2292 – the remnants of two carriages in the cemetery of Sografou

The cemetery of Sografou

On September 18 I visited the cemetery of Zografou. In a far corner of the cemetery I found two half-decayed remains of four-wheeled carriages.

What could be the reason that these old means of transport were stored here? Were they used to transport deceased monks to the cemetery or did they have some other purpose? How long would they have been in use and how did they even get to this place, while on Athos there were mainly paths and no roads (until 1963, when the first real road for cars from Karyes to Lavra was completed in connection with the 1000th century) birthday) ?

Given the size of the carriages with four heavy wheels, it is unlikely that they were used for funerals. The distance from the monastery to the cemetery is also too short for this: and on Athos you often see the body of the deceased monk being carried on a bier.

A bier (at Filotheou monastery)

Most likely the carriages had an agricultural function. The high side girders and heavy construction indicate that she may have been used to transport tree trunks. Forestry is currently a common way to generate income on Athos and this may have been the case in the past.

The modern way of transporting wood – Dafni harbor 27-9-2023

On the other hand, it is also possible that the carriages were used for the transport of the harvested grain, because in our post 1869 we have published that there was still a threshing floor at Sografou in 1870.

It is difficult to determine when these carriages arrived on Athos. After the invention of the (two-wheeled) chariot in ancient times (Mesopothamia and Egypt), the (four-wheeled) chariot came into use in Europe in the late Middle Ages.

Arsanas Sografou – Sografou 3.1 km elevation gain 145 m, 40 min walk.

And yet another question is: how did these carriages end up at Sografou? Although it took some time to figure it out, the answer is pretty obvious. There have always been two-meter-wide kalderimi paths on the Holy Mountain, long before the first automobiles appeared, and the kalderimi were wide enough for carriages. The current dirt roads for cars, which are now so common throughout the peninsula, did not exist for very long, most of these roads were constructed relatively recently (from the 70s, 80s or 90s of the last century).

The Sografou kalderimi has now almost completely disappeared: a small part of this kalderimi can still be found behind the buildings of the Sografou arsanas, part of the original path that led to Sografou.

On the map below, probably from the 60s or 70s, you can see that there are still kalderimi leading to the monastery:

Map of Athos (Chartis Agiou Oros) – made by the Greek architect Papasotiriou – if you want to know more about this map look here (post 1219).

And when you get to Sografou monastery, some of the original kalderimi are still present (see photo below). As mentioned, this wide paved path was large enough for carriages loaded with wood or grain, drawn by oxen, horses or mules.

A junction of two kalderimi near Sografou monastery (leading Konstamonitou and Chilandariou/Esfigmenou). On the photo, my FoMA team with Abraham, Roger, Lukas and Pieter.

Wim Voogd, 12/11

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