THE HOLY MOUNTAIN
The peninsula of Athos or the Holy Mountain (AGION OROS), the most easterly of the three fingers of Chalcidice, stretches 45 kilometers south-east into the Aegean Sea. Only five to ten kilometers wide, it is linked to Chalcidice by an isthmus two kilometers across known as Provlaka (formerly the Slav Prevlaka), the spot where the Persian emperor, Xerxes, in the 5th century B.C. had a canal dug for the passage of his fleet on its way to attack Athens, since he wished to avoid the dangerous headlands and cliffs of the peninsula’s southern tip. The low mostly wooded ridge of hills and mountains, intersected by gullies, gorges and narrow valleys, rises abruptly to the domelike Mounth Athos (2,033 m). Mount Megale Vigla (Great Guard, 510 m) forms a natural boundary towards the midland. East of Vigla there has been no lay settlement for more than a thousand years – only monasteries, sketes and kellia. Even today, no woman may see foot on the soil of the Holy Mountain. Greek fishing villages lie to the west of Vigla on the Provlaka isthmus outside the Holy Mountain. These are Ouranoupolis and Trypiti on the southern shore and Nea Rhoda and Hierissos on the northern.
The majority of the Holy Mountain monasteries stand on the shore or a little way inland beside springs or in the gorges of streams. On the north-east coast of the peninsula, the first is Chilandar, about two kilometers inland, in the valley of a short river, encircled by low steep hills. Next in order come Esphigmenou, Vatopedi, Pantokrator, Stavronikita, and Iviron on the coast; Philotheou is about a kilometre and a half from the sea, and Karakallou less than a kilometre, while the Holy Mountain monastery, Great Lavra, stands on a hundred metre high terrace above the sea at the foot of Athos. On the south-west coast, the first monastery one comes to is Zographou, about three kilometers from the sea at the head of a gorge. Kastamonitou is one and a half kilometers inland, while Docheiariou, Xenophontos and St. Pantelemon are on the shore. Xeropotamou stands at about 300 metres above sea level, two kilometres from Daphne, the main Holy Mountain harbour. Further south lie Simopetra, Gregoriou, Dionysiou and St. Paul’s, almost all on scarcely accessible slopes and cliffs above the sea. In the center of the peninsula, in a depression 350-400 metres above sea level and opened towards the monastery of Iviron, lies Karyes the administrative center of the Holy Mountain, in which all the monasteries and the Greek authorities have their representatives. Close by are the monastery of Koutloumoussiou and the Russian sketes (monasteries with a subordinate status) of St. Andrew and, a little further off, the Prophet Elijah. The Athos massif, the southern slopes of which are known locally as the “Desert”, is fairly densely settled with sketes, kellia and hermitages. There are a number of larger monastic and eremitical colonies here: the Moldavian skete of St. John the Baptist, the Holy trinity (Kapsokalyvia), Karoulia, Katounakia, St. Anne’s, the New Skete, and further up towards the peak of Athos: the kellia of the Prophet Elijah, Kerasia and Panaghia (1,500 m). On the summit of Athos stands the chapel of the Transfiguration.
The monks call the Holy Mountain “the garden of the Most Holy Mother of God” (to periboli thV PanagiaV). This _expression recalls the ancient tradition concerning the dedication of Athos and the origin of the monastic life in the peninsula. After Christ’s ascension, the legend goes, the Virgin set out for Cyprus to visit the resurrected Lazarus. A miraculous storm carried her ship in the opposite direction to Athos, which was then the site of pagan shrine to Apollo. At the place where the monastery of Iviron now stands, the Virgin received divine instructions to preach the Gospels on Athos: “This place shall be your garden, and a haven of salvation for those who desire to be saved”. Since the appearance of monasticism on Athos was ultimately the outcome of missionary work by the Virgin herself, the Holy Mountain is under her sovereign protection. As can be seen from the many icons, stories, and shrines on all sides, veneration of the Mother of God is indisputably the main cult on Athos.
It is historically impossible to ascertain precisely when the first monks appeared on Athos. Documents mention Holy Mountain anchorites for the first time in 843, at the Council of Constantinople which sanctioned the victory of Orthodoxy over Iconoclasm. From the first half of the 9th century we also have the names of the first great Athos saints: Peter the Athonite and Euthymius of Thessalonica. Peter was the founder of anchoritic, eremetical monasticism on the Holy Mountain, and Euthymius the representative of the cenobitic, communal type of monasticism. The anchorites live alone or in very loosely connected groups, while cenobitic monks live in a close-knit, rigidly disciplined religious community. By the end of the 9th century, colonies of anchorites known as lavrai had already been formed. These were semi-eremetical settlements with very scattered huts and caves whose inhabitants used to gather in one place for common prayer and Eucharist under the spiritual and disciplinary leadership of a respected elder, the "first" among the monks. At that time there were already at least two layral one at Erissos, on the very border of the Holy Mountain (Euthymius's), and the other first at Zygos on Vigla, and later, from the 10th century on, at Karyes. This place in the centre of the peninsula (and therefore long called Mesh, meaning Middle) took over the position of "ancient seat of the elders" from Zygos, and the "first" elder or protos (o prwtoV) incontestably became the highest authority on Athos. The golden-sealed charters (chrysobulls) of Byzantine Emperors Basil 1(883) and Leo VI (893) guaranteed the complete freedom and inviolability of the Holy Mountain as autonomous monastic territory. This was later confirmed by the chrysobull of Emperor Romanus I Lecapenus in 934.
