Agiou Panteleimonos monastery
Panoramic view of the monastery.
|Full name||Holy Monastery of Agiou Panteleimonos|
|Other names||Rossikon (Russian)|
|Dedicated to||St. Panteleimon|
|Prior||Archimandrite Elder Ieremias (Alekhine)|
|Location||Mount Athos, Greece|
|Public access||Men only|
St. Panteleimon (Pantaleon's) Monastery (Greek: Άγιος Παντελεήμων, Aghios Panteleimon; Russian: Пантелеймонов, known as Ρωσσικόν, Rossikon) is a Russian Orthodox monastery built on the southwest side of the peninsula of Mt. Athos in Greece. It is the largest of the many monasteries on the peninsula, in terms of physical size, though not in population.
The monastery was founded by several monks from Kiev Rus in the 11th century, which is why it is known as 'Rossikon'. Traditionally it was inhabited by Kievan and later by Russian Orthodox monks. It was recognized as a separate monastery in 1169.
The monastery prospered in the 16th and 17th centuries being lavishly sponsored by the tsars of Moscovy, but it declined dramatically in the 18th century to the point where there only two Russian and two Bulgarian monks left by 1730.
The construction of the present monastery on a new site, closer to the seashore, was carried out during the first two decades of the nineteenth century, with the financial help of the ruler of Moldo-Wallachia, Skarlatos Kallimachos. Russian monks numbered 1,000 in 1895, 1,446 in 1903, and more than 2,000 by 1913. During the Tatar yoke in Russia, most of the monks were Greeks and Serbs. The monastery occupies the nineteenth rank in the hierarchical order of the twenty Athonite monasteries. It is coenobitic (i.e., it is a communal monastic life). It also contains four sketes.
The Monastery of St Panteleimon was repeatedly gutted by fires, most famously in 1307 (when Catalan mercenaries set it aflame) and in 1968. The first Russian leader to visit the monastery was President Vladimir Putin on September 9, 2005.
In the modern era
Today, the monastery features the architecture of a small town, with buildings of various heights and many domes. It is the largest of the monasteries on the peninsula. Although destroyed by a fire in 1968, one wing of the monastery was used as the guest quarters, with a capacity of 1,000 monks. The monastery's katholikon (main church) was built between 1812–1821 and is dedicated to St. Panteleimon. It features the same style found in all the Athonite churches. Aside from the katholikon, the monastery has many smaller chapels.
The library is housed in a separate building in the monastery's court. It contains 1,320 Greek manuscripts and another 600 Slavonic ones, as well as 25,000 printed books. In addition, the library has a few priceless relics, such as the head of Saint Panteleimon, one of the most popular saints in Russia. The 19th-century monastery bells are said to be the largest in Greece. There is a daughter community at the monastery at New Athos, Abkhazia.
As one might expect for a monastery in Greece populated primarily by monks from Russia, the atheistic ideology of the Soviet Union and the restrictions on foreign travel during the Cold War took a heavy toll on the monastery, which was reduced from over 2,000 monks at the beginning of the twentieth century to some three dozen by the time the Iron Curtain fell. Since that time, however, it has participated in the growth of Orthodox monasticism everywhere, seeing a 50% increase in numbers by 2006, a trend that seems likely to continue in the years ahead.
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