Wednesday, September 15, 2010

0023 - The reason why Vatopediou Monastery and Chilandariou Monastery have such close relations.

A centuries old tradition says that at each of the feast days of the Holy Monastery of Vatopediou and Holy Monastery of Chilandariou the Abbot of each Monastery is invited to lead the festivities of the others Monastery. 

This tradition has lasted due to the close historical relationship shared by the two monasteries which begins in the year 1198 when the Vatopediou Monastery donated  a portion of their land in order for the Serbs to rebuild the Monastery of Chilandariou.  The Monk Dorotheos in his book "Holy Mountain" describes what happened as follows:

...Before the Serbs arrived the Monastery is named «του Σωτήρος» "The Saviour's" and takes part in the joint signing of all Abbots on various documents with the last one in the year 1169: «Γεράσιμος μοναχός και καθηγούμενος του Χελανδαρίου» "Monk Gerasimos and Abbot of Chelandariou" The Monastery undergoes a period of abandonment and as a result it comes under the ownership of Vatopediou Monastery. 
In the year 1198 Vatopediou Monastery transfers the ownership to Saints Savva and Symeon, the great leaders of the Serbian nation. The transfer was also confirmed by the Emperor  Alexios 3rd Angelos. St. Savva (worldly name Ratislav) the second born son of the Serbian King Stephan Nemanja (1165 - 1227) comes to Mount Athos during the year 1191/1192, accompanied by his teacher, and without the knowledge of his father, enters the monastery of Thessalonikeos (current Palaiomonastiron) and moves later to Vatopediou Monastery. The reason St. Savva came to Athos to become a monk was due to the impression monks of Athos left during their visits to Serbia and thus he made the decision to leave behind the throne and his riches and seek the poverty of Christ. Later he will write in the Typikon «καγώ ο ελάχιστος πάντων και αμαρτωλός πορευθείς εις τι Άγιον Όρος, είδον εκεί αγίους και νόας σεσαρκωμένους εν αρεταίς, είδον επιγείους αγγέλους και ουρανίους ανθρώπος ...». " I the smallest amongst others and most sinful, journeyed to Mount Athos and seen there saints with many gifts, Angels of this world and heavenly people" In November of 1196, his father Stephan the King, arrives on Athos and goes to Vatopediou Monastery to find his son. 
King Stephan who had already worn monks clothing in March of the same year at the Holy Monastery of Studenica, arrives to state his allegiance and obedience to his son and to be tonsured a monk. The Kings son becomes his natural father's, spiritual father, and he tests him in order to become a monk. The king undertakes all of the tasks of modesty as prescribed by his son as an excellent student. St. Savva eventually tonsures his father a monk and grants him the name of Symeon. At the same time, his mother Anna is tonsured a nun, in Serbia,  taking the name of Anastasia.

The time comes for them both to ask for the land which they saw fit for the inception of the Lavra of the Serbs. The document transferring the ownership which was created in the year 1198 signed by the Protos of Athos Gerasimos and the other 24 Abbots is as follows: "King Symeon and his son Savvas came to Mount Athos and whilst staying at the Monastery of Vatopediou, after a while have requested via the Holy Synaksis from the Emperor Alexios 3rd Angelos, for the Monastery of Chelandariou which exists in the place called "Myleon" on the borders of Vatopediou. The Holy Synaxis confirms that Chilandariou and buildings in its surrounds even if they belong to Vatopediou will be transferred by Imperial Chrysobull as per the application of the two Serbian nobles in order for them to create a Monastery. The two Serbian nobles accept this however have asked for a document confirming the gift" 
The Holy Synaxis decides to send Monk Nikon as  a representative to Constantinople in order to ask for the publishing of an Imperial Chrysobull. Monk Nikon departs the Holy Mountain in June 1198 and returns in the same month bringing with him the Imperial document. In the document Emperor Alexios praises Saints Savva and Symeon and then goes on to explain that the Chelandariou Monastery will no longer be a dependancy of the Vatopediou Monastery and that it will be a monastery in its own right,  funded by the Serbian nation as the Iveron Monastery is funded by the Georgians and the Amalfion Monastery is funded by the Italians. (Please note this is a historical reference). 


The Vatopediou Monastery was the spiritual provider and nurturer of Saint Savva (1176-1235) the great leader of the Serbian nation and also of his father Saint Symeon to which the Monastery donated Chelandariou. This donation was considered a great gesture in the eyes of the Serbian royal family. Firstly King Stefan Dousan shows great interest in the Monastery. In his document dated April 1348, he writes about his longing for many years to visit Athos, and explains the love that his kingdom has towards Vatopediou Monastery. In this document, King Stefan Dousan not only confirms ownership of of various buildings of the Monastery he also donates an entire town, Saint Mamanta, and some other areas which were inhabited by Barbarine soldiers. In another document dated November 1369, Despot John Englezia, returns an annual tax which was imposed on  the Monastery for the lake Buru, expressing this way his gratefulness to the most Holy Theotokos. The donations of Serbian nobles over time grow. The Despot John Lazarevitch bequests to the Monastery 60 litres of silver annually as well as the town of Koptinivnitsa  (July 1417) and the great Tselnik Radic donates to the Monastery another town, Belopoltzie in Moravia (March 1432). The two above mentioned documents are confirmed with another two (1427 and 1432) written by the Despot George Brankovic. The last act between the Monastery and the Serbian royals is a document of 1432 in which Vatopediou Monastery gives to the noble brothers Radoslav and Michael "The tower of Koletzi" and the huts on the interior of the walls as well as the surrounding areas. In the document, its defined that 6 monks and a priest should be stationed there.  

Translated by George Frangos from the original text in Greek on the following link:

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