Following this "prehistoric" period, as we might call it, the Holy Mountain entered into history with the foundation of the Lavra (Monastery) of St. Athanasius in 963, an event of decisive importance for the future development of monasticism on the Holy Mountain, and, indeed, in Byzantium and the whole Orthodox world. Athanasius, a native of Trebizond, came to Athos firmly convinced of the absolute superiority of the cenobitic, communal form of monasticism. He considered that it was easier in a community to achieve the monastic virtues, overcome pride, and practice the commandment of brotherly love. With the aid of his friend Nichephorus Phocas (963-969), the general who ascended the imperial throne just at that time, Athanasius gathered the Holy Mountain anchorites into a lavra of a new type: the cenobitic monastery. The typikon (rule) he gave his monastery (Hypotyposis, and somewhat later Diatyposis) established the general principle of a life of complete renunciation of all personal desires, rights and property, and of unconditional obedience to the abbot as the community's spiritual leader. Athanasius's new monastery was built in a new fashion: it was not a scattered eremetical village, like the one in existence at Karyes at the time, but a strongly built complex of interconnected buildings with rooms (cells) for the monks, ancillary premises and a church in the centre, on the model of the old and extensive cenobitic monasteries of Sinai, Palestine and Constantinople. Thus the very word laura (lavra) from that time on came to mean a large monastery of communal type.
The majority of the Holy Mountain's inhabitants, headed by the protos, opposed Athanasius innovations, so that Emperor John Tzimisces had to intervene in the dispute. On his authority, a new, so-called Tzimisces typikon was adopted in 972. Generally known as Tragos, meaning goat, since it was on goatskin parchment, it is still kept at Karyes. Priority was given to the cenobitic rule, and the abbots, as the heads of monasteries, thenceforward held a more important position than the hermits, who soon lost their independence and came under the supervision of one of the cenobitic monasteries.
With the strengthening of the Great Lavra and growth of other large houses shortly after, such as the Georgian monastery of Iviron (980) and the Greek Vatopedi (985), the position of protos of the Karyes lavra became less important. The 10th and 11th centuries saw the foundation of a large number of cenobitic monasteries, big and small, on the Holy Mountain. The monastery of Xeropotamou certainly existed in the 10th century. From the same period date Docheiariou, Zographou and the first Chilandar ("Chelandar"). Monasteries from the beginning and later years of the 11th century are Xenophontos, the Russian Xilourgos and old St. Panteleimon ("Roussikon"), Kastamonitou, Karakallou and Esphigmenou. In the same century there is mention of the monastery of Amalfitans, housing Italian Benedictines, which existed until the second half of the 13th century. The process of differentiation between large and small monasteries led to the latter becoming kellia, subordinated to one of the big houses. The monasteries that were thus downgraded or completely disappeared included Philadelpha, Monoxilita, Hagiolita, Chalda, Kallika, Ichtiophaga, Hagiopatita, Phakina, Zygos, Chremitzena and others.
The period of the Latin Empire (1204-1261) was one of great crisis for the Holy Mountain, sharing the fate of the western Byzantine territories. Athos came under the rule of the Latin Thessalonica state, and hence under the jurisdiction of the Latin see. But various abuses and taxes imposed by the Latin hierarchy and the barons of the fort of Prosphorion ("Frankokastron", today Ouranoupolis) were not of long duration and caused no lasting disruption of monastic life on Athos. Similarly, a certain closening of ties with the Church of Rome -imposed by circumstances - during the papacy of Innoncent III (1216) was transitory in character. However, the overthrow of Latin rule in Thessalonica in 1224 did not mean the settlement of the Holy Mountain's affairs. Its inhabitants did not recognize the jurisdiction of the Epirus emperor in Thessalonica, and even less the jurisdiction of the Thessalonica metropolitan during the brief reign of the Bulgarian emperor, John II Asen (1230-1235). The situation returned to normal only after the accession of the Nicene emperor, John III Vatatzes, in Thessalonica in 1246. It was not until the early 14th century that further troubles ensued, following the mutiny of Byzantium's Spanish mercenaries (the Catalan Company) in 1307-1310.
The 14th century saw many innovations on the Holy Mountain. The large old monasteries gained in strength, new houses were built, and some that had been revived in the 13th century now became particularly powerful. This was the case with the Serbian monastery of Chilandar, a fact which reflected the growing might of the Serbian state in the Balkans and its in creased influence on the Holy Mountain's affairs. In the middle of this century St. Gregory of Sinai founded the monastery named after him: Gregoriou. A little later Dionysiou, Simopetra, St Paul's and Pantokrator were established (all in the sixties and seventies). Certain changes occurred in the status of the Holy Mountain. Without abolishing its autonomy, Emperor Andronicus I. Palaeologus established the supreme authority of the ecumenical patriarch (of Constantinople over Athos by the chrysobull of 1312. This subordinated the protos to the patriarch on a number of questions. A further step was taken in 1368 when Patriarch Philotheus placed the whole of the Holy Mountain under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Hierissos.
A fresh chapter in the history of Athos began with the Turkish penetration of Byzantine and South Slav lands after the Battle on the Maritza (1371), and particularly after the Battle of Kosovo (1389) and the fall of Bulgaria (1393). The first Turkish occupations of the Holy Mountain occurred in 1387 and 1393-1403; the final took place in 1430 after a short revival of Byzantine rule in the Thessalonica region. In keeping with its administrative policy, the Ottoman Empire sanctioned the autonomous organization of the Holy Mountain, not interfering in the internal affairs of the monastic republic. But certain fundamental changes occurred nevertheless: in the economic position and basic conditions for survival of the Athos monasteries. The Holy Mountain's wealth was undermined by the loss of many of its estates and revenues outside the peninsula and the abolition of its tax immunity. During the period of Turkish rule, the monasteries were burdened by large or small taxes levied on the basis of the number of monks.
But the most far-reaching were those changes brought about by the fact that the system of Turkish rule and the circumstances thereby created accelerated certain processes in the internal development of the Athos monasteries themselves.
