Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Holy Mountain: Xiropotamou

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We arrived at the Monastery of Xiropotamou around 2 pm. Their guest house has recently been renovated and is very nice. We looked around for a bit and then rested until Vespers at 5. At Konstamonitou, we had celebrated St Andrew of Crete, and here we celebrated St Athanasios the Athonite, the founder of monasticism on the Holy Mountain.

After Vespers, we had dinner and then we had about an hour break before Small Compline. So we had a Greek coffee with some of the other pilgrims and chatted until 7:45. Then we went back to the church for the service and the veneration of the relics, which included the largest known piece of the True Cross, including one of the holes left by a nail which fastened the Lord to the Cross, a blood-stained piece of St Demetrios’ clothing, and relics from St Polycarp, St Gregory the Theologian, St John Chrysostom, St Basil the Great, and the Holy 40 Martyrs of Sebaste, to whom the monastery is dedicated.

Tradition says that the piece of the Cross was donated by the Empress Pulcheria (450-457), who also funded the construction of the first monastery on the site.

The first photo is of the central church (katholikon), from the ground floor of the guest house. The typical design for an Athonite monastery is a square (for defensive purposes – pirates were a frequent threat), with the central church in the middle of the square.

The second photo is of the entrance to the church, with an icon to the Holy 40 Martyrs above. The beautiful iconography in the church dates to 1764.

The third and fourth photos are of the inner courtyard around the katholikon. In the last photo, you can see Fr Joseph sitting.

In the morning, the service began at 4 am and continued until 8:30. Afterwards, we had an informal breakfast and then headed out.

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