The monastery of Xenophontos (Ξενοφωντος, 16th)

Xenophontos Ranking sixteenth, the Xenophontos monastery was founded in the l0th century by hosios Xenophon, according to tradition. It is mentioned in a document of A.D. 1083. As with the other monasteries on Mount Athos, attempts were made to repair the effects of plundering, piratical raids, fires, and ravaging by Franks, Catalans and Turks, first by the Byzantine emperors, and then by the princes of the Danubian principalities, archimandrites, archbishops and abbots. The monastery honours saint Georgios.

The Monastery stands on the western shore of the peninsula, between the Monasteries of Docheiariou and St Panteleimon. It has a long history which goes back to the 10th and the 11th century, to the time when the Megiste Lavra was founded. Its founder was St Xenophon, who was also its Abbot.

The Monastery has had its share of vicissitudes, starting from the time when it was set up. One such difficulty was the quarrel which arose in the late 11th century with the eunuch Stephen - subsequently a monk with the name of Symeon - drungarius of the Emperor Nicephorus Botaneates. Initially the fact that Stephen had become a monk was beneficial to the Monastery: the provision of funds made possible the construction of buildings. However, his subsequent career as Abbot brought him into conflict with most of the monks, resulting in his removal. Symeon's appeal to the Emperor Alexius Comnenus ended in an imperial order that he should be restored to office.

Apart from such episodes of an internal character, there were others with external causes. As a monastery on the sea shore, Xenophontos was frequently the object of pirate raids. In the 13th century it was laid waste by Latin pirates. In the Third Typikon it occupied eighth place, while today its position in the hierarchy is sixteenth. During the period of Turkish rule it was supported by wealthy Christians of Vlach descent, either by means of the revenues which came from the 'Romva' Skete or from two villages donated to it by Romanian princes.

During the 16th century the majority of the monks were Slavs. In the century which followed it was discovered to owe huge sums to a syndicate of Jewish usurers. The result was its financial ruin - in a more general atmosphere of decline which prevailed at that time on Athos. In the 18th century the Monastery was re-established, the first concern being a return to the coenobitic system in 1784. The vigorous Abbot Paοsios of Lesvos added new buildings and brought new life to the Monastery. It was at that point that the building of the large new katholikon in the northern part of the Monastery was begun. This was finished by the time of the outbreak of the Greek Revolution in 1821.

On the southern side of the Monastery is the old katholikon, decorated with Early Christian symbols. Its construction dates back to the 11th century, although there have been subsequent phases of additions (it was adorned with a wooden sanctuary screen in 17th century; its wall-paintings were repainted). The belltower was built in 1864 and the holy water phiale in 1901.

The Monastery has some 600 manuscripts and approximately 7,000 printed books. Two icons of the 14th century, showing St George and St Demetrius, are important works of art; it also has the famous wonder-working icon of Our Lady Hodeghetria. Among the treasures of Xenophontos are a piece of the True Cross, sumptuous reliquaries containing the relics of saints, sacred vessels, and vestments. The Monastery has 11 chapels inside its precinct and six outside. Its dependencies are the Skete of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin and 22 kalyves, which are, unfortunately, in decline because of a shortage of monks to live in them. The community numbers some 30 hard-working monks.




Xenophontos monastery

Mount Athos








Some materials by courtesy of Zbigniew
Kosc, Agion-oros., Alexia
Monachos. net,,
newadvent. org/cathen,, Techni Editions

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