Vatopedi Monastery

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Vatopedi Monastery

The Monastery of Vatopedi is located on the north-eastern part of the peninsula and is the 2nd in the hierarchal rank among the monasteries of Mount Athos. It is dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary and celebrates on the 25th of March. Some people associate the name “Vatopedi” with the flora of the surrounding countryside (vatos = shrub, pedion = plain or ground); others with Emperor Theodosios who built the monastery by gratitude for the miraculous rescue of his son Arkadios, who was rescued from a shipwreck and found next to a bush (vato = brier, paidi = child).

The monastery was founded by Saint Constantine the Great and was destroyed by Emperor Julian the Apostate. It was rebuilt by Emperor Theodosios in the 4th century AD and eventually destroyed again by Arabs in the 8th century. During the second half of the 10th century AD, it was rebuilt by three monks, Athanasios, Nicholaos and Antonios from Adrianople, who were disciples of Athanasios the Athonite. The katholikon was rebuilt on top of an early Christian Basilica. The earliest known testimony of the existence of the Vatopedi monastery dates back in 985, in a document where there is the signature of the first abbot, and one of the founders.

From then onwards, several buildings have been constructed but the most important ones, were those built during the Byzantine period, and on the 18th as well as the 19th century. It is a large monumental monastery surrounded by towering walls, with its buildings set on triangle. In the courtyard, there is the central church, the cross formed refectory, a byzantine period clock tower and several chapels. The church is decorated with frescoes painted around 1312 by famous painter Manuel Panselinos from Thessaloniki and retains some mosaics from the Byzantine period.

Vatopedi's library preserves a medieval royal charter, the 13th-century Vatopedi Charter of Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria, an early-14th century Codex Vatopedinus 655, extracts from Strabo and Ptolemy's geographical works, and early maps as well as around 2,000 manuscripts and 35,000 printed books. Among the manuscripts is the oldest copy of the Geography of Ptolemy. The library is housed in one of the monastery’s towers and two other buildings. Apart, the manuscripts and the documents, the monastery has in its possession a large number of religious objects, relics and eight miraculous icons of the Virgin Mary (Vimatarissa, Antifonitria, Paramythia, Pantanassa, Elaiovritissa, Pirovolithisa, Theodorskagia and Esfagmeni). It also holds the Cincture of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), a belt that is believed to be the actual belt of the Theotokos which she wore on earth and gave to Thomas the Apostle after her death and during her transition to heaven. The belt was given to the monastery as a gift by Emperor Ioannis Kantakouzenos.

To Vatopedi belongs the Greek skete of Saint Demetrios and the Russian skete of Saint Andrew (Serrai). Ninenteen chapels lie within and outside the boundaries of the monastery. In the church there is a clock tower, where the hours are marked by a mechanism of a human form that holds a hammer. Vatopedi Monastery features also 26 Kelia (cells). The Holy Monastery of Vatopedi has founded schools, such as the Athonian Academy on Mount Athos, the Vatopedi school in Larnaca, and has supported the foundation of schools, such as the Great School of the Nation in Constantinople.

Photo: Ratsas - Wikipedia

Each day, 100 Orthodox and 10 non-Orthodox male pilgrims are admitted for a three-night stay in one of the peninsula's 20 monasteries. Clergy and those who have a special invitation from the monasteries are excluded. Because of the small number of non-orthodox permits issued, if you are planning to visit Mount Athos you should run the necessary procedures the earliest possible. Women are not allowed to enter Mount Athos by law, and there is a penalty of 12 months’ imprisonment for those who break it. Boys were not allowed in the past, but the policy has become more flexible over the years, and now boys can come if they're accompanied by an adult - usually their father.

To enter Mount Athos a permit is required for both individuals and groups. The permit is issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Directorate of Churches or by the Ministry of Northern Greece. Orthodox Greeks can apply by producing their identity card at the Athos Bureau in Ouranoupolis on the right side of the port. Diamonitiria (permits to stay as a pilgrim) are issued by the offices of the Athos Bureau, at Ouranoupolis. In order to get their diamonitirion visitors must show their identity cards and pay the sum of €25 for Orthodox visitors, €35 for non-Orthodox visitors or €18 for students. Foreign visitors also need a passport; if you are Orthodox but not Greek, you will need to prove this with a letter from a priest or a baptismal certificate. Foreigners can send an e-mail to a photocopy of the request along with their passport. Once you have secured your accommodation, you will need to contact the monastery that you wish by sending a letter to the guest request.

Once in Agio Oros, you can travel around. The hospitality at the monasteries is provided free of charge. Bed and board are offered to the holders of the permit. If you are planning to visit Mount Athos you should bring with you long sleeved shirts, long trousers, flashlight, athletic shoes and a flashlight. Bear in mind that the monastery doors close by sunset. Mobile phones and photo cameras are allowed, but DO NOT photograph the monks. Video cameras are not allowed. Swimming in the sea or listening to loud music is not allowed either. Follow the ritual during lunch and dinner. Everyone, visitors and monks enter the dining room and stand upright in front of their seat. The Abbot prays, gives his blessing, a bell sounds, and everyone sits down to eat without talking to each other. A monk reads ecclesiastic texts and in about 20 minutes the bell sounds for the second time. If you have or you have not finished eating, you must get up, the abbot prays and after he finish you can get out of the dining room.

The Mount Athos Pilgrims’ Bureau- Athos
Official Office
109 Egnatia str,
54635 Thessaloniki
Tel. for nationals +302310252575 Tel. for foreigners +302310252578 Fax +302310222424
Thessaloniki office hours: Monday-Friday 09:00 – 14:00, Saturday: 10:00 – 12:00