Henry Fanshawe Tozer.

Researches in the highlands of Turkey; including visits to mounts Ida, Athos, Olympus, and Pelion, to the Mirdite Albanians, and other remote tribes (Volume 1) online

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crucifix, it has a small figure of our Lord on the middle
of it, in ivory or bone ; from the great abhorrence in which
anything approaching an image is held in the Greek
Church, even this would probably not have been spared,
had it not been a reputed present from the Empress
Pulcheria. Near the foot is a representation in gold
plate of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and under it,
in ancient Greek characters, the inscription, Kovaravrivov
Eu(/)pocri;i/7;9 KoX Twv reKicov ; but what is most remark-
able about it is the wonderful size of the uncut diamonds
and emeralds with ^^hich it is set. This is, in all

Chap. V, Ancient Diamonds. 1 1 7

probability, the same piece of the true cross which is
mentioned in a golden bull of the Emperor Romanus
Lecapenus (A.D. 924) as having been taken from the
Queen's treasury, and presented by him to this monas-
tery after his recovery from a severe illness, on which
occasion it was conducted thither with great pomp and
ceremonial.'^ The Euphrosyne mentioned in the inscrip-
tion is probably the daughter of Constantine VI., who
was married to the Emperor Michael the Stammerer
(A.D. 820). In the monastery of Sphigmenu there is
another cross, inferior in other respects, but not less
valuable for its ancient diamonds, and the two together
form a pair which it would be difficult to match else-
where. It has lately been pointed out that the great
rarity of large diamonds in ancient works of art, even in
Byzantine times, when we should have expected that the
gorgeousness of the Court, and the communication with
Asia, would have introduced them, is to be accounted for,
not by the scarcity of the gem itself at that period, but
by the prohibition which was imposed by the Indian
sovereigns against the exportation from that country of
any above a certain size.* The other relic is noteworthy
for the curious superstition attached to it. It is a cup,
which is said also to have belonged to the empress Pul-
cheria, covered on the outside with old red gold ; inside
there is very curious and beautiful carving, representing
figures, done in bone, or, according to the legend, in the
horn of a serpent. This had the power of curing a person
who had been poisoned, if wine or water were administered
in it to the patient ; it is still used by the monks for the
same purpose, and they say that if liquid remains in it
for any length of time it will boil. The same idea is

^ Gass, p. 7.

* King, on the 'Natural History of Precious Stones,' p. 21, note "•.

1 1 8 Moiuit A thos. Chap. V.

found to exist elsewhere. Thus, Mr. Hamilton, in his
' Researches in Asia Minor,' speaking of an Armenian
physician whom he met in that country, says : "His
medical skill was proved by producing what he called a
snake's horn, which he asserted was an infallible antidote
against poison. 'If,' said he, ' a small quantity be scraped
off with a piece of gold, and swallowed in a little water
by one who has been either poisoned or stung, he will be
immediately cured.' It appeared to me to resemble a
boar's tusk, and may have been a piece of simple harts-
horn ; its chief efficacy being in the piece of gold —
supplied, of course, by the patient."^ A similar supersti-
tion to this in the west of Europe was attached to the
tusk of the narwhal, which passed for the unicorn's horn,
and was reputed to possess the virtue of neutralizing and
even detecting the presence of poison. Edward IV. gave
to the ambassador of Charles of Burgundy a cup of gold,
garnished with pearls and a great sapphire ; and the
chronicler adds, " in the myddes of the cuppe ys a grete
pece of an Vnicornes home." ^

To the north of Xeropotamu the declivities of the
western coast become more gentle, and the scenery
softer and more wooded. We continued our journey in
the evening, and passing the Russian monastery on our
left, arrived at that of Xenophu, which lies on the sea-
shore. From this place, notwithstanding its low situa-
tion, the magnificent summits of the Thessalian Olympus
were visible at sunset over the northern part of Sithonia.
For our supper, amongst other things, the monks brought
us a dish of rice and Jicptapodi, a kind of sea polypus,
which is allowed to be eaten on fast days because it is
supposed to be bloodless. The object of most interest

* Hamilton's 'Asia Minor,' ii. p. 127.
6 Sec ' Our English Home,' p. 61.

