2239 – 2022/2023: large scale renovation activities on Athos

According this source Mount Athos will be transformed into a construction site the coming period. The renovations should be completed in December 2023.  They have been planned in the Operational Program “Transport Infrastructure, Environment and Sustainable Development 2014-2020” of ΕΣΠΑ (NSRF). Twenty new projects will be financed, with a budget of over 18.5 million euros.

In detail:

Agiou Dimitriou of Vatopedi – 2013
  • Fixing and restoration of the shell of the Holy Hut of the Entrances of the Virgin in the Hermitage of Agios Dimitriou of the Holy Monastery of Vatopedi, 325.000 euros.
  • Restoration of the building of the old “Vagenari” of the Holy Cell of Agios Nikolaos “Dontas” of the Holy Monastery of Simonos Petras, 389.500 euros.
Dontas winery from Simonos Petras
  • Structural and functional restoration of part of the northeastern wing of the Holy Monastery of Xiropotamos, 1.862.000 euros.
  • Restoration of the Holy Cell of Agios Ioannis the Theologian of the Holy Monastery of Vatopedi, 1.059.000 euros.
  • Restoration of the Holy Hut of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary – Saint Savvas in the Skete of St. Anne of the Holy Monastery of the Great Lavra, 302.5 00 euros.
  • Restoration of the building complex of the Representation of the Holy Monastery of Pantokratoros in Karyes, 1.692.000 euros.
  • Complete fixing and restoration with the final purpose of reusing the 3rd part of the building complex of the East Wing of the Holy Monastery of Zografou, which covers almost the entire eastern side of the Holy Monastery and its buildings today are the oldest remaining buildings in the Monastery, 1.649.000 euros.
  • Reconstruction of the Holy Hut of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary of the Holy Hermitage of Agios Panteleimon of the Holy Monastery of Koutloumousiou, 675.000 euros.
  • Restoration of the cell of Agios Nikolaos, Kapsala area (Karyes) of the Holy Monastery of Iviron, 888.000 euros
  • Restoration of the roof and dealing with the moisture problems of the Sunday Church of the Holy New Hermitage of the Holy Monastery of Agios Pavlos, 314.000 euros.
  • Restoration of the southern cord of the monastery complex of the Holy Monastery of Gregoriou, 1.760.000 euros.
  • New district heating installation of the Holy Monastery of Iveron, with replacement of the existing heating system, 1.454.000 euros
  • Restoration of the Dormition Hut of the Virgin Mary I in the Holy New Hermitage of the Holy Monastery of Agios Pavlos, with its parallel upgrade and modernization, 407.500 euros.
  • Restoration of the building complex of the old Abbess of the Holy Monastery of the Great Lavra of Mount Athos. It is the oldest and perhaps the most important wing within the precinct of the millennial Monastery, as its construction dates from the middle of the 10th century to the 16th century, as it includes archaeological finds from the time of the owner of the Monastery of Saint Athanasios, 1.512.000 euros.
  • Restoration of buildings of the Representation of the Holy Monastery of Esfigmenou in Karyes, 1.397.000 euros
  • Restoration and renovation of the Seat of the Virgin Mary of the Holy Monastery of Gregoriou and the surrounding area, 630.000 euros.
  • Reconstruction and partial restoration of the Holy Hut “St. Gregory Palamas “of the Holy Monastery of Agios Pavlos, 768.000 euros
  • Restoration of the Church of Agios Prokopios, which dates back to the 11th century, in the homonymous Kelli of the Holy Monastery of Vatopedi, 576.000 euros
  • Restoration of the Holy Hut of Agios Georgios Holy Skete of Agia Anni, Holy Monastery of Megisti Lavra, 405.000 euros.
  • Restoration of the old arsanas of the Holy Monastery of Filotheou, 464.000 euros.

Arsanas Filotheou 2015

Wim Voogd, 8/5/2022 (thanks Vasilis for sharing this information on Facebook)

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2238 – Athos photo exhibition “Between Heaven and Earth” in Germany by Theodosios

Tomorrow, Thursday 14th of April at 19h AM an exhibition will open (for only four days) of pictures made by the German monk who lives and works in Simonospetras, Theodosios. The exhibition is in the town Ursensollen in the culural centre “Kubus“. From the 1st of May 2022 his photographs will be on display in Hamburg in the “Nikolai Kirche“.


