If you follow the Facebook site of monk Prodromos Grigoriatis – as our regular guest and friend Japetus does – you could have seen his video from yesterday. In this video he shows us a first glimpse of the new hotel and cafe-restaurant opposite the Protaton, that just opened its doors(see post 2271, also how to book it). From this video I made some screenshots (with a subordinate quality), to show what it looks inside.
Yesterday evening a fire broke out at a very remote point on Athos, near the junction called Stavrós, where the monopati from skiti Agia Anna and Lavra splits on goes up to the top of Mount Athos.
The monks located in the area of the fire yesterday appealed to pilgrims on their way to the sacred festival of the Transfiguration, on top of Mount Athos, to return to their host monasteries. In fact, this morning, Friday, August 18, they are warning them not to begin their climb to the top if the fire is not fully contained.
The fire that broke out yesterday on the path to the top of Mount Athos is expected to be brought under full control this evening (18/8) as two helicopters have been deployed. The 30 firefighters, who have been coming in from Ouranoupoli port since last night and arriving from Agia Anna, walked up for 3 hours and successfully tried to put it out.
The many pilgrims who made their way to the top to celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration, have also been safely removed from the scene of the disaster.
“It should be mentioned that the firefighters who took part in the extinguishing efforts praised that “the Virgin Mary extinguished the fire in the early morning without our intervention”. With the fire extinguished, the pilgrims were able to climb to the top of Mount Athos to celebrate the Savior’s transfiguration” (additial information from 19-8-2023).
After one of our working days with the FoMA footpath team, when we had been clearing paths in the hills above Vatopedi, we arrived back at Vatopedi area. Near a small chapel the path follows its course down to the beach (on the right side on the photo above and the photo below).
On one of our working days with the FoMA footpath team, when we cleared trails in the hills above Vatopedi, we came back to the Vatopedi area. At a small chapel, the path continues its course to the beach (on the left in the photo above).
Although sun-loving tourists never set foot on this pristine beach, the remnants of their existence can be found, even on the beaches of Athos.
At this point, where the beach ends and FoMA signs point you in different directions, is the first large pier. This pier is mainly used for landing goods and fish, and not for the boats that bring the pilgrims from Iersissos.
There are fishing nets in front of the building opposite: on the left side of the building is a large iron water mill. If you walk a little further you will soon see the second pier, where the passenger ferry moors. The Athos-police also has its boat here.
In the wall is an antique plaque depicting a bull’s head with vine leaves and grapes draped above and beside it, possibly pre-Christian art from the ancient city of Dion.
The building with the bulls head, next to the path that leads to the monastery.
Above the door at the higher part of this building there is a plaque from 1899 wit a text in Greek.
Near the harbour there is another plaque: this one is definitely of Christian origin, with an emporere offering the Vatopedi monastery to the Panaghia and the Child Jesus, but also with the bulls head on it!
What is also interesting here is the water tap, which also has a large plaque above it.
Details from the scene: the Holy Mother pulls somebody from the sea, with a ship above him, a person resting next to a basket and plant and a person offering a gift to an icon.
Looking back to the area and building we just seen.
The southern part of the arsanas, with a ramp leading to a boathouse.
The same boathouse in the centre, but then on a photo from 1870.
At this point of the arsanas you can either follow the road up or go down along the shore and the other boathouses:
Here the road goes up hill, to continue behind the monastery, or you can take the path, where all kind of building activities were taking place.
The back of the two old boathouses, seen from the road.
The front of the two old boathouses, seen from shore. Below are some pictures of these houses. They are in a deplorable state.
In front of one of the old boathouses: a table with “chairs”, made in 2012.
The other boathouses in the bay, with the house of the harbour police on the right.
The next houses: these are neatly renovated. These photo’s are taken from another pier, as you can see on the panorama picture below.
On this commercial Russian website (sviatogora.com) I found old images from (almost) all Athos monasteries. There is also a translation in English. They claim that the old photo’s amd etchings of the 19 monateries are all from1904, but I was unable to verify this information. Anyway, the images look old, so I will share them with you.
An old image of nr 17 Grigoriou is missing on this website.
In the red circle the graveyard and ossuary of Vatopedi is situated.
The wall that surrounds the graveyard with an impressive and very old olive tree in front of it. Behind the wall you can see the graveyard’s chapel.
The entrance doors to the graveyard, with a marble plaquette with a cross above the doors.
The graveyard with the crosses of deceased monks and a chapel with a ossuary/cellar
The cellar of the chapel with boxes and bags full with (parts of) bones and skulls
The bed where the monks carry the body of the deceaced in.
Some of the graves
The graveyard with the monastery in the background.
