Iberian Monastery

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Iberian Monastery

The Monastery of Iviron was founded between 980–83 AD on the site of the former monastery of Clement by the Iberian noble monk, John Tornike. Prominent member of the royal court of Georgia, John and his son Efthimios were the first Georgians to come to Mount Athos. Together with other monks from Georgia, extended the old monastery and transformed it into a Lavra (big monastsery). It acquired its name around 1010 from the ancient Georgian Kingdom of Iberia (Iveria), homeland of John. Centuries later, apart from Georgians monks, many Greek monks arrived in the monastery. As a result, two seperate services used to take place in two different churches with different religious rituals.

During the 10th and 11th century many monasteries became dependent on Iveron. In 1259, it was destroyed several times, mainly by Frankish pirate raids and in the early 15th century suffered a complete financial collapse. However, the monastery managed to recover soon and by the end of the century become a Greek monastery. With the support of Georgian and Romanian princes, it flourished during the 18th century. Equally important was the support of the Ecumenical Patriarch at the same period. At the time of the Greek War of Independence in 1821, the monastery gave its treasures to support the Struggle and was the place where the martyr Gregory V of Constantinople found refuge, when he was exiled. The convent suffered damages by two fires in 1740 and 1845 and was almost burnt down in 1865, however the Katholikon and the library survived.

Located in the center of the court, the katholikon (central church) was built in the first half of the 11th century and restored in 1543 by the Georgian abbot George Varasvatzes. It is a cross-in-square church, with side chapels added later, devoted to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and is decorated with murals dating from the 16th and 19th century. Besides the murals, equally notable are the famous and miraculous 9th century icon of Panagia (Our Lady) Portaitissa, the silver Russian light of the 18th century in the shape of a tree and the three precious chandeliers and iron railings. Across the church is the imposing bell tower and the dining room. The rest of the buildings on the yard form a quadrangle and include the monk cells, offices, the guesthouse and the library. The library has over 15,000 printed books and more than 2,000 parchment manuscripts and other codecs, including some parchment texts written in the Georgian language. In the courtyard of the monastery one can also find the chapels of Prodromos, Agios Nikolaos and the Archangels.

The Monastery of Iviron is located on the northeast side of the peninsula It is third in precedence among the Athonian monasteries and celebrates on August 15, the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. Since 1990 has been a coenobium and is undoubtedly one of the best monasteries to visit in Mount Athos.