Whereas in previous centuries, especially the 10th and 11th, the cenobitic regime h met opposition from the Holy Mountain's eremetical tradition, at the end of the 14th century I tendency was towards a breakdown of the internal structure of the cenobitic monasteries by adoption of the idiorrhythmic rule. This was based on the individual's economic independence within the collective and the replacement of a monarchic system, embodied in the authority of abbot, by an oligarchic (ostensibly democratic) system of "collective government". At first, tendency encountered fierce opposition. The struggle was to last, in fact, for two centuries before the idiorrhythmic rule triumphed. Early indications of this struggle could be perceived in mid-l4th century, even, with the revival of Hesychasm on the Holy Mountain.
Hesychasm, a doctrine of Orthodox monastic theology, originated as early as the century, at the time when monasticism first appeared, but was formulated and elaborated during the Middle Ages in the works of many Byzantine writers. The actual name of the doctrine come from the word hsucazw meaning to be still or quiet, or from h hsucia: divine quietness. It was founded on the idea that through contemplation of God in uninterrupted “intellectual" prayer, it is possible to achieve direct contact with the divinity, receive divine "energy" and see the created light, thereby attaining a higher level of grace and spiritual being. The Hesychast doctrine and practice were revived on Mount Athos by St. Gregory of Sinai (c. 1280-1346). flourishing there was to become the subject of great theological and political dispute in Byzantium in the mid- 14th century. This ended in a victory for the Hesychasts, headed by St. Gregory Palamas, a Mount Athos monk, later archbishop of Thessalonica.
Apart from its theological, dogmatic side, Holy Mountain Hesychasm in the mid- 14th century was motivated by a direct moral and intellectual reaction against the degeneration of cenobitic monastic life, a reaction to the changes already adumbrating the idiorrhythmic rule a different attitude to personal property.
The cenobitic system survived, formally, for a long time, but was fundament destroyed by the new relationship towards personal property ownership and by the establishment of new administrative bodies which restricted the abbots' powers. At the same time, there was further limitation of the power of the protos, now simply prim us inter pares, while the Synaxis (Assembly) at Karyes became the main body. The Turkish period saw the strengthening and eventual prevalence of the idiorrhythmic rule and the abolition of the abbot's function in the majority of Athos monasteries during the 18th century, despite extremely strong ideological resistance. The creation of new sketes and kellia on the Holy Mountain in the 16th century, for instance, is connected with this process: these small communities and new forms of eremetical life, purely Hesychast in spirit, reflected opposition to the idiorrhythmic rule.
The victory of the latter was primarily due to its economic advantages under the Turkish system. Directed towards the acquisition of earnings in cash rather than kind, it even brought prosperity to some monasteries (Lavra, Vatopedi, Iviron). However, signs of moral decadence and deviation from the general ideological foundations of Byzantine monasticism became evident. In the 18th century, the idiorrhythmic monasteries opened their doors to rationalism and enlightenment: Vatopedi set up a high school ("Athoniad") in 1749, in which the famous Greek educator Eugenios Vulgaris taught a purely humanistic curriculum (not only Latin and Greek classics, but also West European philosophers - Locke, Leibnitz, Wolff).
The Greek uprising of 1821 brought great misfortune to the Holy Mountain. Inspired by fervent patriotism, the monks aided the insurgents, thereby provoking severe Turkish reprisals and the imposition of a ten-year occupation and special regime on Athos. A large number of monks then fled from the Holy Mountain, the monasteries were plundered, and many antiquities and art treasures destroyed.
After the Balkan Wars and First World War (1912-1918), the Holy Mountain became part of the Greek state, with a certain autonomy, in keeping with the international agreements signed in London (1913) and Lausanne (1923). The Statute ("Constitution") of 1924, confirmed by the law of 1926, regulated matters pertaining to the administration and system of the Holy Mountain, mostly in accordance with the typikon of 1783 issued by the Ecumenical Patriarch Gabriel. The highest body on Athos is the Holy Community (‘Iera KoinothV), consisting of representatives of all twenty monasteries. The first five places are held by Great Lavra, Vatopedi, Iviron, Chilandar and Dionysiou. The executive body of the Holy Community is the Holy Epistasia, composed of four members serving a one-year term of office. They are chosen by rotation on the basis of the "tetrad" system: the twenty monasteries are divided into five tetrads (each comprising four monasteries), with one of the five leading monasteries as the first member of each tetrad. When the representatives of a tetrad provide the four members of the Holy Epistasia, once every five years, the first member of the tetrad becomes the protepistates (formerly protos). Thus, the five leading monasteries (among them Chilandar) take it in turn to provide the protepistates of the Holy Mountain. The Greek Government is represented by a governor or prefect (dioikhthV) with a police force at Karyes. Athos enjoys wide judicial autonomy (except in criminal cases, which are under state jurisdiction).
The Holy Mountain of Athos
The monastery of Chilandar is first mentioned in a Greek manuscript of 1015, but as being "completely abandoned and empty", for which reason it was given to the monastery of Kastamonitou. It was certainly established a good hundred years earlier: a certain George Chelandarios (Boatman), mentioned among important Athonites in 980 was probably the founder of the monastery, which was subsequently called after him (h monh tou Celandariou). The monastery's name appears thus in Greek acts of the 11th and 12th centuries, but later, in the first Serbian sources, it takes the form of Hilandar (D. Anastasijevich). At that time the monastery was already dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple (November 21). The last appearance of the form Chelandar is in a Protaton act of 1169, the signatories of which included abbot Gerasimus of Chelandar. After this, the monastery declined and was abandoned, like many other small monasteries and kellia at Milees, as this part of Athos was called in the Middle Ages. Up till that time, the area had been prey to constant attacks by pirates and brigands of various kinds.