'Chap. V. , Docheiareiic.


which they had to show was the new iconostase which
they have erected in their church ; it is composed partly
of Tenian and partly of Athoan marble, and is certainly
very imposing.^

It is less than half an hour's ride along the coast from
this place to Docheiareiu, or " The Steward's Monastery,"
so called because it is said to have been founded by a
monk named Euthymius, who was at one time steward
or bursar of the Lavra. This and Xeropotamu are the
only two Idiorrhythmic convents on this side of Athos,
the ruggedness of the ground being apparently favourable
to the retention of the older system. The buildings here
are very grand, and the ^\^orks of art, which seem to have
escaped Mr. Curzon, are singularly fine. There are two
splendid crosses ; one a single cross, magnificently set in
gilt filigree work adorned with gems, the spaces between
the limbs being also filled up with the same kind of orna-
mentation, so that it assumes, roughly speaking, a
diamond shape ; the other is a double cross, like that
at Xeropotamu, and has beautiful metal flower-work
wreathed all about it. In the library, too, is the finest
illuminated MS. that I saw on Athos. It is a book of

'' Attached to this altar-screen was a copy of verses, which I append,
in ilhistration of the adtits of the Virgin in the Greek Church. It is
written in ancient Greel>c, and composed in tlie modern accentual rhythm,
rhymed : —

" 670) Se (Ti, iravaxpavre, ws -Kavra SwafiEPTju,
bfioKoyu) fxTfrepa. ae @eov SeSo^aa/^uyqi/.
Ki]pvTT(a ffov rb tXeos Koi ri}v evepyeaiav,
T'i]v ils ifj-e aov a/xaxoy, SeffTrotva, ■Kpoffraaiav.
7] X"P'S ■'■"C i\4ovs aov aei ^e ffKeTracrdrai,
e| aoparwv fie ex^pi^i' Kal opaTcov cwcrciTw."

It must, however, be remembered that the worship of the Virgin has not
been hardened into dogma in the Eastern, as it has in the Western Church ;
nor has it overshadowed the worship of our Lord, as one cannot help
feeling to be the case in the Church of Rome.

120 Mount At/ios. Chap. V.

Lives of Saints of the nth century, decorated with
miniatures of the saints, most dehcately executed, and
initial letters bordered with exquisite arabesques. The
manuscripts here were bound in modern binding, and had
been looked after by the master of the school at Caryes.
Shortly after leaving this monastery I was fortunate
enough to have an interview with a hermit. In one
place, where the path lies along the beach, wc had
stopped for my companion to gather some pebbles, when
our dragoman, looking up the steep cliffs, exclaimed that
he saw a man standing at some distance above us.
Guessing what he might be, I dismounted, and scrambled
up 20 or 30 feet to the mouth of a cave, where I found a
dark hollow-cheeked man, clothed in a single garment of
rough cloth. In the inner part of the cave, which was
divided off from the rest by a low wall, was his bed of
straw, and one book of prayers was lying on the wall.
In this place he lived both winter and summer. He
came originally from Argyro- Castro, in Albania, and
had served for some years as a corporal in the army
of the King of Greece ; but after a time he was seized
with a desire for the life of retirement, and came as a
caloyer to the skete of St. Anne. After remaining there
for three years, he devoted himself to the life of a
hermit, in which he had passed his time for seven years.
His food was brought to him from the neighbouring
monasteries. He spoke distinctly, like a man who had
had some education ; and slowly, as one unaccustomed
to conversation. As we were looking down on the
tumbling waves, I said to him before leaving, " Here you
have near you God and the sea." " Ah ! " he replied,
"we are all sinners," as if to deprecate the idea that
he was on a higher spiritual level than other men.
His answer illustrates the entire absence of pretension

Chap. V. A Hermit. 1 2 r

which we observed amongst the monks : they never
represented themselves as more learned, or more reli-
gious, or having higher aims, than was really the
case ; and when they had devoted themselves to the mo-
nastic life from mixed motives, they did not hesitate to
avow it.

