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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In this society there are 300 monks, — Greeks, Russians,
Servians, and Bulgarians, — and it has the name of being
a very strict and well-ordered body, notwithstanding the
various elements of which it is composed. The Greeks
predominate in numbers, and the hegumen is of this race,
but many of the features of the place are Russian, such
as whitewash, green cupolas, chiming bells, and tea.
This is the only convent where the service is performed
in two languages. In the others, if any members of other
nationalities come to reside, they have to conform to the
worship of the majority — a thing which is not very
edifying to them, as they can understand but little : here,
however, there are two principal churches, one for the
Greek and the other for the Slavonic service. The Rus-
sian church has veiy few Byzantine features about it ;
the architecture and pictures are Italian ; it was conse-
quently uninteresting enough, but the harmonious and
musical sound of their chanting, and the chiming of the
bells for Vespers, was highly agreeable. On great festi-
vals the bells are sounded, as they are ordinarily in
Russia, during the recital of the Nicene Creed ; a custom
which has been noticed as illustrating the prominence
which Eastern Christianity has always given to doctrinal
orthodoxy. Amongst the Greeks, however, it is un-

On the evening of the following day the Russian
steamer from Constantinople touched here, on her way to
Salonica, and we embarked on board of her, and bade
farewell to the Holy Mountain. And now that we have
left the sacred shores, let us cast a retrospective glance
at them, and see what opinion we have formed of these
monasteries, which are the very centre of the Greek

Chap. VI. Retrospective View. 1 3 1

Church, and are regarded with so great veneration by all
Eastern Christians.

Our estimate of them will vary, as we fix our thoughts
on the present or the past. Probably a considerable
number of the monks regard the monastic system in no
other light than as a source of personal benefit to them-
selves. The theory, however, which the more thoughtful
of them maintain is this,— that these bodies serve as an
example of holy life, as they contain a number of men
devoted to piety and religion ; that they maintain intact
the old customs and principles ; that their constant
prayers are a support to the Church ; and that in pros-
perous times they become seats of learning. How far
this theory, even supposing it to be tenable, is carried
out in practice, may be gathered from the fact that our
dragoman, a trustworthy man, assured us that he had
never heard so much foul and disgusting language as in
the conversation of the lower monks, among whom he
was thrown. We are not to suppose that this applies to
the conversation of the ordinary monks, but to a certain
number of mmroais siijets, who are to be found in each
monastery ; yet it is in part the result of the system.
Take a number of uneducated peasants from any country,
separate them from female society, and give them a cer-
tain amount of leisure ; the result will be, that even the
purest religious influences, unalloyed by superstition, will
not prevent a large amount of evil from being fostered
among them. Notwithstanding that we find much that
is pleasing in the life of the monks, and that strict mo-
rality is enforced by the rigid discipline, yet we cannot
but draw the conclusion that eastern monastic life has
here been tried on a large scale, is displayed to the
greatest advantage — and has failed.

But, whatever may be their faults, and however false,

K 2

132 Mount AtJios. Chap. VI.

in a healthy state of the church, the monastic system may
be, yet, looking to the past, we must remember that they
were once to a certain extent strongholds of learning,
and still more strongholds of faith in the midst of un-
believers. To one who reads, however cursorily, the his-
tory of the Greek Church, the great source of wonder is,
not that its faith has been overlaid by superstition, but
that it has retained its Christianity at all : and to this
the monasteries have in no slight degree contributed.
Besides this, they have served as refuges for the perse-
cuted, and for those perplexed by the distractions and
confusions of the world. Thousands have been saved
from suicide by their means. And from this point of
view the need of them cannot be said to have wholly
passed away ; for as long as the Turks remain in Europe,
the Christians will be persecuted, and as long as they are
persecuted, they will need a refuge.

It is a difficult matter to speculate on what may be
the future of the Holy Mountain. It was a subject on
which we often talked to the monks, and they invariably
connected their own future with the political future of
Turkey. When the happy period arrives, to which all
Greeks look forward, when they are to regain Constan-
tinople, Athos, they think, may once more become the
learned place which they believe it to have been in former
times. Yet some of them v^'ere not slow to see that
freedom would open to men various sources of occupa-
tion, which would cause them to be less disposed for the
monastic calling. It may also be doubtful how far an
educational system can be engrafted on the present life
of the place, as the experiment was tried in the last cen-
tury by Eugenius Bulgaris, whose school, as I have
already mentioned, ultimately failed. Yet this is the best
thing which we can hope for them. We should not wish

Chap. VI. History of the Commwiity. 133

to see so venerable an institution destroyed, root and
branch, if it is possible by any means to adapt it to the
exigencies of a coming time. Let us hope that its
suitableness for a seat of learning, from its central,
healthy, and secluded position, may hereafter be appre-
ciated, and that its fine buildings may not be left to the
ravages of time, to the unavailing regret of future gene-