Chilandar was renewed by the Grand Zhupan of Serbia Stefan Nemanja (the monk Simeon) and his son Rastko( St.Sava). Sava came to Athos in 1191 and was shorn in Roussikon, but soon moved to the Greek monastery of Vatopedi. Here he awaited his father, who had renounced the throne, entered the monastery of Studenica in Serbia in 1196, and in November the following year came to Athos as the megaloschemos (senior monk wearing the great habit) Simeon. Father and son immediately undertook all that was necessary to found a Serbian house on the Holy Mountain. First of all, early in 1198, Sava obtained from Emperor Alexius III in Constantinople a gold-sealed sigillion transferring the abandoned small monastery of Chilandar (Helandar) from the protos to Vatopedi, for the purpose of its restoration. The sigillion was accompanied by the appropriate documents: prostagma and praktikon (catastral document on the boundaries of Chilandar's estate). Work on the construction of Chilandar then commenced. Sava and Simeon managed to overcome Vatopedi's opposition to giving Chilandar to the Serbs with the aid of the Karyes protos and Assembly, who together sent a request to the emperor that Chilandar be handed over to Simeon and Sava. The latter personally requested Alexius to give the monastery the independent status enjoyed by Iviron (a Georgian monastery) and Amalfitans (Italian). Emperor Alexius agreed, and by a chrysobull of June 1198 placed Chilandar with all the holy places at Milees under the authority and administration of Simeon and Sava as a completely self-governing monastery, "to be a gift to the Serbs in perpetuity". Shortly after, in the latter half of 1198, Simeon Nemanja issued a gold-sealed charter to Chilandar constituting it as a Serbian monastery and the hereditary foundation of the Nemanjich family. At the same time, the nucleus of Chilandar's landed property was created: Alexius gave Simeon the serfs of nine villages in the Prizren district for Chilandar; in addition, the monastery was given two vineyards, four bee-farms, one mountain and 170 Vlach shepherds, together with some separate contributions of cattle and salt. Nemanja's son and successor on the Grand Zhupan's throne helped his father and brother to raise Chilandar as quickly as possible In this connection, the first abbot of Chilandar, Methodius (Metodije), visited Serbia in 1198.
The monastery was still not quite completed when Simeon died on February 13, 1199. The church, however, was certainly finished for Simeon died in the narthex and was buried in the church. Sava thereupon speeded up the construction and completed the monastery by the end of that year. In the spring of 1199 he again visited Constantinople and obtained another gold-sealed sigillion from Alexius (in June), which gave Chilandar the old, abandoned monastery of Zygos (now in ruins, on the western slope of Megale Vigla), and the right to keep a boat of 1000 measures, as well as confirming all the privileges and rights conferred by the bull of 1198. After this, Sava set about organizing and strengthening the monastery. At the start, Chilandar had only ten or fifteen monks, counting the first abbot, Methodius, but not Simeon and Sava. Six years later, the figure had reached ninety Serbian monks. The monastery's rule was prescribed by the Chilandar typikon, drawn up by Sava along the lines of the prologue of the typikon of the Constantinoplitan monastery of the Virgin Evergetis (i.e. Benefactress), shortly after St. Simeon's death and the completion of the monastery (1199). At that time Stefan Nemanjich issued a charter confirming his father's decrees concerning this foundation and bestowing on it another fifteen villages, markets, mountains and vineyards in Serbia.
On the model of the Evergetis monastery, which adhered to the cenobitic rule observed in the monastery of Studios in Constantinople, Chilandar was thus founded as a cenobitic house in which the monks formed a close-knit community, working, eating and praying together under the rule of an abbot. Spiritual activities were given priority. The first chapter of the typikon, after an ideological introduction and information on the foundation of the monastery, with a note or the death of the holy Simeon, is devoted to prescribing the various forms of worship. It was important that the Chilandar monks should regularly receive the Sacrament under the spiritual supervision of the abbot or a spiritual father, with daily confession. The regulations concerning communal meals likewise are more concerned with the spiritual benefits of meditation whilst listening to religious texts than with the discipline of meals, though attention is also paid to this.
The monastery was to be free of both the Protaton and imperial authority. This independence, on which great insistance is placed in the Chilandar typikon (chapters 12 and 13), is reflected in particular in the monastery's complete autonomy in choosing its abbot, with no need for subsequent imperial confirmation. Imperial authority was only symbolically represented in the abbot's staff. The abbot was chosen by a qualified electoral body comprising: the oikonomos or steward, ecclesiarch, and ten to twelve senior monks. The actual election took place in the church, where the newly-elected abbot was then enthroned. The oikonomos was the most important monastic functionary after the abbot, and the latter's potential successor. He had two assistants: the paroikonomos and external oikonomos. After the oikonomos came the ecclesiarch whose duty was to look after the church and divine office, usually with the aid of a parecclesiarch. The docheiares was in charge of the monastery's finances. The typikon also provide for other duties: monks in charge of the refectory, the keys, the baking of bread, fishing, and the mules (strator). Perfect order and obedience were required in all things, so that the primary spiritual purposes of life in the monastic community would be kept fully in mind. "Piety, love and unity" are more important than numbers, for "it is better there should be only one who does the Lord's will than a multitude of lawless ones" (chapter 25). Nor did Sava overlook charitable activity of the kind much practiced in the monasteries of Constantinople. Beside the monastery guesthouse (xenodocheion) was built for the reception of foreign monks and the infirm, while within the monastery itself a chamber was set aside as an infirmary, the first Serbian institution of this kind, with beds for seriously ill monks and a brother whose duty it was to nurse the sick. The hospital was later expanded and a separate income and free equipment allocated for it (Dushan and Lazar's charters). Treatment followed the latest West European methods, based on the classical traditions of Hippocrates, Galen, Dioscorides and others (Chilandar has important manuscripts with medical texts from the late 14th and mid- 16th centuries).