“I will dwell here, because it pleases me.” (Psalm 132:14)
Photographs of monk Theodosios Simonopetritis

In the last thirty years, a great many contemporary photographs of Mount Athos have come to the public. In the majority these photos are made by visitors. Familiar with the Holy Mountain
or not, these images express firstly what ordinary visitors or devout pilgrims see, in contrast to the images of contemporary societies.
In the case of Father Theodosios it is different. Several years ago he came to on to stay on Athos. Not only did he consciously choose this place, but he has it learned to love and made it his home. What he photographs is his, not something foreign or impressive, but his homeland. It does not concern him to show the “others”; he simply shows us “the tents of his house” (Psalm 132:2). He does not depict the outer place, but the inner one, the Athos, where he lives.

Father Theodosios’ pictures are divided into five units.
The first unit is a study of the relationship of the built-up space with the natural landscape and its boundaries – boundaries that on Mount Athos are not always are easy to distinguish. The first unit expresses this problem, shows but at the same time the technical skill of the photographer.

The ancient tower of Ouranopolis 15-02-2007

The second unit shows examples of people’s presence; the countless anonymous, to whom we owe handicrafts, tools, religious objects – a multitude of small details that point to the long continuity and tradition of Athos.


The third part relates to the people of the Holy Mountain, young and old monks, ascetics, but also the pilgrims who visit the monks’ mountain.

Athos monk 10-09-2004

The fourth part goes to the heart of human activity on the Holy Mountain, the liturgical life. It is one of the few times where pages of the liturgical life of a monk, which explains the dynamics of the images.

Christmas 2006, Blessing of Oil & Anointment

The fifth and final section features rare images of the admirable nature of the Holy Mountain.

The sea in evening light, view from the mountain 11-07-2005

And so the photographs of Father Theodosios fit into the tradition of photography on the Holy Mountain, giving them a new quality and adding a new tone.

text in German by Konstantinos Antoniadis

Wim Voogd, 13/4

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2237 – file a complaint against the new large scale commercial company “Avaton water”on the Holy Mountain

The Avaton water factory

In post 2233 I informed our readers about the new -large scale- mineral water factory, that recently is build on the hills above Simonospetras by the Macedonian Bottling Company. This company started to build a factory in 2021 with the purpose to pump up and sell 48.100 liters of mineral water every year. In the precious post we spoke about our worries if this new company could keep the conditions, set under the Naura 2000 recognition of Athos. The Natura 2000 work on the forests around Simonspetras started as far back as 1991, under the previous ACE programme, when the monastery received co-financing for a project aimed at protecting its forest habitats. This led to a special forest management strategy and innovative techniques for soil protection.

I think it is time to make a protest against this large scale factory.

With the help of Athos-friends I found a website where you can complain about this invironmental unfriendly and unblessed enterprise. I filled in a form yesterday (although sending gave me some troubles). You can write your own complain HERE and I strongly ask you all to contribute. If many of us will raise their voices, maybe someone will listen and end this project before it is too late.

The most recent (31/3) information about the project can be read here (source Dogma.gr, in Greek use Google Translate).

Let us keep Athos intact as it was (as much as reasonably is possible) and keep this Holy place for the monks and the pilgrims, not for the establishment of big commercial companies. Please help us protest strongly against the arrival of (more) large commercial enterprises on the Holy Mountain, also to preserve the future of Athos and its environment. We must protect this distinctive and endangered European natural site. Maybe it’s not too late.

This is text that I used to describe my complaints: if you want you can use it, ofcourse you can make you own text.

