Tuesday, August 24, 2021

0077 - A tribute to His Eminence Metropolitan of Kinsasa Nikiforos (Former Headmaster of Athonias Ecclesiastical Academy Mt Athos)


There comes a time when we all must say goodbye, in this life, to those that have made a significant impact upon us and have moulded us to whom we are today. 

These people are considered by us as charismatic and life changing. 

I must admit, that it has taken me at least 4 weeks to build the courage to write about him. It has been a difficult to come to terms that he is no longer there, to talk to, to exchange a text message with and to seek his advice. 

His loss has been something that has affected me deeply, perhaps, due to being so sudden. There were so many more conversations to be had, so many more ways to help his mission work in Congo so many more spiritual discussions to be had at his beautiful monastic home the Cell of the Archangels in Mikra Agia Anna, Mt. Athos. 

I guess these conversations can still take place, however, in the realm of prayer, asking from God to give rest to his saintly soul and grant to him, his deserved place, in the tents of the righteous. 

Fr. Nikiforos (Πάτερ Νικηφόρος) as he liked to be called, was a person of deep charisma, firm minded yet gentle, strict yet just and always approachable. 

I first met him as young boy, 12 years old as a 1st year student at Athoniada. He immediately took me under his wing and guided me through what is usually a difficult transition from an Australian household and into a boarding school, on the other side of the world, without knowing much Greek. 

He guided me at every crossroad in the boarding school life, trust me there were many, with much love and concern. He was a second father and a person I relied on heavily from the age of 12 - 16.

He instilled in me a deep love for the Holy Mountain, the same deep love which I maintain to this very day. 


Even after my departure from the school, we maintained dialogue via phone and letters and later through more modern means of communication such as Viber and FaceBook.

He loved each and every one of his students, always remembering them and asking about them. 

He was a very humble person and did not like attention, especially when it came to his very important mission work. 

I recall the last time we met in person....

I was in Northern Greece in my wife's paternal village, just outside Giannitsa. I had spoken to him a few days before asking him what his movements were whilst he was in Thessaloniki. Usually, the limited time he had in Greece was mainly spent meeting with people and securing funding for the significant mission work he was conducting in Africa. 

Out of the blue, he called me and asked where I was (knowing I was somewhere in the Giannitsa region) and asked if he could come by the village to visit. 

I, of course, gave him the details and he said he would come by upon return from Edessa. An hour later he called and said he was on his way. 

We had just finished vespers at the village Church (it was a Saturday) and we had gathered at my wife's cousin's home for coffee in memory of her late uncle. Most of the people in the small village were gathered there.

He eventually arrived at the home and sat down to have a coffee and a rest from his journey. No one apart from our relatives knew that Fr Nikiforos was the Metropolitan of Central Africa. He did not announce himself but rather humbly sat down on the plastic moulded outdoor chair like the rest and drank his coffee. 

After having a rest we took a walk together around the village in what was a deep and meaningful spiritual and practical discussion which I cherish to this day. We arrived back at the home, he farewelled us and continued his journey back to Thessaloniki.

After his departure, the villagers asked "who was that lovely priest?" "Where is he from?". I replied, he is not a priest, but rather the Metropolitan of Central Africa. They were amazed at his humbleness and simplicity, never introducing himself as Bishop etc. but rather, the simple Fr. Nikiforos. 

To my beloved Fr. Nikiforos, may the Almighty Lord grant you, your place in His kingdom, in the land of the living and in the tents of your righteous. 

You will always be remembered and your guidance and sacrifices for all of us, cherished forever. 

Rest in peace my dear father. Καλό Παράδεισο!

Fr George Frangos, 

Melbourne, Australia. 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

0076 - The Land Border to Mount Athos (Coast of Ouranoupolis)

 0076 - The Land Border to Mount Athos (Coast of Ouranoupolis)

A short walk from the ruins of the Zygou Monastery, the border between Mount Athos and the rest of Halkidiki can be found. 