Desiring greater solitude and divine quietness (Hesychasm), Sava founded a hermitage, a kellion dedicated to his patron, St. Sabas of Jerusalem, at Karyes as early as 1199. Its status and way of life were laid down by Sava's Karyes typikon, still preserved on its original parchment scroll at Chilandar. The text of this is also carved above the main door of the church in the Karyes hermitage, which was for that reason later known as Tipikarnica. The Karyes typikon belongs to the so-called "skete" (anchorite) rules, whereby two or three solitary monks recite the entire psalter by "hours" day and night, with strict fasting and all types of abstinence. A similar regime was probably introduced in other Chilandar kellia and towers kpyrgoi), built in the 13th and 14th centuries. Before 1262, King Urosh I of Serbia had the Transfiguration Tower built half an hour's walk uphill from the monastery towards the south (now Spasova Voda). In 1302 King Milutin raised Hrusija, known as Basil's Tower, beside Chilandar's harbour, explicitly giving it the status of an independent kellion . It is noticeable that these towers and kellia were built in places that were both strategically important and also suitable for spiritual activity and intellectual work in complete tranquility: the Karyes hermitage at the very top of the Karyes depression, with a magnificent view of Athos and the sea; Hrusija - on an isolated rock above the sea, dominating the coastline; the Transfiguration Tower on a cliff terrace with a distant view of the sea, in a lonely inaccessible, wooded spot. Chilandar was thus intended to cultivate all degrees of Orthodox spirituality and asceticism, from the "common" one, open to all, in a community, to the elite withdrawal into solitude of two or three monks for the purpose of contemplation, Hesychastic prayer and literary work.
The economic basis of Chilandar's existence in the Middle Ages was its landed property. From the nine villages and other gifts in the Prizren region bestowed on the monastery by Simeon Nemanja's founding charter in 1198, Chilandar's estates expanded during the 13th and 14th centuries into the largest complex of monastic holdings in medieval Serbia, stretching "from Thessalonica to north of Parachin". The precise size and economic potential of these estates have still not been studied, but they are known to have included huge areas of land in the Pech and Hvosno regions, in the Pomoravlje region (beside the River Morava), in the Thessalonica and Struma (Strymon) areas, and particularly on Chalcidice. By the beginning of the 15th century, Chilandar had over thirty metochia with 360 villages over which it exercised full feudal rights, "together with considerable judicial, administrative and financial privileges, so that it virtually constituted a state within a state" (R. Grujich). By the mid- 14th century, Chilandar possessed almost a fifth of the Athos peninsula alone, which means about 60 square kilometres.
The rich archives of Chilandar monastery, with 172 Greek, 154 Serbian and two Bulgarian charters from the Middle Ages (the Russian and Romanian charters are of later date), combined with other sources, make it possible to reconstruct in considerable detail the monastery's history in the 13th and 14th centuries, and its growth in spiritual, economic and political importance. Without exaggeration, Chilandar may be described as the centre of medieval Serbia's spiritual life and an important intermediary and representative in Serbia's relations with Byzantium. Without its intermediary role, it is inconceivable that Serbia would have adopted Byzantine civilization and the classical heritage. As it was, the elite of the Serbian Church, literature and theology passed through Chilandar. In the eyes of Byzantium, Chilandar was a lasting proof of Serbian legitimacy, recognized and confirmed by imperial chrysobulls. Enjoying the status of a Byzantine "imperial lavra", this rich and independent monastery was Serbia's best diplomatic mission in Byzantium. On the most delicate questions of war and peace, in the complex negotiation of international treaties, and on other matters involving Serbo-Byzantine relations, Chilandar was called upon by both sides during the 13th and 14th centuries to serve as an active interpreter of certain policies. Particularly prominent in these activities, of course, were the abbots of Chilandar, who were clearly chosen with the previous approval of the Serbian ruler.
Not all the 13th-century abbots are known. The first was Methodius, appointed by St. Simeon himself, who helped Sava to restore and complete the monastery. He was an active participant in Sava's undertakings involving not only the founding of a Serbian spiritual centre on Athos but also the establishment of the Serbian medieval Church and statehood. At the invitation of his brother Stefan, in 1206 Sava transported the relics of St. Simeon to Serbia and remained there as archimandrite of the Studenica monastery. Eleven years later, in 1217, he returned to Athos and set about gaining an independent, autocephalous archbishopric for Serbia. This he achieved in Nicaea in 1219. On his return to Serbia via Chilandar, he brought with him not only books on which he would build the new Church and state organization (Krmchija-Code) but also people who were to serve as bishops and help him to implement his plans. One of these men was probably Methodius, who was to become bishop of Rascia (Serbia). St. Sava visited the Holy Mountain only once more, on his return from his first pilgrimmage to the Holy Land in 1230, but we do not know who was abbot of Chilandar at the time.
The third Serbian archbishop, Sava II, youngest son of King Stefan Prvovenchani (Stephen the First-Crowned), Predislav, had also been a monk on Mount Athos before 1263. At that time the abbot of Chilandar was Joannikios (Joaniije), who became Serbian archbishop in 1272. He was succeeded as abbot of Chilandar by Eustathius (Jevstatije, 1262-1265), who was to leave the monastery to become bishop of Zeta and then archbishop of Serbia (1279-1286). He was followed at the end of the century by abbots Stephen (Stefan) and Cyriacus (Kirijak), and at the beginning of the 14th century by Arsenius (Arsenije) and perhaps Sava.