  1. It should be forbidden to build this kind of large scale commercial industrial enterprises on the Holy Mountain. I fear a significant impact on the pristine nature on Athos and it is in a “Natura 2000” area, that prohibits the start of large and polluting companies on this spot!
  2. Secondly, this enterprize will need a large amount of energy to run such a large complex. The use of large (diesel?) power generators will pollute the area, whitch is – again – protected by Nature 2000 assumptions.
  3. This also counts for the effect on nature by the additional tranport of goods by trucks and boats.
  4. Near the factory the mountian and its hills are destroyed by bulldozers, this alone is an attack on Athos nature. A large part of the mountain somewhere above the monstary is completely cleared to build the factory!
  5. What will happen to nature of 48.100 liters of water is pumped up every year, it will have serious consequenses to nature surrounding the monastery I.M. Simonospetras.
  6. What will happen to Athos if Greek authorities will allow this kind of activities at other places on Athos in the future? How is it possible – to begin with – that this project is even authorized in the beginning? As said above, Athos a protected Nature 2000 and a Unesco World Herritage Site, where these kind of of big changes should not be allowed.
  7. And finally, there is great impact on nature and the invironment generally speaking by using PET-bottles.
  8. My demand:
    This project should be stopped immediately and definitely. Simonospetras should use their spring water exclusively for themselves. Allowing this type of companies on Athos could well be a very dangerous development, according to me this development is NOT desirable or necessary

If you can’t read Greek texts here is some help to fill in the form, with some screenshots in English from the Greek site, where you can file your complaints:

Below you can see the text that I used, except for my personal information: (the general information from the site Avatonwater.com). I used the photos that I shared in post 2233.

Good luck with writing your complains and please don’t wait too long to react, because the Avaton water company will be operating soon!

Wim Voogd, 7th of April 2022

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2236 – Athos monks pray for peace and the cessation of the war in Ukrain

According to this source – Orthodoxtimes.com – every day the monks of two Athos-monasteries “made prayers and supplications to the Theotokos for the protection of the oppressed and desperate brothers -due to the war”.

In the article a Youtube footage of a service in Pantocatoros is shown from 13th of March 2022, with gerontas Alexios singing and expressing his feelings about the war in Ukrain:


Gerontas Alexios of Pantocratoros 13-3-2022

In this article, also from Orthodoxtimes.com, you can read more about the views patriarch Kirill from Moscow has of the subject of war against the independent state of Ukrain, one of the two so called brother states. According to Kirill the autocephale Orthodox church of Ukrain is “the church of the conquerors”, which he considers blasphemous and insulting. Because his attitude towards Ukrain the Orthodox parish in Amsterdam stopped commemorating Kyrill on Saturday 13th of March 2022.

And according to president Putin the Urkrainians are “nazis”: this gives him -a completely false- reason to start a full-scale war, with thousends of death and wounded and endless pain and sorrow, for both militairy and civilians.

How can this happen in Europe 2022? Are we no longer civilized enough to talk things over? How come that a church in Russia be quiet and not condemn such horrible behavior, that goes against all Christian basic values? And what will this mean for future generations: how will all the deep wounds, that are made right now, heal?

And another thing is: how will Athos monks form Russia and Ukrain, who has lived together as brothers in peace for centuries, have to act now and deal with eachother?

And finally, what would God and Jesus think about all this killing and terror and shouldn’t Their message of Love and Peace prevail……?

Wim Voogd, 28/3

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2235 – In search of Virginia Somers’ lost letter

Iviron by Bas Kamps

William Dalrymple is a famous writer who works and lives in India. One of his books, From the Holy Mountain, contains a chapter about the monastery of Iviron. In that chapter Dalrymple informs the reader about the avaton, the rule that women are not allowed to enter the Holy Mountain.

He states that in 1857 one of his Victorian forebears, Virginia Somers, spend two months in a tent on the Holy Mountain. So she claimed she had broken the ban on women entering the Holy Mountain. The even more intriguing part is that Dalrymples writes that she had written a letter about her extraordinary experience. I was intrigued by this letter. I searched the internet for that letter. But I could not find it. I did find some nice pictures and drawings of her, but unfortunately no texts at all and certainly not the desired letter.

So I decided to send a letter to the famous author via his publisher. But regrettably, no response so far. Probably the author has a very busy life and could not find time to answer. Maybe some of our readers can help to find the letter.

Virginia Somers

This is a very early photograph, by an unknown photographer. It’s an albumen print, taken in the mid 1850s, from the National Portrait Gallery in the United Kingdom. The portrait was taken in the same decade of her illegal stay on the Holy Mountain.

A portrait of Virginia Somers-Cocks (née Pattle). She lived from 14 January 1827 (born in Calcutta) till  29 September 1910. She was a countess. She became the mother of three daughters:  Isabella Caroline SomersetAdeline Marie Russell and Virgina Somers Cocks.