A wooded gorge that runs inland near this point led
us to the small and secluded monastery of Constamonitu,
one of the very few which do not command a sea view.
On our arrival we were ushered into the guest chamber,
a small gloomy room, where we were soon after visited
by the hegumen — a kind, hearty old man, and very
simple in his ideas, having been very little away from
Athos ; yet we soon discovered that he knew everything
of what was going on in Europe and America ; he was
even aware that in England we use steam machinery
in agriculture ; and a smile of grim satisfaction played
over his features as he spoke of the probable downfall of
the Papacy.^ While we were talking with him, there
came in a very old man, so venerable in his appearance,

^ At Cutlumusi and other monasteries there is a curious tradition that
they were destroyed by the Pope of Rome, who came here "about the time
of tlie great schism." The foundation for this was probably some attack of
the Crusaders at the time of the Fourth Crusade; or the expedition of tlie
Emperor Michael Palceologus to force the monks to accept the terms of
the Concordat of Lyons, on which occasion they suffered great injury at
his hands. The name Caryes, which, as I have before mentioned, means
"The Hazels," is derived by many of the monks from Kapa (a head), in
accordance with a stoi7 that the Pope cut off the heads of all the represen-
tatives of that period, and placed them round the Protaton, or principal
church of the place. Some authorities maintain the derivation from Ka.fa,
though on different grounds from those given by the monks. According to
them the earlier form of the name was Kape'at, or Kapo^, and consequently
they consider it to mean "head centre" (Gass, p. 19). But the name
Caryes, as "The Hazels," is so frequently found, and the custom of calling
places from the trees found there is so common, especially in Greece, that
there can be little doubt that this derivation is the right one.

122 Mount Athos. Chap. V.

that the most thoughtless person could not but have
risen up in his presence. His flowing beard was snowy
white, his limbs spare and ascetic, so that he looked
more like one of the ancient hermits than anything else
that we saw. Just such a figure Spenser has described
in his portrait of heavenly contemplation :

" that godly aged sire,

With snowy lockes adowne his shoulders shed ;

As hoary frost with spangles doth attire
The mossy braunches of an oke halfe ded.
Each bone might through his body well be red,

And every sinew seene, through his long fast :
For naught he cared his carcas long unfed ;

His mind was full of spirituall repast,
And pyn'd his flesh to keep his body low and chast." —

Faerie Queene, i. x. 48.

He was born in Mitylene, and was employed in a
merchant's business in Egypt at the time of Napoleon's
expedition : after this he retired to the convent of Mount
Sinai, and, when he had spent three years there, came in
1809 to Athos, where he had remained ever since. He
had been tutor to the old Hegumen, with whom he had
maintained a warm and unbroken friendship. The man,
who waited on us, was a tall, gaunt caloyer, with a hard
Scotch cast of features, who might have sat for a likeness
of a Covenanter. He talked with fervour of the pro-
tection afforded to them by the sacred relics, of the
devoted lives of some of the hermits, their prophetic
power, and the need of sternly subjugating the passions,
in order to gain an insight into the higher spiritual
mysteries, until at last he looked almost like one inspired ;
and his utterance became so indistinct, that we could
understand but little of what he said. The sight of
these three men together in the dark monastic chamber
was one not to be forgotten ; and it is a characteristic

Chap. V. Zographn. 123

instance of the hospitality of the Holy Mountain that,
though they were sternly fasting, they pressed us to
feast on the best of what they had, and the Covenanter
replenished our wine-glasses.

On leaving this place, we crossed a range of hills, and
descended into another rich valley, where in the midst of
numerous cypresses stands Zographu, or " The Painter's "
— a monastery of 100 monks, all Bulgarians, who have the
service in the old Slavonic tongue. The legend which is
given to explain the name relates that a picture of St.
George, now in the monastery, which was painted by
himself, having originally existed in Palestine, transported
itself to Athos by its own wonder-working power. But
when we consider that it is a Slavonic monastery, there
is a strong probability that the Greek name is the
corruption of an original Bulgarian one ; and this may
very well have been Zagora ("behind the mountain"),
which we find in many parts of Turkey. This would
accurately describe its retired position. It is a handsome
structure, and part of it has been lately rebuilt in con-
sequence of the destruction caused by an earthquake,
but it does not contain much that is worth seeing.
A school, which was established here some time ago,
has died a natural death, and the Hegumen spoke
dcspondingly of the prospect of introducing study,
vv-hich he feared was not reconcilable with monastic
pursuits. He was the only one of the inmates that
we met with who could speak Greek. The Greek
monks in the other convents betrayed the spirit of their
ancestors in an amusing manner, by always speaking of
the Slavonic caloyers as "barbarians."

