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Abbeys - Monasteries
Monastery Megistis Lavras
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The Monastery Megistis Lavras stands at the southeast part of Mount Athos, in the area Melana and at 160m altitude. This is the first monastery built here, dedicated to Panagia (Virgin Mary) and honors the grace of its founder St Athanasios the Athonite on July 5th. The monastery flourished in the period between the 11th and the 14th centuries when the Great Fathers, among which the ascetic Grigorios Palamas, stayed here. During the 15th century the monastery had really hard times since it was often the target of pirate attacks that caused severe damages. During the Turkish occupation and the Greek War for Independence the monastery either itself or along with the monasteries Vatopedi and Iviron took under the monasteries’ tax system that gradually led to its closure. At the 20th century dawn the monastery tried to bring back its pieces and at the late ‘70s became a priory. Nowadays among its numerous activities, the monastery has developed in the enterprise field by participating in a trust along with a construction company for the construction of Wind Farms in the Aegean.

Architecture

The Catholicon was constructed in 936 by Athanasios the Athonite, sponsored by the Emperors Fokas and Tsimiskis. It is the first Catholicon built in Mount Athos and became the standard for the rest monasteries. It was a four-column construction with a dome but after some additions it was transformed into a cross-in square with dome. At the interior and specifically in the chapel of the Forty Martyrs the Relics of the monastery’s founder are safely kept. The Catholicon’s murals, numerous and elaborated, have been created by the hagiographer Theofanis (16th century).

The Holy Table, next to the Catholicon, is the oldest in Mount Athos and has kept its original form. It is cross-in-shape and its murals are by Theofanis too (16th century).

At the interior, stand 21 chapels, the 17 of which spread along the wings and the other 2 at the Catholicon’s interior. The most significant of these chapels are of the Forty Martyrs (in the Catholicon) and of Panagia Koukouzelisa with the miraculous icon (at the monastery’s yard).

The wings are multi-storey constructions that give a fortress-like picture. The entrance facilities are located at the north part, the guestrooms at the south whereas at the west part stands the Tower of Tsimiskis. The wings house all the workshops that operate in the monastery, the tailor’s, the laundry facilities, the chemist’s, the nursing home, the hospital and many more storing and secondary rooms.

Originally there were constructed three Bell Towers, 2 of which demolished in 1814 while the third was replaced by a metal one after an earthquake.

The Catholicon is externally surrounded by a lovely yard. Here you can see the big cypress, the tombs of three Patriarchs, fountains, a Holy icon stand and the Font where the Blessing of the waters is conducted.

The rest buildings include: the kitchen, the oil house, the winery, the monks’ cells, the cemetery and the Vestry.

Artifacts

At the Catholicon: a Cross (10th century), Saints’ Relics, brocaded utensils, robes and many noteworthy movable icons.

At the Vestry: precious Gospels, the Crown and the Bag of Nikiforos Fokas, ecclesiastic utensils, holy chalices, many icons and a lot of items of fine art and sculpture.

The monastery has got an important and rich Library that is housed in a building eastern from the Catholicon. Its collections include 3000 codices, the 700 of which are on parchments decorated with elaborated Byzantine motifs. Moreover, the collection of printed books includes almost 150.000 volumes, the 22 of which date before 1500. Finally, the Library has got a rich archive of Imperial Golden Bulls as well as many Greek, Byzantine, Turkish, Latin and Slavic documents.

How to reach the Monastery

You can reach the monastery through Thessaloniki on the way to Ierissos either on a private vehicle or by KTEL buses. Once you reach Ierissos (Longitude: 23° 52´ 35´´ latitude: 40° 23´ 35´´) taxi boats will carry you to the monastery (4h) .

Useful Information

Greek citizens can enter the monastery without special permission. Citizens of other countries can enter under a special permission. If you wish to spend the night at the monastery, you should obtain a special permission called ‘Diamonitirio’ from the capital of Mount Athos.

Females can neither enter the monastery nor the whole area of Mount Athos.

-Monastery Megistis Lavras: +3(0)2377022586 / +3(0)2377023761, Fax: +3(0)2377023013

- Port Authority in Ierissos : +3(0)2377022576

- Police Station in Karies : +3(0)2377023212

- Ticket Office in Ierissos : +3(0)2377021041