William Makepeace Thackeray wrote of her: “When she comes into the room, it is like a beautiful air of Mozart breaking upon you; when she passes through a ballroom, everybody turns and asks who is the Princess, that fairy lady? Even the women, especially those who are the most beautiful themselves, admire her”.

She spend the two months on Athos together with her husband Charles Somers-Cocks, the 3rd Earl Somers who was a politician, and who was elected in the House of Parliament for the Conservative Party in 1841. When he inherited his father’s earldom in 1952 he entered the House of Lords. The other man in the party was the pre-Raphaelite painter Coutts Lindsay, who lived from 1824-1913. He was an painter and photographer. Dalrymple calls him “seedy”.

The painter Sir Coutts Lindsay

Dalrymple writes that in the letter, Virginia Somers tells that monks took her to a garden and offered her fruits from every tree they encountered. She tasted pomegranates, citruses and peaches. Which is strange because these fruits do not ripe at the same time of the year. Anyway, Dalrymple concludes that his great aunt is the only woman who was allowed on the Holy Mountain in its thousand year of history. And her letter is certainly the only report of a woman staying on Athos.

I’m looking forward to reading her letter one day.

More about avaton.

Bas Kamps

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2234 – Xiropotamou monastery – part 1

In post 2204 I published the hike from Dafni to Xiropotamou. Today we take a look at the outside of the monastery and the surrounding area.

Plan of the monastery made by Mylonas in 1980
Drone footage of Xiropotamou 29-07-2020
The entrance: the South East wall of the monastery

First I walked with my camera to the South West wall:

The South West wall
according to this stone carved inscription build in 1837
Chimneys, cells and balconies South West wall
The kitchen gardens

On the left of the pictures above you see a low tower. At the time that Barski made his drawing of the monastery in 1725, this tower protruded slightly more from the wall and there was a second entrance to the monastery:

Xiropotamou by Barski 1725
Looking back from the monastery to Dafni
The North West wall
NW- wall right side
NW wall – the middle (with a lemon tree)
NW- wall left side
The road to Dafni and Karyes with a gatehouse and barrier: here the bus stops nearby

The North East wall consists of two parts and has a large kink:

First part: the right side in the North
Behind the olive trees: the second part of the North East wall
The second part of the NE wall, with a gate
The surrounding building at the NE wall, with a aqueduct
The aqueduct seen from the other side
surrounding buildings NE wall
More surrounding buildings at the SW wall, with the ossuary in the background (the white building right from the cypress trees)
The South West wall with benches and pottery
SW wall: the backdoor that leads to the guesthouse – archondariki
the path leading to the ossuary
The entrance / gate to the ossuary
Outside the monastery walls: the graveyard and the ossuary (Mylonas plan – 2000)
The graveyard of Xiropotamou
the ossuary
This place is not really neatly organized, to put it mildly.
An old rusted water mill near the ossuary

Wim Voogd

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2233 – the Future of Athos? Avaton water: a company sells the water from a spring of Simonospetras

The founder of this new enterprise, that will be run in the near future is by a Macedonian bottle company from Thessaloniki, Dimitris Babakos from Cyprus, was during a stay at Simonospetras monastery inspired “to craft and create a superior brand; he would care for this pure water and share it with the world”. In return, he would help the monastery fund and support its activities as well as other charitable causes. The new product was called AVATON (the “constitution” of Athos, where he prohibition on women entering Athos is defined).

The water comes from a artisian spring above the monastery and they build new facility above the monastery. Confined groundwater comes up “in a remote rocky outcrop, has been frozen in time after hundreds of years of isolation, protecting the purity of the land and its natural spring, keeping it fresh and unobstructed by the modern world. The best water is the purest, closest to nature, untouched by industrialisation or mankind.”

The new water facility, build in 2021

On the picture above you can see the large area that was cleared to make the new factory. In the pictures below inside the factory you see the large industrial scale.

The Avaton products: at the moment the production did not start yet

To be honest this new development raised some questions and concerns with me.

Do we really need this kind of large scale commercial enterprizes, who build large computer controlled industrial facilities, on the Holy Mountain? What is impact on the pristine nature (Athos belongs to “Natura 2000”!): were do they find the energy needed to run such a large complex? I do not hope they use large (diesel) generators, and what would be the effect on nature on the additional tranport of goods by trucks and boats?

