It is located in the northeastern side of Athos, after a 45 minute walk from the arsana (harbor). Some state that it was named after its original founder Hilandario, captain of a byzantine type boat named Hilandion. Historical data though, place its foundation in 1197, from the Grand Zupan of Serbia, Stephen Nemania and his son Rastko, who later became monks named Simeon and Savvas respectively. The latter later became the archbishop of Serbs. They were both declared saints of Serbian church after their deaths and still receive special honors from Serbian people. The settling of Serbian monks was validated in 1198 by a Golden Bull of Alexios III Aggelos. The monastery has been the stronghold of Serbian monasticism for centuries. It was later supported financially by prince Stephen Miloutin, and a tower was built, on the road leading to the arsanas.
The ruler Neagoe Basarab emerged as its protector during Ottoman rule. In the 17th century, the monastery extended its wings, wall painted the Altar and prettified the Catholicon. During the middle of the same century the library was one of most remarkable Slavic libraries. The one and only violation of the “Avaton” happened here, when the famous ruler of Serbia, Stephen Dousan and his wife Elizabeth, who later became a nun in Serres, visited it in 1345. The building complex was severely tested by fires in 1722 and 1891. The fire that broke in March 2004 burned nearly half of the buildings.
The Catholicon is dedicated to the Presentation of Virgin Mary and was built in early 14th century over the foundations of an older church. The floor that is made of white marble with a large cross in the middle, surrounded by multicolored strips of marble is still preserved. In 1319, hagiographers Eftichios and Michael decorated the temple with Macedonian style pictures. Currently, there is an attempt in highlighting the original murals that had been painted over in 1804. It has a wooden “iconostasio” (icon‐screen) of 1774. The original tomb of St. Simeon is located here.
Text: Dr. Antonios G. Dikaios/ Theologian – Environmentalist.