Throughout this period, Chilandar was acquiring growing prestige and expanding its estates (charters of the Byzantine emperor John Ducas Vatatzes and Michael VIII Palaeologus, and the Serbian kings Vladislav, Urosh I and Dragutin). But the most important benefactor was King Milutin (1282-1321), who greatly enhanced the economic and political might of the Serbian state and made the first serious incursions into Byzantine territory, in Macedonia, thereby exposing Serbia to even stronger Byzantine social and cultural influence. At the same time he raised Chilandar's reputation and religious-political significance. By the late 13th century the monastery's numbers had increased considerably, but it was constantly threatened by piratical attacks and local anarchy. Milutin therefore tried not only to beautify Chilandar, building a new main church on the foundations of the old one in 1293, but also to reinforce and extend the existing fortifications. The new buildings were Hrusija by the harbour and what is known as Milutin's Tower at the entrance from Sava's Field into the narrow valley of the Chilandar stream, beside the path leading to the monastery. Both keeps were built in 1302 and manned by guards from Prizren. Their value was proved shortly after, in 1307, when the Catalan mercenaries mutinied and attacked Chilandar. On that occasion, Daniel (Danilo) abbot from 1306 commanded its defence, displaying exceptional courage and military skill.
Daniel (Danilo) was a remarkable figure in the history of Chilandar and of the whole Serbian Church. In direct contact with the hub of spiritual life on Athos in the first decades of the 14th century, acquainted with the great Greek thinkers, theologians and church dignitaries who lived on or visited Athos, Daniel did much to ensure that Byzantine influence on medieval Serbia took deep and lasting root. As abbot, following the example of St. Sava, he spent some time in the Karyes hermitage (probably 1310-1311). Subsequently, he went to Serbia to help build up the autocephalous Church and, perhaps even more, to aid King Milutin in political affairs by serving as an intermediary and diplomat. After becoming bishop of Banjska in 1312, he soon returned to Athos, until 1316, when he became bishop of Hum (1317). Again he returned to the Holy Mountain, until 1324, when he was translated to the archbishopric of Serbia, an office he held till his death in 1338. Daniel was the first in a line of Chilandar abbots who also served as statesmen and diplomats. His successor at Chilandar, Nicodemus (Nikodim), was abbot from 1312-1316, and archbishop from 1317-1324. Nicodemus visited Constantinople on a diplomatic mission in 1313, and obtained two chrysobulls with further land (1313 and 1316) from Emperor Andronicus II. During his rule as abbot, the Karyes kellion was restored and fortified, through the labour of the elder Theodulus (1312). Nicodemus himself spent some time as a brother in this kellion.
The outstanding figure in Chilandar's history in the 14th century was undoubtedly abbot Gervasius (1317-1336). Grand oikonomos during Nicodemus's period as abbot, Gervasius (Gervasije) assumed the leadership of Chilandar at a time of dynamic growth in relations between Byzantium and Serbia. On the other hand, he himself, together with some of the monastery' elders (particularly Callinicus, spiritual father of Queen Simonis) played a major role in settling and promoting these relations. He is rightly described as "the most capable abbot, to whose almost twenty years of administration Chilandar owed the major part of its landed wealth, an excellent diplomat and statesman who probably spent less time in the monastery than in the court of Serbian and Byzantine rulers, and whose influence, direct or indirect, is felt at almost all important moments in the history of Byzantine-Serbian relations in the third and fourth decades of the 14th century." (V. Moshin). As a diplomat, Gervasius served not only Milutin but also Stefan Dechanski and even King Dushan. He took part in the work of the Serbian State Assembly, an had a hand in a huge number of imperial and royal acts: of the 146 Greek acts relating to Chilarndar from the 14th century, 95 date from Gervasius's period as abbot.
After Gervasius's death, changes occurred in the political orientation of Chilandar which thenceforth relied more on Serbia. This is the reign of King, later Emperor Dushan (1331-1355), who annexed considerable territories of the Byzantine Empire to his state, including (from 1345 on) the territory of the Holy Mountain. Gervasius's successor, Arsenius (1336-1345, died 1348), while still spiritual father of Chilandar was Dushan's spiritual advisor. Dushan raised Chilandar to the highest point in the whole of its medieval history. His ten charters provided it with the bulk of its landed property. On Athos itself, he grouped the monastery's holdings (1347-1348), showing great generosity to other monasteries in order to carry this through. In the same year, Dushan together with his wife, the Empress Helen (Jelena), took refuge from the plague at Chilandar, and devoted his full attention to the Holy Mountain.
In the second half of the 14th century there was a quick turnover of abbots. Those in Dushan's reign were Callinicus, Theodulus (elder of the Karyes kellion), Sava (later Serbian patriarch as Sava IV, 1354-1375), followed by John, Dorotheus and, for brief periods, Theodosius, Callistus, John, Euthymius, Neophytus and others. The most important of these was Dorotheus (Dorotej, 1355-1361), who strove tenaciously to defend Chilandar's rights and restore its old privileges. During the seventh decade of the 14th century, Dorotheus became protos of the Holy Mountain, and in this position did much to benefit Serbian monasticism on Athos despite the religious schism that had occurred when Patriarch Callistus of Constantinople excommunicated the Serbs in 1350 following Dushan's unauthorized action in raising the Serbian Church to the rank of a patriarchate. A Chilandar monk and Serb, the elder Isaiah, served as an intermediary, together with his pupils Nicander and Silvester, and with the former protos Theophanes and Nicodemus the Greek, between the Serbian Church and Constantinople Patriarch (1375). Their objectives were to get the excommunication raised, establish church unity and obtain recognition for the autocephalous Serbian patriarchate. This was the last but a most important and successful diplomatic mission undertaken by Athonite Serbs in relations between Serbia and Byzantium before the downfall of the independent state and Turkish conquest.
