Monastery Esfigmenou Mount Athos

The famous and impressive abbey of Esphigmenou is situated in a peaceful location near the sea. Its name originates from its position as it is squeezed in as it seems by two mountains. (Sphigmeno in Greek means to squeeze).

Some others say that its name originates from its founder who had a tight rope around his waist (Sphigmenos). According to tradition, the abbey (which celebrates the Ascension of Christ) was built by Theodosius the Micros and his sister, Empress Poulheria (408-450)who was Marciano’s wife. Still according to tradition, later on the abbey was destroyed by a huge rock which fell from the mountain. The ruins of the old abbey are situated half a kilometer away. The new abbey was built at the end of the 10th century or at the beginning of the 11th century by the monks of the old abbey.

Anyhow, the first written document for the abbey is a letter from Paul the Xeropotamite written in 1001. For a short period in the 14th century, Abbot of the abbey was the eminent hermit and theologian Gregory Palamas, who later became archbishop of Thessaloniki. Two times in the 16th century, pirates destroyed and plundered the abbey but it was rebuilt. In the 17th century the abbey fell into a decline but during the years of the Russian King Alexander Michaelovits, it received many cntributions from Russia as well as from other Orthodox Christians which helped the abbey’s renovation.

In 1705, Gregory melenikiou became monk in this abbey, giving life to the place. Half a century later, Daniel from Thessaloniki was appointed commissioner of the abbey after he had won the approval by Patriarch Gerasimos and the “Sacred Gathering”. After his appointment he transformed the abbey into a cenobetic one.

During the Greek revolution of 1821, the Turks did great damage to the abbey. In the period 1850-1858, the new rows of cells were built. Except the main temple there are also eight chapels. The famous monk Anthony Petserski, founder of the famous Lavras abbey in Kiev, lived at the Esphigmenou abbey in the 11th century. Moreover, he applied the monastic customs of Greece in his country and he became the founder of the Russian movement. Nowadays, he is honored as a saint.

The library which is situated over head, contains 320 hand- written codes, 75 of which are of parchment. Among them, one is erased and re-written. Several of the codes have excellent miniatures (like the code number 33 which has miniatures from the 11th century). The library also has 2.500 prints. The abbey’s treasure collection, consists of the cross of Pulcheria, an excellent mosaic icon which dates back to the 13th century, sacerdotal vestments, portable icons, liturgical objects, sceptres, crosses, relics of saints, several valuable documents, an embroidered piece of Napoleon’s tent in Egypt and others.

It is considered as one of the most strit cenobetic abbeys of Athos.