Skete of Saint Andrew

Μετάφραση Greek Version

Skete of Saint Andrew

The Skete of Saint Andrew, also known as Serai, is a dependency of Vatopedi Monastery and the site of the Athonias Ecclesiastical Academy. It is located on Mount Athos, approximately 500 meters away from Karyes and stands where the old monastery of Xistre” or “Xestrou” once stood. It is a huge building complex that follows the architecture of the Athonian monasteries, surrounded by tall buildings overlooking an internal court. In the center of the court stands the main church.

When Patriarch Athanasius II of Constantinople retired in the middle of the 15th century, came to Mount Athos and settled in a Monastic House on the site of the old Monastery that was dedicated to St. Anthony the Great. He renovated it but he later left Mount Athos and moved to Ukraine. In 1763 Patriarch Seraphim II settled in the Monastic House. In 1768, he demolished the old building and built a new one that he dedicated to Saint Anthony as well as to the Apostle Andrew. He also built a church, ruins of which can still be seen opposite the main Church of Saint Andrew.

In 1841, the Russian monks, Vissarion and Varsanoufios came to the Monastic House and with money donated by the Russian Tsar, expanded the building. In 1849, Patriarch Anthimus IV of Constantinople upgraded the Cell to the status of a Skete. It is called a Skete because the customs and statute of Mount Athos precludes the establishment of new monasteries besides those of the Byzantine era. During this period the community grew rapidly in numbers, and huge buildings were built to house the new monks.

A new church, dedicated to Saint Andrew was built in 1867 and consecrated in 1900 by Patriarch Joachim III of Constantinople. The church is the largest on Mount Athos and amongst the largest in the Balkans (60m long by 33m wide and 29m height). By the beginning of the 20th century the Skete had grown greatly and the population included around 700-800 Russian monks.  The outbreak of World War I and the subsequent Russian revolution had disastrous results. The potential for monks from Russia disappeared. The last monk of the old –Russian- brotherhood, Sampson, died in 1971 and the Skete was abandoned. Besides that, a great fire burned the western wing of the Skete and destroyed its great library with the magnificent manuscripts on the 3rd of July 1958.

In 1992, after 20 years of desolation, a new Greek-speaking brotherhood resided in the Skete and in 2001 several young monks joined the brotherhood and deal with the preservation of the icons and the maintenance of the premises. The church has a wooden gilded iconstasis decorated with remarkable icons painted by important Russian hagiographers. It is also the place where the relics of St Andrew are kept.