The chapel and its entrance
The other side of the chapel
The new ossuary, behind the chapel.
with the skulls of the deceaced monks on shelves.
In former days the ossuary of Vatopedi was less organized and looked like this (date unknown).
A water tap in the graveyard, with a relatively new text on a marble plaquette with among other things the name of abbot of Vatopedi Ephraim on it.
Can you help us translating?
Japetus did: The marble plate writes: “Like a twelve faucet spring that irrigates the church, let the twelve Apostles bless this water fountain which Abbot Efrem of the Great Vatopedi monastery has established with the expenses of honorable Andrei Birzin from Russia at the loving memory of his mother Ludmilla on October 2017”.
During my week-long stay at Vatopedi Monastery with the FoMA footpath clearing team last year, I had time to walk around the monastery and take photos of the outer walls and towers (on September 28 and 30, 2022).
Let’s start with a map of the monastery made by Mylonas in 1980: the red arrows indicate the direction I was walking.
The walk around the monastery started at the entrance of the monastery, with its characteristic stained glass windows.
Vatopedi entrance: in the gallery with photos below you will find the wall paintings that can be seen in the dome
Opposite of the entrance is the kiosk, a place to rest (and to smoke).
On the right side from the entrance: the start of the walk at the west wall, with a garden with olive trees and vines, and part of the west wing is being renovated (see the scaffolding in the photo below).
A road and a parking place for taxis/busses, wit another kiosk in the background.
The second kiosk, with a water well.
Behind the second kiosk and behind a high wall, the vegetable garden with olive and fruit trees begins – it can be reached by a staircase. The tower -Ek on the map above- is a defence tower.
The vegetable garden with fruit trees, with the typical chimneys of the west wall.
Detail: the chimneys of the west wall
Although this part of the west wall has clearly not yet been renovated, it has its own charm.
Looking back at the west wall, at the corner of the south wall.
The beginning of the south wall, with and airco, pipes and electrical cords, not an interesting place.
The same part of the corner of the west/south wall, now seen from a higher place/plateau
The south wall with its impressive tower (Ea on the map above/the tower of Christ’s Transfiguration): the cells here are inhabited by monks (among others by father Mathew, who was our contact this week).
The road along the south/east wall. If you look on the right side of the road you will see these buildings:
The south wall and the large tower.
The south wall: the tower on the right side of this photo markes the turn to the east wing (with the tower of The Three Hierarchs, which has a chapel with the same name inside). Below: two more pictures of teh south wall.
The tower of The Three Hierarchs.
The east wall.
The Tower of Kantakuzinos (Ey on the Mylonos plan). The wood is ment for some kind of oven(?). the building in front of the crane was (or is?) the hospital.
The hospital building (nr K and K1 on the plan).
Looking back at the east wing (with the chapel of Ag. Thomas in the middle).
The corner where the hospital building is (K on the plan), with the chapel of Ag. Panteleimonos.
The hospital building with the chapel of Ag. Panteleimonos.
The hospital building and the Pamteleimonos chapel seen from the other side.
The hospital building with, on the right, the tower of the Mother of God at the corner of the east and north wall (E delta on the plan). There used to be a library in this tower, now the new library is in building Z1).
the hospital building – north side
The tower of the Mother of God – at the corner of the north wall
The roof of the trapeza was being renovated at the time of our visit and the crane moved the lead from the roof to this place outside the walls.
The north walls
The balcony of the tower of the Mother of God
The buildings of the north wall, with another second crane because of the renovations of the roof of the trapeza.
The tower of the Synodikón (E epsilon on the plan).
This part of the north wing is relatively new, because this photo from 1976 shows that building activities were still in progress.
The new building on the left has an elevator to lift goods from the harbor to the monastery.
the last part of the north wall – going west.
The corner of the north and west walls, with the pond where Koy-carpers swim, and the kiosk in the background. We almost finished our tour around the monastery!
The beginning of the west wall, near the main entrance.
The west wall and the main entrance: on top of this huge wall runs a path that connects the two parts of the archondariki.
The entrance and the pond, with:
lots of colorfull Koy-carpers!
This ends the photographic tour around the walls of the monastery. For another tour around a the walls of a monastery -Chilandariou – have a look here.
Last Saturday, July 8, 2023 at 7:00 a.m a forest fire broke out in the area of Gourounodes, 5 kilometers northwest of Megisti Lavra (near Lakkou Skiti?) without, however, threatening any monastery.
The extinguishing operation involved four water cannons and one helicopter with continuous water drops, eleven vehicles with 43 firefighters and three groups of infantry departments.
