Simonos Petras monastery
It is the most impressive monastery, with foundations on a 333m height steep rock, located in the southwestern side of Mount Athos. It is known as Simonopetra and is a 15 minute drive from Daphne. Its view is staggering, because it seems hovering between earth and sky. It is a wondrous architectural achievement. The 7.000 sq.m. complex has seven floors with many balconies. Its history begins in the middle of the 14th century, eventhough it was founded by hermit St. Simon in the 11th century, according to tradition. Its financial support by the Serb abbot John Ouglesis of Serres, led to its building expansion and at the same time its domination was certified by a Golden Bull.
The monastery was protected from several invaders due to its inaccessible position, but was many times almost totally destroyed by several fires such as the ones in 1580, 1622 and 1891 when the Catholicon and the library were burnt down. Monks renovated the multistorey wings that cause dizziness by hanging over the rock, during various eras with their own hands.
The lead covered Catholicon of the birth of Jesus occupies the small courtyard at the top of the rock. The lack of murals is observed, since they were destroyed by the 1891 fire when the ”liti” (the spacious narthex of monastic temples) collapsed and the second floor library burnt down.
Historian Spiridon Lambros describes in detail the 250 manuscripts treasured there. A characteristic feature of the architectural whole is its aqueduct with two series of arcades that have been built and repaired during several time periods. The chapels of St. George, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Charalampus and Archangels are located inside. There are also many chapels in the cemetery, the arsana (harbor), and in several monastic seats and sketes. They suffered great disasters during the large fire in August 1990. It is ranked 13th in the hierarchy of Athonite monasteries.
Text: Dr. Antonios G. Dikaios/ Theologian – Environmentalist.