We passed the night at Zographu, and continued our
route the next morning across the peninsula, through
country different from that of any other part of Athos—

124 Mount AtJios. Chap. V.

upland valleys and forest scenery, in the midst of which
the light green foliage of the Isthmian pine was con-
spicuous, the same of which the crown was composed
at the games of the Isthmus. At last \\q caught sight
of the blue Strymonic gulf, and descended to Chilandari,
the second of the two Bulgarian monasteries, which
contains also a number of Servians. It stands between
wooded hills at the head of a narrow valley, and in con-
sequence of its position is somewhat unhealthy. In the
church is kept the staff of Andronicus Comnenus, who
retired hither at the end of his life, and also a MS. the
most precious of all that exist on Athos, which was the
gift of that emperor, and is in perfect preservation, from
having been kept with the sacred relics. It is a 4to
Greek MS. of St. John's Gospel, of about the 12th cen-
tury, written in gold letters on white vellum : there are
very few manuscripts like it in existence.

On both our visits to this monastery I was struck with
the intelligence shown by the leading monks. On the
first occasion I was much impressed by a father called
Hilarion, and on enquiring for him subsequently, I found
that he had been promoted to a high office in Bulgaria,
and having taken the national side in the Bulgarian
movement against the Patriarch of Constantinople, had
afterwards been deprived. This time I had a long con-
versation with one of the superiors, called Nilus, a man
of imposing appearance, whose strong countenance,
quick eye, long grey hair, and benevolent expression,
were eminently attractive ; and he was liberal-minded as
well as devout. Speaking to me of other churches, he
said, " The Church is now divided, but all are Christians,
and our first object ought to be to make it one again.
The proper way to bring this about is to ignore minor
dirterences as far as possible, and to leave each Church

Chap. V. Viezas of other Churches. 125

free to maintain its established customs. If I were to
visit England, I ought to be free to worship according
to the rites to which I am accustomed ; if a member
of the English Church comes here, he should have the
same freedom." He thought there was hope of bringing
this about, especially in case of the downfall of the
Papacy, which he regarded as the great difficulty in the
way of the unity of the Church. A book of travels is
not the proper place for discussing theories of Christian
union or comprehension, but I believe Nilus struck the
right nail on the head. All honour to those who, in
whatsoever way, endeavour to promote harmony among
Christian communions ; but when we consider the vast
dififerences which almost necessarily exist between them,
arising in great measure from temperament, from modes
of thought, and from deeply-rooted associations, it is
hard to conceive that a permanent basis of agreement
could be fixed on any other principle than that just
stated. No doubt, in such a case, some common standard
of doctrine would be required, which should be accepted
by all ; but such a one we have ready to hand in the
one only form of faith which has been established
and ratified by the whole Christian Church — the Nicene

When we talked to the monks, as we often did, about
their relation to other Christian churches, and to our
own in particular, the answers they gave us were almost
always sympathetic and liberal. "Do you receive the
Gospels .'' Do you believe in the Trinity .'' Are you
baptized } " asked one. " Very well ; then you are a
true Christian." Another volunteered the remark that
all the Churches are one, the test being belief in Christ.
" The Ottomans," he said, " have also a Church, but
them we cannot include, because they do not believe in

126 Mount Athos. Chap. V.

Christ." These expressions, however, we must not take
for more than what they really mean. When I was
discussing the subject with the librarian of St. Dionysius',
who was a rigid disciplinarian, and seized the points of
difference in preference to those of agreement, I asked
him at last the plain question, " Do you then consider
us to be heretics ? " " No," he replied, " you are not
heretics, but you are not of the Orthodox Church."
This exactly represents the point of view from which we
are generally regarded by members of the Eastern
communion ; and the same thing is taught in their
catechisms, namely, that the universal Church is the
aggregate of all the bodies of Christians which are found
throughout the world, but that to belong to one of these
is a very different thing from membership in the Church
to which they have the privilege of belonging. In short,
they regard us almost exactly in the same way as a
large number of English Churchmen regard the dis-
senters in their own country — that is to say, they
acknowledge the reality of our Christian faith, and its
vitality, as shown by the fruits it produces, and would
shrink from denying that we shall ultimately be saved ;
but at the same time they feel themselves unable to
consider us as being in the same safe and, so to speak,
guaranteed position as themselves. It will be seen, how-
ever, that there are some, like Nilus, who take a wider

( 127 )


MOUNT ATHOS {coutmucd).