The site Athos Zone (monk Theologian Lavriotis) wrote an article abuot the fire (in Greek) and published some photo’s.
The fire burned in an impassable ravine in the southern part of Mount Athos, far from a residential area. Shortly after 3 p.m. Saturday, firefighters managed to contain the front of the fire.
According to Voria.gr the fire was started shortly after midnight by lightning, that fell into an impassable ravine at the Gournoudes location and smoldered throughout the evening. The first flames appeared early in the morning and due to the winds blowing in the area it quickly grew in size.
Monk Theologos Lavriotis expressed his gratitude as well as his warm thanks to the fire brigade for putting out the fire in a forest area northwest of the monastery of Megistis Lavra.
The Greek website Voria.gr tells us that this new building in Karyes is the second(!) modern building in 400 years, called Samaradiko and that belongs to Lavra, and that it is almost ready to be used. The name is taken from the former building that stood on this site until the late 1970s or early 1980s. Although the Lavra monastery tried to reconstruct it, “due to the conditions, the lack of infrastructure for its restoration and the general difficulties, this was not possible”.
Completely in harmony with the atmosphere of the city and the special space in which it is located, next to the Church of Portaton and the cemetery, a multifunctional building has been realized.
On the upper floors there will be a hotel with 24 triple rooms – primarily for employees -, a restaurant-café (opening mid-July 2023), a physiotherapy practice, a shop with church articles, an optician’s shop. The 500 square meter supermarket is expected to be operational in the autumn.
The number of employees is constantly increasing, over 1,000, due to the many projects that are running this year moment in the Orchard of Panagia, but also of the pilgrims. It is worth noting that according to data, the number of visitors tends to exceed 150,000 per year, making the need for accommodation and hospitality areas imperative.
I personally am happy to see that a new hotel opens its door in Karyes, because my only hotel experience in 1986 was’nt that good (a minus three star-rating). I wonder what the small shops in town think about the opening of a large supermarket…..
Wim Voogd, 10-7-2023, source voria.gr (thanks to Japetus, Betinos and Vasilis)
Epilogue: Japetis informed us that you also can book a room in Karyes in a building that belongs to Esfigmenou (not from the old brotherhood), ask for father Joseph (+30 6951.970910 or email email@example.com). This building is behind the new building of the Civil Governement.
“The cell Moytafi Mount Athos: For the gentlemen visitors we offer the choice to spend time in the Holy Mountain in our cell that belongs to the Monastery of Esfigmenos in the new brotherhood of St. John the Russian”.
In the morning of September 30th 2022 our FoMA footpath clearance team made an extraordinary discovery in the woods behind Vatopedi monastery. We followed the gravel road inland and first passed an apple orchard, where monks were busy harvesting:
Soon after we reached the orchard:
We followed our way along the valley and the small, almost dried up stream, and arrived at the spot where we had to go up hill to clean the monopati.
If you walk a littlebit further along the valley and the stream, you will come to this new discovery, an aqueduct. I don’t think that this place has ever been published on the internet (or anywhere else) before!
In the second part of our clearing day on September 28th 2022 we made a classical mistake that often happens when hiking on Athos, by paying no attention while walking on a dirt road and missing a sign in the bushes.
In the last post of this hike, I explained how we almost got back to the starting point of the monopati we walked (part of the original Ridge trail), because an avalanche and fallen trees blocked our way. But one of our team members managed to find a way through it: shortly after, we met Father Nifon, who helped us get back on track. So we continued our journey north on the dirt road (which road is now part of the Way of the Bay/the Ridge path).
A few hundred meters further on we had to look for the beginning of a monopati, to resume our clearing task. At the fork we had to turn right and came out on a newly dug dirt road. And it is here that we made our mistake by missing the turn to the left, where the path continued in the forest.
Soon we realized we had missed a turn as we saw a monster bulldozer destroying Athos and we realized that this newly dug road could never be part of the old Ridge trail. Bart asked the driver if he could help us: we had to walk back to find the right turn!
And finally we found the right turn, at the beginning of the newly dug dirt road, even with FoMA signs. How could we missed it? We continued our way.
A good example of why it is nescessary to clean the paths on Athos: a thick fallen tree lies over the path.
This is where the Way of the Bay meets the monopati that goes down to Konstamonitou, as shown with a yellow arrow on the Howorth map below:
Only few hundred meters away from the famous Chera point: an old house or farm in ruins, with a wheel to be able to get the water from the (dried) well.
And then we finally reached at 15 PM the famous resting place and well, Chera, or The Hand:
From Chera it was a relatively quick hike downhill back to Vatopedi.
This ends our 9 hour working day and efforts to clear the paths near Vatopedi.