Monastery Docheiariou Mount Athos

Like a fairy-tale castle, the Monastery of Docheiariou with its various structures, its numerous chimneys rising above the slate roofs, its balconies and covered porches, impresses and charms the visitor. From the lovely beach the monastery ex­tends upwards over the verdant slope, end­ing at the fortified tower which dominates the entire group of buildings.

The position of the monastery on the west­ern side of the northern coast is extremely picturesque. Situated only an hour’s distance away from the Monastery of Xenophontos and two hours from the Monastery of Panteleimonos, it is the first monastery one sees as one approaches by boat from Ouranoupolis to Daphne. The monastery was named af­ter its founder, Euthymios, a friend of Athana­sius the Athonite, who lived as a monk at the Great Lavra and held the position “docheiaris”, that is of superintendent stores. According to tradition, after the failure of his first attempt to found a monastery dedicated to St. Nicholas near Daphne, Εthymios erected the first buildings of the present monastery around 976, on the spot which had been ceded to him under a lease by the Monastery of Xenophontos. The first historical mention of the monastery appears in the second Typikon of 1045, which includes among its signatories a hegumen by the name of Theodoulos, “monk and hegumen of Docheiariou”.

Euthymios dedicated the monastery to the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, and there is the following story regarding a miraclperformed by its patron-saints. Around 1092, a young shepherd named Basil discovered a treasure on the peninsula of Sithonia. The hegumen Neophytos, nephew of the founder Euthymios, sent two monks with the boy to bring the treasure back to the monastery. However, the two monks killed the shep­herd boy on the return journey, tied his body to a heavy stone and sank it in the sea. After they had carefully hidden their booty, they resumed their journey, with the intention of accusing Basil of having taken the trea­sure and abandoned them. The two Archangels saved the innocent boy and brought him to the monastery. Word was sent to the hegumen by an acolyte to hurry to the church, where he found Basil under the great dome of the katholikon with a stone tied to a rope still around his neck and is clothes dripping water. When the two robber monks arrived later, the truth had already been made known. The wonderful murals on the cupola of the phiale still keep the story alive.

One of the first benefactors of the monastery was the emperor Nicephorus III Botaneiates, who undertook to cover the costs of the con­siderable extension works of the monastery and for this reason is mentioned as co-founder. The emperors who succeeded him, the Comneni (1081 -1185) and the Angeli (1185-1204), also donated large sums of money for the embellishment of the monastery, which con­tinued to prosper until the fall of Constan­tinople (1204) to the western armies, dur­ing the Fourth Crusade, and the Catalan raids. Prosperity and decline succeeded each other alternately, as was the case with the other Athonite monasteries during this pe­riod. At the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century, the Palaeologi (1261-1453) turned their attention and favour to the Docheiariou Monastery, which received equally lavish donations from the Serbian king, Stephan Dushan (1331-1355), as a re­sult of which it was able to develop into a major monastery.

After 1459 and the begining of the Ottoman occupation in Serbia also, the source of Docheiariou’s funds ran dry. To these financial difficulties were added the raids of Turks and pirates, so that, although Docheiariou had also taken over the control of the small monastery of Calligraphou, it was left almost completely desolate.

However, around 1560, a priest by the name of George, from the town of Adrianople, came to the monastery and was healed by the waters of the Archangels’ spring, which to this day well up next to the katholikon. In gratitude, George donated all his prop­erty to the monastery. This donation, to­gether with the financial contributions of the Danube countries, which had begun to flow in, allowed the monks to restore the entire complex. Among the benefactors of that pe­riod were the great Voivode of Wallachia, Peter IV Rares (1527-1538, 1541-1546), and his daughter Roxandra, wife of the Rumanian voivode Alexander Lapuscheanu (1533-1561, 1563-1568).

After the completion of the building works on the Refectory, in 1547, it was the turn of the Katholikon to be restored, in 1568, thanks to the contribution of the priest, George, and of the princess Roxandra. On the wall paint­ings is recorded the date 7076 from the cre­ation of the world (i.e. 1568). The estates do­nated by Alexander, and the lands which, thanks to money also provided by Alexan­der, came once more into the possession of the monastery, now guaranteed it a firm financial base. In the early 17th century, the cost of the construction of the western wing and of the defensive tower was assumed by Yiannakis and Apostolakis. The monastery was completed in the 18th century, when the northwestern wing and the bell tower were built.

The katholikon, dedicated to the Archangels, is one of the largest on Athos. Its walls were adorned in 1568 with veritable masterpieces, which are today the best-preserved murals on Athos. They have been attributed to Zorzis or to some other artist of the Cretan Sch who has faithfully followed the instr tions given in the Hernwneia tis Zografikis Τι nis (Painter’s Manual) written by the eromonk Dionysius of Fourna between 1728 and 1733.

The richly carved wooden iconostasis dai from 1783. In the Katholikon there is also the tomb of Theophanes, bishop of Moldavia, who resigned from his office and lived in the monastery to the day of his death.

The tall tower protects the library, where 3,000 volumes of printed books are kept and 441 manuscripts, among which there are 62 on parchment. Among the precious illuminated manuscripts is the priceless menologion No.5, adorned with numerous miniaturesThe sacristy contains a great number of treasures: gold-embroidered cloths, carved wooden crosses with filigree decoration, holy relics and a fragment of the True Cross.

In one of the six chapels inside the monastery, there is, besides the other frescoes, the mir­acle-working icon of the Virgin Gorgoepikoos, which is particularly venerated. According to tradition, in the 17th century the icon miraculously healed a blind man and since then many sick people come to this icon pray for a cure. The icon is placed in a niche next to the portico linking the katholikon to the Refectory. It has been painted onto the plaster and is now covered with gold. The walls of the Refectory are decorated with the most famous cycle of the Apocalypse, painted in 1700. Exquisite frescoes also adorn the interior of the phiale, behind the katholikon. The Docheiariou Monastery possesses two kellia in Karyes, that of the Aghioi Pantes (All Saints) and that of the Five Martyrs.