At the end of the 14th and particularly in the early 15th century, when Serbian lands were ruled by princes and despots, Chilandar's landed property continued to expand, as shown by many charters issued by Serbian rulers of that period. Before the Battle of Kosovo, the Serbian Prince Lazar (1371-1389), continuing the Nemanjich tradition, became its benefactor. He had an exonarthex added to the main Chilandar church ("Lazar's narthex"). In 1379 he donated the village of Jelashnica in the Hvosno region to the monastery's infirmary. Lazar's chrysobull on this, sanctioned and signed by Patriarch Spyridon, is preserved at Chilandar (Ills. 21, 19). The Battle of Kosovo, however, brought disruption to Chilandar's relations with Serbia, not only because of the Turkish conquest but also because of the ensuing conflicts between the Brankovich and Lazarevich families. At first, the Brankoviches had the greater influence: the Chilandar monk Gerasimus was the brother of Vuk Brankovich, head of the family. Princess Milica (Lazar's widow) and his son, Stefan Lazarevich, abolished the contribution from the rich town of Novo Brdo which Lazar had previously donated to Chilandar, and which meant a great deal for the monastery's survival at a time when the income from its landed property was losing its former value. Though the Brankoviches made gifts to Chilandar (a charter from 1393 from Vuk Brankovich has been preserved), its economic position could be repaired only by improving relations with the Lazareviches. This occurred after the deaths of Vuk and Gerasimus. At the request of two Chilandar monks (the elder John - Jovan - and Father Theodore), Despot Stefan restored the Novo Brdo income of 100 litres of silver annually by a charter issued in 1405. Dubrovnik likewise undertook to pay Chilandar 500 ducats a year.
In addition to such gifts, new forms of material bequests and new relations with benefactors appeared. At Chilandar, Serbian rulers and feudal lords bought so-called adrphat (adeiphaton) the right to lifelong maintenance of a certain number of monks, for themselves and members of their families, in case the need should arise for them to withdraw from the world to a monastery. The founder's right of this kind was used by both Lazareviches and Brankoviches, who also aided other Athos monasteries until the final downfall of Serbia in 1459. Thus the Athonite monasteries, especially Chilandar, served as a place of refuge for the last Serbian ruling and noble houses. Blind Grgur Brankovich, son of Despot Djuradj Brankovich, died on October 16, 1459, as the monk Germanus on Chilandar's metochion in the Struma (Strymon) district, and was buried at Chilandar. It is probable that certain church dignitaries, deprived of their eparchies or monasteries by war, took shelter at Chilandar. We know for certain that this was the case with the metropolitan of Serrai (Sirrhae), Sava (1381, 1386), and the metropolitan of Melnik, Cyril.
The Turkish conquests immediately after the Battle on the Maritza, following the first occupation of Athos, and above all after 1430, caused grave unrest among the Holy Mountain monks and even an exodus. Whereas former rulers, feudal lords and high church dignitaries sought asylum on Athos, many of the monks fled northward. Before the downfall of the despotate, this wave of Holy Mountain emigrants had reached the Serbian state in the Morava valley; interesting details of this are contained in the Life of Romilus of Ravanica. Violence and lawlessness prevailed throughout the entire region. Despite the special firman (decree) issued by Sultan Mehmed II in 1457 confirming the ancient liberties of the Holy Mountain monasteries, the monks of Athos shared the fate of the Orthodox monks in all the Balkan lands under the Turks. The moving testimony of Ottoman brutality preserved in monastic records should not be regarded as "exaggeration".
In the second half of the 14th century, Chilandar lost most of its vast estates. Though it retained its land on Chalcidice, all its property was now subject to heavy taxation. (Today, Chilandar has only three villages outside the Holy Mountain: the metochia of Kumitza, Kakovo and Kalamaria.) Disputes over land with neighbouring Athos monasteries were to become a fresh and chronic source of economic hardship. In view of this, political and economic support had be secured elsewhere. As early as 1503, the despot's wife Angelina Brankovich begged the Russian Grand Duke Vasily Ivanovich to protect Chilandar and Roussikon. In the middle of the century, if not before, monks from Chilandar went to Russia themselves. In 1550, abbot Paissius with three elders visited Moscow to request Ivan IV Vasilyevich (Ivan the Terrible) for help and protection. The Russian czar intervened with the sultan, seeking concessions for Chilandar. He also permitted the collection of contributions in Russia, and himself made rich gifts to the monastery (1556). Thus, Ivan the Terrible became another benefactor and restorer of Chilandar "like previous emperors". Chilandar's delegation, probably the first with this standing, did not return to Athos until 1557. This marked the beginning of regular trips to Russia by Chilandar's monks which were to continue until the 19th century. By a special charter kgramata) of 1571, Ivan the Terrible presented Chilandar with a mansion in Moscow. Czar Fyodor (Theodore) Ivanovich confirmed the status of the Chilandar mansion and made further gifts (1586), while a golden bull of 1591, issued to abbot Gregory, entrusted Chilandar's monks with the duty of repairing Roussikon, renewing their right to collect contributions in Russia. All the imperial gifts were confirmed by Czar Boris Fyodorovich in a golden-sealed gramata of 1603, and subsequently reaffirmed by Mihail (Michael) Fyodorovich (1624), Aleksei (Alexius) Mihailovich (1658 and 1660) and finally by Ivan and Petar Alekseyevich (Peter the Great) in gramate of 1684.
All this time the monastery managed to maintain itself, despite numerous difficulties. It is known to have had 200 monks in 1560, and not many fewer (170) in 1579. The cenobitic order remained in force. The authority of Chilandar's abbots seems to have been unquestioned throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, and was even enhanced in the 17th, when the monastery was headed by such distinguished abbots as Philip, Hilarion, Victor, Gabriel and Simeon. A particularly important figure was abbot Victor (c. 1652-1678), who has gone down in Chilandar's history for his large-scale building projects. During the time of abbot Gabriel and the early years of Simeon, the monastery nevertheless became overburdened with debts, a crisis which led to a decline in its numbers. At this point a decisive role in saving and successfully renewing the monastery was played by the brother of the Chilandar monk and later abbot, Simeon, a Serbian merchant living in Venice, who subsequently lived on the Holy Mountain, from 1662 onwards, as the monk Nikanor in one of St. Paul's kellia (of the Saviour). At the request of the Chilandar brothers, he moved in 1671 to the kellion at Spasova Voda, where he remained the spiritual father of Chilandar until his death in 1685. He made many valuable gifts to Chilandar, paid off its debts, and supplied it with books and vessels. He undertook extensive building work at Spasova Voda: he raised the church of the Holy Trinity "from its foundations", repaired old cells, and bestowed gifts on the churches of the Transfiguration and St. Sava. Chilandar has a large number of books in its library which were presented by the elder Nikanor. His name is still mentioned with gratitude as a "second founder" of Chilandar. If we are to believe Josif Georgirenis archbishop of Samos, whose book on Athos was published in English in London in 1678, at that time the Serbian monastery had the largest number of monks: up to eight hundred. Even if this was an exaggeration or a mistaken calculation based on the monastery's physical obligations, it is clear that the generosity of the elder Nikanor helped the monastery to overcome one of its gravest crises.