Canal of Xerxes— Sphigmenu — The Central Ridge — The Russian Mo-
nastery — Estimate of the Monastic System — The future of the Holy
Mountain — History of the Community — Earliest Period — Time of
the Comneni — Attack by the Latins — Time of the Pateologi — Canta-
cuzene — Theological Movements — Submission to the Turks — Later

We have now reached the last of the monasteries at this
end of the peninsula ; but before we turn our faces once
more in the other direction, a few words ought to be said
about the canal and its environs, which we investig-ated
when returning from Athos to Salonica by land in 1853.
The isthmus through which it was cut is just a mile and
a half in width, and the ground immediately about it is
low, so that even in the middle, where there are some
slight undulations, it hardly rises more than fifty feet
above the sea. Thus the description of Herodotus is
very accurate, as he speaks of it as " a neck of land
about twelve furlongs across, the whole extent whereof,
from the sea of the Acanthians to that over against
Torone, is a level plain, broken only by a few^ low hills." ^
Through this isthmus the canal of Xerxes was cut, and
the deep dyke which still remains, and forms the
boundary of the Holy Mountain, is now called by the
inhabitants Provlaka, which name is evidently the cor-
ruption of a word {TrpoavXa^} signifying " the canal in

' Herod, vii. 22.

1 2 8 Mount A tJios. Chap. VI.

front of the peninsula of Athos." Thus the doubts of
Juvenal and other writers, both ancient and modern, as
to the execution of Xerxes' project, are proved to have
been groundless. In the middle, it is true, it is not
traceable for some distance ; but it has been suggested,
with great probability, that this part was afterwards
filled up in order to allow a more ready passage into and
out of the peninsula. The canal is best traceable on the
southern side, where it is deep and continuous, varying
in breadth from time to time from the soil having
accumulated in places, and marshy at intervals, even in
summer ; in the wet season a considerable stream of
water is said to flow down through it. Near the point
where it reaches the sea on this side stood the ancient
town of Sane. The whole place was carefully surveyed
for the Admiralty by Captain Spratt. I may here
mention, also, that when approaching from this direction
the neighbouring village of Erisso (Acanthus), which lies
on the other side of some low hills to the north-west, I
passed a large and high mound, which at first I took for
the acropolis, until the real acropolis came in view, with
remains of Hellenic walls on one of its sides. I have
little doubt that this was the tomb of Artachaees, who
superintended the cutting of the canal, for Herodotus
speaks of his having been buried at Acanthus, and of a
mound having been raised over his grave by the whole
Persian army.-

The next monastery to Chilandari is Sphigmenu {tov
€cr(f)tj/j.6vov), which derives its name from its confined
position between wooded heights, which here approach
one another in the recesses of a little bay. We were
much interested in this place, because at the time of our

^ Herod, vii. 117.

Chap. VI. TJie Central Ridge. 129

former visit a large part of the front had been washed
down by the encroaches of the sea, and the hegumen
expressed great anxiety about obtaining funds to restore
it. During the interval he had visited Russia and other
countries, where he had collected the requisite sums, and
the new building had been finished about a year, and
presented a substantial and handsome appearance. The
hegumen himself, too, had grown stout and hearty in
the process ; he was much pleased with the contribution
which we tendered to him, having been unable to find
any channel of communication with him while we were
in England. Anthimus, the ex-patriarch of Constanti-
nople, was residing in the monastery at this time : after
his deposition he had come here of his own accord.

It took us five hours to ride from Sphigmenu to
Caryes, by a path along the central ridge, descending
occasionally on one side or the other, and frequently
overlooking precipitous banks of wood, which shelved
downwards from our feet. At one point the humble
and homely Constamonitu appeared, nestling in its
narrow valley ; in the opposite direction the lordly
buildings of Vatopedi were conspicuous on the shore.
In many places the peak was visible, and the wide sea of
course lay below us on both sides ; but the prettiest
effects were produced by the vignette views, seen through
the depressions, where now and then two or three peeps
of the blue water opened out at once on different sides.
It is one of the finest rides in the peninsula. In one
place a large eagle rose just below us, and soared away.
On reaching the village we had a parting interview with
the " First Man," and, after revisiting our friends at
Cutlumusi, mounted again to the ridge by a steep track
through dense forests, and then descended to Russico,
or the Russian monastery, on the western coast, where

130 Mount Athos. Chap. VI..

we arrived just before the gates were closed for the

Online LibraryHenry Fanshawe TozerResearches in the highlands of Turkey; including visits to mounts Ida, Athos, Olympus, and Pelion, to the Mirdite Albanians, and other remote tribes (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 31)