Photo above - On approach to the coastline. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

0075 - Zygou Monastery near Ouranoupolis

0075 -  Zygou Monastery near Ouranoupolis

When you hear the words “Mount Athos”, your mind will be immediately drawn to Monasteries. 
What isn't widely known is that the border of Mount Athos, extended much further beyond Ouranoupolis in the past. 
Remnants of Monasteries and their dependancies can be found all around the Chalkidiki region. 

One of those forgotten Monasteries from the Golden Age of the Peninsula (around the 10th Century) is the Monastery of Zygou.

This religious and architectural heritage site stands 2 kms to the east of Ouranoupolis, walking distance to the border of Mount Athos. 

Zygou Monastery is considered to be one of the oldest uninhabited ruins of an Athonite Monastery.  
It was discovered by the group of archaeologists, coordinated by Ioakeim Papaggelos in 1984.

A brief history of the Zygou Monastery. 

The first reference regarding the Monastery dates back to the middle of the 10th century. 
In the year 958 St. Athanasios The Athonite, also known as the founder of organised monasticism on Mount Athos and founder of the oldest Monastery Megisti Lavra, first settled at the Zygou Monastery.

 This is when the name of Zygou Monastery is first mentioned, however, it is more than likely that the Monastery was a group of small cells (kellia) at the time and not, as it was to become.

The first exact mention of the Monastery dates back to the year 998, when it was considered one of the  elite monastic centres of Mount Athos and had great influence in the Athonite Administration.

The monastery began to flourish in 1018 after the appointment of Nephon to be the abbot. 

He led the expansion of the Monastery’s area and  
the construction of the Catholicon (the main Church). 

The excavations show that the building complex, included five-sided castle like walls and 11 towers, which were established throughout the course of a 100 year period.

As was the case with many Athonite Monasteries which were situated close to shore with easy access to ships, the monastery was abandoned late in the 12th century. 
This is more than likely attributed to raiders and pirates who frequently raided the Monasteries on the Athonite Peninsula that had easy accessibility and no natural defences. 

 The Monastery and its lands were granted to the Hilandariou Monastery for utilisation and renovation. 

During the period of the crusades, it was used as a base Latin crusaders to launch attacks on Mount Athos under the leadership of a Frankish lord, in order to force union between the East and West. It is because of this that it is referred to sometimes as Fragokastro (Frankish Castle). 

After that period , the Monastery was left in ruins. The Monastery, which was once a flourishing religious centre, became the source of building materials. 
The locals quietly removed the stones and decorations of the Monastery, evident in many of the oldest local buildings around Ouranoupolis. 

The complex comprises the old central construction (western), which was doubled in the course of expansion in the eastern direction. Recent excavations found foundations of a much earlier building dating back to the 4th Century B.C.  

The Catholicon (Main Church)  sits in the mid-east part of the building. The first stone was put into its foundation in the first half of the 11th century. Its construction included four phases. 
The first phase of the building construction included the establishment of a Church with a narrow narthex. The second – added the northern Chapel. 

At present, the monastery is partially reconstructed. 
Unfortunately, the majority of its marble relics were either destroyed or stolen. 
The four marble columns, which were holding the dome, are now lost to History.  The interior of the monastery was covered with fine-grained stucco one might see in the Churches of Mount Athos and features a large number of frescoes.
 The narthex has partially preserved fresco of the Annunciation, adorned with gems. 

In the niche of the south chapel, you can see two layers of frescoes, depicting the life of Saint Nicholas.

The floor of the Catholicon northern chapel is perfectly preserved. It is made of marble using a specific technique of stone carving, which provides us with the opportunity to admire the works of the architects from the 11th century. The floor is decorated with some of the best examples of mosaics from the first part of the 11th century.

During the excavations of 1984, the archaeologists found many artifacts, which are now included in the collections of many museums in Greece. Among the artifacts are:

A tablet with the depiction of an Archangel. 
Three lead seals of the 11th century Monastery.
Glass mosaics which were the part of a mosaic composition. 
Silver medals with carved depictions of St. Paraskevi. 
Coins belonging to various time periods. 


0077 - A tribute to His Eminence Metropolitan of Kinsasa Nikiforos (Former Headmaster of Athonias Ecclesiastical Academy Mt Athos)

  There comes a time when we all must say goodbye, in this life, to those that have made a significant impact upon us and have moulded us to...