And take a look at the area they needed, a large part of the mountain somewhere above the monstary is completely cleared to build the factory! What will happen to Athos if KEDAK will allow this at other places in the future? How is it possible – to begin with – that KEDAK even authorized such a project? Isn’t Athos a protected Unesco herritage, where these kind of of changes are not allowed? And finally, do we really need Athos water in a PET-bottle? What is impact on more plactic bottles on the environment? And shouldn’t the monastery just use their spring for themselve?

Allowing this type of companies on Athos could well be a very dangerous development, the question is whether this is desirable or necessary.

Wim Voogd, 20-2-2022

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2232 – Fire in the cell Agiou Vasiliou 30-01-2022

Fire in the cell of Ag. Vasiliou

Yesterday I was informed on Facebook that on Sunday evening 30th January 2022 a fire broke out in this cell that belongs to the Serbian Chilandariou monastery. Today I received an e-mail from Vladislav Golupski, who gave me a link to this source on the website hilandar.org (thanks Vladislav for sharing the following information and photos).

The bridge to Ag. Vasiliou and two of the cars from the firebrigade

A fire broke out today [30-01] at around 6.30 pm Greek time in the cell of Agiou Vasiliou (or the residence of St. Basil – Hrusija), which is located three kilometers north of Hilandar. Thanks to the quick reaction of the Greek firefighters with one vehicle, as well as the Hilandar monastic fire service with two firefighting vehicles, the fire was localized and extinguished until late in the evening. There were no casualties or injuries in the fire. The fire was caused by a wood stove.

The fire engulfed the cell, but firefighters prevented the roof and mezzanine wooden structure from burning, so the roof did not collapse on the boarding house, nor did the fire spread to the ground floor. The fire did not spread to the rest of the medieval fortress and its most valuable parts: the church of St. Basil, the tower and the remains of the palace from the 14th century. The residence where the fire broke out dates from 1868. The exact extent of the damage and material damage will be determined later. There were no objects with the character of cultural property in the burned cell.

The photo beow made with a drone shows the living quaters of this small cell.

Agiou Vasiliou cell 05-03-2021 – drone photo by monk T

About the Hermitage of St. Basil

The hermitage of St. Basil (also known as the Old Monastery, St. Basil on the Sea or Pirg Hrusija) is part of the rich Hilandar cultural and historical heritage on the Holy Mountain, which is located outside the walls of the Hilandar Monastery.

There used to be a smaller fortification at that place – a port that was significantly expanded and fortified by the Holy King Milutin in the 14th century at the request of Hilandar monks, in order to protect themselves from pirate attacks from the sea.

King Milutin built a strong fortification – a pyre (tower) with a church on top dedicated to the Ascension of Christ. Immediately after him, Stefan Dečanski built, or finished what he started, another church dedicated to St. Basil. According to tradition, a palace was built in the eastern corner of the fortress during the reign of Emperor Dušan.

The palace, as well as other rampart walls, were damaged and partially destroyed under the influence of earthquakes and the ravages of time.

In the last decade of the 20th century, a wooden supporting structure was made with the aim of preventing further collapse of the palace walls. A few years ago, as part of the renovation of Hilandar, the wooden supporting structure was removed due to wear and tear, and extensive work was carried out on the conservation and reconstruction of the rampart walls and the walls of the palace. At the church of St. Basil, works were performed with the aim of preventing the penetration of salt water caused by the wind.

The hermitage of St. Basil is an integral part of the long-term protection and preservation of the Serbian cultural and historical heritage on the Holy Mountain.

source: hilandar.org

For more photos have a look here during my visit to Agiou Vasiliou in 2014.

Wim Voogd, 1-2-2022 (thanks to Vladislav)

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2231 – progress of the new building in Karyes

Vasilis sent us these two recent pictures from the centre of Karyes, where the large new construction gets its final shape. The pictures are stills from a short video footage, made by Ruslan Pylipko today (26-1). Look at the snow that coverd the dome of the chapel, it has been cold in Greece the past days! (also read this post –2212).

Karyes, 26-1-2022
Karyes, 26-1-2022

Wim Voogd, 26-1 (thanks Vasílis)

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2230 – the Amafli tower: a unique drone footage

As a follow up of post 2228: here are two drone footages from 5-5-2021

Wim Voogd, 16-1-2022

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