antoon thought smacking might be the local custom. So he joined the monks in smacking.
The book is called: Zwerven langs kloosters (“Roaming along cloisters”) and only available in Dutch.