An important source of income during the 16th and 17th centuries, and later, was contributions from devout Christians throughout the Balkans, which were collected by Chilandar monks, often led by eminent and capable elders. The monastery has kept books of contributors, the so-called pa russia or proskomidia, since the names of the benefactors were to be mentioned in the prothesis chapel during the liturgy. The oldest book of this kind dates from the 16th century. Beside the name of the contributor, the date and place were recorded, thus making it possible to reconstruct the areas in which Chilandar exerted its influence.
The collection and recording of contributions was not to "go begging" (as was mistakenly thought for a long time). The most eminent monks of Chilandar would set off on this mission, carrying with them not only Gospels and similar books for liturgical purposes but also the Lives of Serbian rulers and archbishops, which they would read to the contributors and thereby keep alive the knowledge of history. Whereas in the Middle Ages Chilandar was the true representative of legitimate Serbian nationality on foreign soil - the territory of Byzantium, in the Turkish period all Serbs looked to it as indestructible evidence of their former free life, their state, their Church and culture.
On the other hand, Serbian patriarchs, bishops and clergy continued to assist Chilandar. Many books and sacral objects in the monastery bear witness to the concern for Chilandar shown by the Serbian Patriarchate at Pech. Some of these Serbian church dignitaries visited the monastery. Zonara's Chronicle from the third decade of the 16th century, fomerly in the possession of the metropolitan of Prizren, Michael (Mihailo), reached Chilandar as a gift of the patriarch John (Jovan) of Pech following the metropolitan's death, in 1602. In 1658 Patriarch Maximus (Maksim) personally brought to Chilandar a "little gift" - a large illuminated Gospels Book from the 16th century, for use on the altar. Another Gospels Book from Maximus, written around 1570, with covers presented by the Belgrade metropolitan, Haji Hilarion, obtained through the efforts of the spiritual father of St. Paul's, hieromonk Christopher, was brought to Chilandar at the time of abbot Victor in 1662. There are also gifts from parish priests, monasteries and laymen, often accompanied by testimony of their love for and devotion to Chilandar.
Although the most significant artistic works in Chilandar monastery were for the most part completed by or in the 18th century, its history in the 19th century is full of dramatic events and upheavals. It should not be forgotten that the entire Athonite peninsula was drawn into the liberation struggle of the Greek people, which immediately gave rise to Turkish reprisals. The Chilandar fraternity is known to have made monetary contributions to the Greek insurgents, as a result of which it had to endure the brutality of a Turkish garrison stationed in the monastery for several years. Testimony of their hardships is provided by a letter sent by the monastery's administration on October 5, 1828, to archimandrite kyr Isaiah, in which the monks describe their difficult life, for every evil inflicted on the Holy Mountain at that time passed through their monastery, which was inhabited by only twenty ailing monks. Somewhat earlier, in 1820, the monks of Chilandar requested Prince Milosh of Serbia to be their benefactor and patron. His initial ties with Chilandar very soon extended to all the other Athonite monasteries, particularly Great Lavra. On October 20, 1835, the representatives of all the Athos monasteries sent Prince Milosh their thanks following his large gift of money to be shared by all the monasteries. This first significant gift of the Principality of Serbia later became a regular annual contribution. The interest shown by the Serbian government in the monastery of Chilandar in the 19th century emphasizes the great significance Chilandar gradually assumed in Serbian political, church and scholarly circles. Much of the credit for these Chilandar - Serbian ties goes to the archimandrite Onofrije Popovich, a Bulgar by birth, who established contact with Prince Milosh during the Greek uprising, when he moved temporarily to Serbia in 1826. Chilandar sought the help and protection of the Serbian Principality especially after 1847, when it was involved in protracted and troublesome court disputes about the monastery's estate boundaries. During the forty years' duration of these impoverishing disputes before the slow Turkish courts and corrupt authorities, the monastery was saved several times by financial aid from Serbia. Serbian envoys likewise made countless efforts, not totally unavailing, to intervene with the Turkish government and check the abuses of local officials.
In the 1860's and after, the metropolitan of Belgrade, Mihailo (Michael), made vigorous efforts to settle the situation in the monastery, when disputes arose between the Serbian and Bulgarian brothers, particularly after the Congress of Berlin of 1878.
This was also the purpose of the visit of King Alexander I Obrenovich of Serbia, which was followed by a final switch in Serbian-Bulgarian relations. Only then were the preconditions created for complete internal consolidation of the monastic fraternity. It was in this settled condition that Chilandar monastery awaited the new, changed circumstances after the First World War, when Athos finally became part of the Greek state. This marked the start of a new era in its long history.
HELP RECONSTRUCTION OF CHILANDAR MONASTERY
The fire that befell Chilandar (Chelandariou, Hilandar) the night of March 3-4, 2004. is a colossal catastrophe that swallowed more than 800 years of Byzantine and Serbian history.
Aftermath of destructive fire that befell the Serbian monastery of Chilandar on Holy Mt. Athos - View of monastery from northwest side where many monastery buildings were destroyed