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Abbeys - Monasteries
Monastery of Vatopedi
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The monastery of Vatopedi stands at the east coasts of Mount Athos. Its foundation date and the origin of its name are questioned by many researchers. According to the tradition, the monastery was established by Theodosius the 1st to honor Panagia (Virgin Mary) when his child after a shipwreck miraculously found next to a bush (Vatopedi> vatos+ pedi in English bush+child). According to historical records, the monastery was built by three monks (Athanasios, Antonios and Nikolaos) who came from Andrianoupoli and were students by the founder of the monastery Megistis Lavras, St Athanasios the Athonite. Until 1046 the monastery had climbed up in the hierarchy of the Athonite monasteries and enjoyed various priviledges from the Emperors of the Comnenian Dynasty. Vatopedi started losing its financial power because of the pirates; attacks and the heavy taxonomy that was put during the Turkish Occupation. From the 18th century and on the monastery regained its past glory, restored and grew bigger with the addition of new buildings.

The Monastery of Vatopedi along with the Pantokratoros one have followed recently (1992) a priory way of living. Today 100 monks live here.


The Catholicon follows the standards of the monastery Megistis Lavras and is built at the northeast part of the yard. It was constructed in the 10th century and is dedicated to the Dormition of Virgin Mary. In the 14th century it was restored while the 17th century it was expanded after the addition of a two-storey, open-air Exo-Narthex. The murals date to the 14th century, it is a creation of the Macedonian School while some parts of the mosaics- parts of the interior decoration- are still saved. The murals are authentic while its impressive wood-carved screen (18th century) replaced a marbled one, parts of which are still saved. The Catholicon’s Font is octagonal-in-shape and its second peristyle connects its with the Exo-Narthex. The Font, where the Blessing of the water is conducted, is renovated.

Opposite Catholicon stands the cobble-stone Refectory. The building is cross-in-shape and follows the form of Megistis Lavras construction. Internally, the tables and the benches are made of marble. It is decorated with many murals.

The yard is large and consists of two levels. The sloping part was added later whereas the yard’s entrance is at the west wing. Besides Catholicon many other buildings are scattered around here.

The monastery’s wings are multi-storey constructions that form an irregular polygon which embraces all the buildings. Their architectural identity with a number of towers at the perimeter gives the sense of a fortress. The biggest wing is the north one (200m) that hosts the Reverend’s office, the Secretariat and the Synodic. The most newly-constructed is the southwest wing, the southeast one includes the monks’ cells and finally the north includes the guestrooms.

Inside the monastery there are other buildings too that house the kitchen, the hospital, the chemist’s, the dentist’s, the wax workshop, the tailor’s, the carpenter’s, workshops for the artifacts’ preservation and many storage rooms.


The Monastery holds a large number of valuable and priceless artifacts. Their value is either material of historical-religious.

The Vestry is housed in a building opposite the Catholicon. Here are kept: pieces of the Holy Cross and pieces of the actual belt of Panagia which are both considered the monastery’s treasures. Moreover there are many brocaded vestments and a lot of ecclesiastic utensils.

Among the numerous artifacts, there is a rich collection of movable icons (about 2000) which is kept inside the Icon Store-room at the north wing.

The extremely noteworthy Library includes more than 2000 manuscripts, many of which are written on a parchment, and more than 10000 books. The monastery’s Archive (housed along with the Library) has got numerous documents and codices, among which many Imperial Golden Bulls.

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 (1,5h).

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. You should apply for the ‘Diamonitirio’ at least two days before. ‘Diamonitirio’ is valid for 4 days. Permissions are distributed in the Pilgrims’ Office at Omiroupolis.

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

-Monastery Vatopedi: +3(0)2377041488, fax: +3(0)2377041462, +3(0)2377023509

-Holy Executive: +3(0)2377023224, +3(0)2377023710 – 11 / +3(0)2377023315

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

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

- Ticket Office in Ierissos, Ferry Boats: +3(0)2377021041 / +3(0)2377021061, e – Mail:

-- ‘Diamonitirio’ distribution: +3(0)2310252575, fax: +3(0)2310222424

The Metropolitan Church of St Athanasios in Giannena

(Longitude: 20° 51´ 24´´ latitude: 39° 40´ 02´´)

The Metropolitan Church of St Athanasios is located at the town centre in Giannena, opposite the Archaeological museum and western from the castle in Litharitsi area. The church is built on the spot where another church older from the Byzantine years stood (manuscripts of 1619 and 1664 indicate it). The church suffered great damage during the Turkish Occupation while on August 25th, 1820 it was completely destroyed when Hursit bombarded Giannena. 11 years later (1831) the Bishop Ioakeim built a new church (at the spot of the burnt-down one) that keeps its form until now.


The church was constructed by three craftsmen; Nikolaos Iolis Pantazis and the brothers Dimitrios and Georgios Giosis. The basic construction material is the white shaped stone. It is a Byzantine-order construction that follows the architectural features of a big, three-aisled Basilica with double galleries, covered with blind vaults and roofed with black stone. In the interior, numerous, elaborated frescoes cover all sides of the Catholicon, the three vaults at the dome and the walls’ lower sections. The Catholicon’s frescoes date to 1835 and have been created by local painters. Over the following decades there was carried a new hagiography project using the covering technique, something that was characterized as ‘unsuccessful’ by the specialties.

One of the most noteworthy features of this church is the wood-carved screen, a fine sample of the Epirus wood-carved art of the 19th century. It has been created by Anastasios Skalistis and his sons Giannis, Konstantinos and Dimitrios and shows plants’ and animals’ representations as well as representations from the New Testament.

The Propylon is impressive and in perfect harmony with the main church while the Bell Tower was constructed in 1905 with white shaped stone under the plans of the architecture Periklis Melirrypos.

St George Chapel

On the feast day of St Antonios (January 17th, 1838), St Athanasios faced the Turkish gallows on his 30th year of life. He died in the square ‘Kourmanio’, opposite the castle’s great gate that today brings His name. His body was left to hang for three days and every night a divine light surrounded it. After three days and on the stable-workers association’s request the body was buried. The Holy Relic was transported at the Metropolitan Church of St Athanasios where priests and believers rushed to honor His memory. At the beginning, the Saint’s Body had been put at the church’s entrance. Later a chapel was created at the north part of the courtyard in order to house the tomb of the new martyr St George who later became the town’s Patron Saint.

The Holy Relics have been kept in the newly-constructed church since 1975.

Useful Numbers

Church of St Athanasios: +3(0)2651027632