It is built on a narrow, steep, 80m in height rock, in the southwestern side of Athos. It is located between the monasteries of Gregoriou and St. Paul. Known as “Nea Petra” (New Rock), it was founded between 1356 and 1366 by Osios Dionysios from the Koreso of Macedonia. Indicated by the Golden Bull of 1374 that has the picture of Emperor Alexios III Komnenos and his wife Theodora, he gained his support with the help of his brother who was a bishop of Trabzon.
A disastrous fire marked the history of the monastery, but it was quickly rebuilt and took the architectural form of a multileveled building with balconies on wooden supports. Moldavian rulers Peter Dares, Radoulos, Neagos Vassaravas and Alexander Lepousneanou funded the building of the church, the wings, the tower and the aqueduct. Devastating earthquakes have been recorder in 1585 and 1765.
The lead-covered Catholicon, dedicated to the birth of Prodromos was rebuilt after a fire. It is characterized by an interesting architectural peculiarity, since it has two spaces with small domes that house the prothesis and the diaconicon, on both sides of the sanctuary’s niche. It was hagiographed in 1547 by Cretan hagiographer Georgie, and it has a gold-plated chancel dated in early 19th century. The frescoes located in front of the entrance to the altar, are made in 1603 have a theme of the Apocalypse, and are considered as the oldest total expression in Orthodox hagiography.
The monastery is ranked fifth in the hierarchy of the monasteries. Among its relics, is the sacred remain of Prodromo’s right hand and an ivori made, embossed presentation of the Crucifiction which is dated in the 10th century but is disputed by experts.
Text: Dr. Antonios G. Dikaios/ Theologian – Environmentalist.