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EXCERPTS FROM BOOK: Mount Athos' An Illustrated Guide To The Monasteries And Their History
By Sotiris Kadas, archaeologist, Ekdotike Athenon S.A., Athens 1988
Athos was an area eminently suited to those wishing to practice the rigours of an ascetic life, and from the earliest years of the Byzantine period it attracted men from all parts of the (Byzantine) empire. By the middle Byzantine period the whole peninsula was commonly know as the Holy Mountain, a name officially adopted and confirmed in a special chrysobull of the Emperor Constantine 1X Monomachos (1046) Other similar monastic centers, where there are groups of monasteries, such as Sinai and Olympos in Bithynia were referred to by this same term.
The exact date of the first monastic settlement on Athos cannot be determined. Neither can we be very specific about the development and dissemination of monastic life The information available today , especially for the period before the ninth century, is not only scanty and sporadic, but is, for the most part, based on traditions and legends. The Athonite monks themselves claim Constantine the Great as the founder of certain monasteries, later destroyed by Julian the Apostate, only to be built again by Theodosius the Great and Pulcheria. With a degree of certainty, we can assert that contemplatives had already begun to frequent the Mountain by the seventh century.
Apart from the reasons previously mentioned, the development of monasticism on Athos was strongly influenced by three historical factors: the break up of the earliest village communities; the Arab conquests; and anti-monastic feeling. The decline of the small towns in the vicinity of Mount Athos and the desertion of the peninsula turned it into an attractive place for those inclined to contemplation and religious devotion. The advances and conquests of the Arabs in the eastern counrties, and the consequent ruin of the big monastic centers there, forced the dispersal of their many monks. These men hastened to seek new lands on which to reestablish their monasteries and continue their ascetic way of life. Lastly, Athos became an ark of refuge from the hostility emanating from the Byzantine emporors and the inhabitants of Constantinople toward monks and monasticism in general, especially during the iconoclastic period.
The Holy Mountain first appears as a monastic center in the historic sources of the ninth century. It is recorded that monks from Athos participated in the Council of 843 convened by Empress Theodora to discuss the restoration of the holy icons. At about the same time we come to know the names of the two men who were influential in the history of Athos, Peter the Athonite and Euthymios of Salonica. These two men, nearly contemporaries, represented different ascetic trends; Peter the eremetical and Euthymios the semi-eremetical. The reputations of these two mjen attracted recruits to the Mountain, and Athos began to emerge as a notable monastic center, modelled on the (monastic) communities of the East and those which existed in or near, Constantinople. In 885 the chrysobull of the Emporor Basil 1 officially recognized Athos as a territory belonging exclusively to monks and hermits. It laid down that only men of religion should live there, and that henceforward all shepherds and laymen who until that time had roamed freely there, should be forbidden the "garden of the Virgin".
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List of the Monasteries at Mt. Athos in descending order of hierarchical rank:
1) Holy Monastery of Megisti Lavra, (Great Lavra) founded AD 963, founder: monk Athanasios
2) Holy Monastery of Vatopedion, founded in fourth century, founders: Emperor Theodosios, Athanasios...
3) Holy Monastery of Iviron, founded in 10 Century; Founders: Athanasios, Nikolaos, Antonios
4) Holy Monastery of Helandarion, founded in 10 Century, founder: Helandarios
5) Holy Monastery of Dionysos, founded 10 Century, Founder: Saint Dionysios
6) Holy Monastery of Koutloumousion. Founded: 10th Century. Founder: Koutloumous
7) Holy Monastery of Pantokrator. Founded: 14th Century. Founders: Alexios & Ioannis
8) Holy Monastery of Xiropotamos. Founded: 15th Century. Founder: Empress Pulcheria
9) Holy Monastery of Zografos. Founded: 10th Century. Founders:Moses, Aaron & Ioannis
10) Holy Monastery of Dochiarios. Founded: 10th Cen. Founder: monk Efthimios
11) Holy Monastery of Karakalos. Founded: Third Century. Founder: Empress Karakalla
12) Holy Monastery of Filotheos. Founded: 10th Cen. Founder: Saint Filotheos
13) Holy Monastery of Simon Petras. Founded: 13th Cen. Founder: Saint Simon
14) Holy Monastery of St. Agios Pavlos. Founder: Saint Pavlos
15) Holy Monastery of Stayronikitas. Founded: 1oth Cen. Founder: Nikiforos Stayronikitas
16) Holy Monastery of Xenophon. Founded: 10th Cen. Founder: Saint Xenophon
17) Holy Monastery of Gregorios. Founded: 14th Cen. Founder: St. Gregory of Sinai
18) Holy Monastery of Esfigmrnos. Founded: Fifth Cen. Founder: Emperor Theodosios
19) Holy Monastery of Panteleimon. Founded: 11th Cen. Founder: Russian monks
20) Holy Monastery of Kastamonitis. Founded: Fourth Cen. Founder: Constantine the Great
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