Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Holy Monastery of Varlaam

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After St Barbara’s, we headed down the road to The Monastery of St Varlaam. The current structure also dates to the 16th century, but monastics had lived on the site long before.

The first photo is taken from where we parked the car.

The second photo was taken as we began the ascent up to the monastery.

The third photo shows the winch that is still used to carry up goods. This used to be the only way people could get up to the monastery. There are photos of monks riding up in a big net! The story goes that when curious visitors would ask how often the monks replaced the ropes, the monks would reply “When the Lord lets them break.”

The bottom photo is of the first monastery we visited, St Barbara’s, from the top of St Varlaam’s.

When we got to the monastery, we went first to the chapel, which again featured beautiful 16th century iconography of the Cretan school – possibly even by the famous Theophanes the Cretan himself.

At the back of the church, just above the entrance, is a somewhat famous and unusual icon of St Sisoes standing over the grave of Alexander the Great, who is nothing but bones. For all his fame, he was a humble skeleton. The inscription over the icon reads: “All those things that a man is endowed with, things which do not exist after death, are futile. Wealth is not eternal, glory does not go with man to eternity. When death comes, all of this disappears.”

Pelagia and I explored the monastery and its museum for awhile, and then headed back down to the car, with Fr Joseph and Kh Sophia just behind us. As they were leaving a few minutes later, however, an old monk caught sight of them and insisted they come have coffee and a sweet. They then got a tour of the inside of the monastery, which is normally off-limits to the tourists. They even got to venerate the monastery’s relics, which included the left hand of St John Chrysostom. Unfortunately, Pelagia and I missed most of this. It pays to stick with the visiting priest!

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