In conclusion, let me add a very brief history of this
unique community, the permanence of which as an insti-
tution is altogether unparalleled. The first distinct men-
tion of monks on Athos is in the reign of Basil the Ma-
cedonian, who issued a rescript in the year A.D. 885, for-
bidding the inhabitants of the neighbouring country to
disturb " the holy hermits." At that time it appears that
these monks were dependent on a monastery at Hierissus
(Erisso) — a restriction on their freedom which was re-
moved by the next emperor, Leo the Philosopher : and
from the fact that they are termed " hermits " (oi tov
eprifjuLKov ^Lov iXo/xevoL), we may conclude that no monas-
tery had yet been founded on the Holy Mountain. Very
shortly afterwards, however, such a society must have
been formed, for in 924 a golden bull of Romanus Leca-
penus speaks of the restoration by that emperor of the
monastery of Xeropotamu, which had been destroyed by
the Saracens, and was now rebuilt, with a handsome
church, strong walls and towers, and dwellings for sick
persons and strangers. But its prosperity was not of
long duration, though whether it was again destroyed by
the Saracens, or what other causes may have contributed
to its downfall, we know not : but otherwise we could not
account for the miserable condition in which the inha-
bitants of the mountain are described as being at the
time of the building of the Lavra, and the fact that its

134 Mount Athos. Chap. VI.

founder, St. Athanasius, is regarded as the real author of
the existing system. Of the erection of his monastery
(about A.D. 960), with the help of Nicephorus Phocas, Ave
have already spoken ; but his ideas on the subject of the
monastic community and its future development seem to
have extended beyond this, for the office of " First Man "
was founded in his time, apparently as a means of com-
bining and regulating a number of separate societies.
About the same period the village of Caryes, which even
before this had been a meeting-place for the hermits, was
appointed to be the seat of government. The effect of
this is seen in the establishment, within a few years, of
three other important convents, also on the eastern coast
of the peninsula — Iveron and Vatopedi before the end of
that century, and Sphigmenu at the commencement of
the next. By the time of Constantine Monomachus, less
than 100 years from the time of St. Athanasius, the mo-
nastic buildings, which had then numbered 58, amounted
to 180, containing 700 monks. From that emperor they
received a second constitution, in which the intrusion of
the female sex was strongly prohibited, and various dis-
putes about land, which had already risen between the
various societies, were settled. From him also the penin-
sula received the name of the Holy Mountain.

Then follows the time of the Comneni {105 6- 1204),
characterized by violent opposition to the Latin Church
and Western ideas, together with a temporary resusci-
tation of Byzantine literature. The emperors of that
race, finding the monastic system a support to them in
carrying out those ideas, showered their favours upon
these convents, and made them independent of the
Patriarch of Constantinople, \\\s.o in early times had
appointed the First Man, and exercised a visitatorial
authority. Meanwhile the monasteries of Philotheu and

Chap. VI. Time of tJie Comncni. 135

Caracalla had arisen on the eastern coast, and those of
Xenophu and Docheiareiu on the western ; and to
these Pantocratoros and Cutlumusi were added under
Manuel and Alexius Comnenus. The fact that one so
much interested in literary and theological pursuits as
the latter of these two emperors should have been so
partial to these convents, renders it probable that at that
time they were homes of study and learning. Another
event of some importance to the Greek Church, from its
tendency to combine the nationalities of which it Avas
composed, took place during his reign in the foundation
of Chilandari, the first purely Slavonic monastery.
Fallmerayer, indeed, maintains that the majority of the
inmates of all the convents were from the first of Slavonic
origin — a conclusion which he bases mainly on the fact
that old service books in that language are found in
many of the libraries.^ And though this assumption is
contrary to historical probability, yet it is shown by the
evidence of names, that some persons of that race had
settled on Athos as early as the end of the loth century.
But this convent was founded exclusively for them, with
the leave of the emperor, by the Servian Prince Stephen
Nemanja, who himself retired thither ; and so inde-
pendent was their position that at first they were not
subject to the control of the First Man, and the other
monks were forbidden to interfere in their affairs. These
circumstances serve to explain its remote position at the
further end of the peninsula.

The taking of Constantinople by the Latins (a.d. 1204)
could not fail to have disastrous consequences for the
Holy Mountain. Everywhere the Greek rite was treated
with the utmost contumely, and the Greek priests and

-2 ' Fragmenta aus dem Orient,' ii. p. 32.

136 ." Mount Atlios. Chap. vr.

monks were regarded as heretics, and made the objects of
unrelenting persecution. With a barbarity worthy of the
Saracens, a number of the invaders landed on the coast,
and having erected a fort to serve as their head-quarters,
destroyed the churches, pillaged the monasteries, and
put the monks to the torture, in order to discover the
secret of concealed treasures. Reduced to despair by
this merciless treatment, the unfortunate community
applied for aid to a quarter which, under other circum-
stances, would have been the last for them to have
recourse to — Pope Innocent III. That far-sighted pre-
late, amongst whose extensive plans the reconciliation of
the Eastern Church was one, seized the opportunity
of displaying his power and his magnanimity. His
answer to the monks breathes a tone of lofty conciliation.
He believed the time was come when Samaria would
return to Jerusalem. The mountain of the Lord, to
which all nations flow, had chosen their mountain as a
representative of its name ; and it was a holy spot,
a house of God, a fitting arena for the struggle with
Satan. In answer, therefore, to their humble supplica-
tions, he agreed to take them under the protection of St.
Peter and the Holy See, confirmed to them the immu-
nities and privileges they had hitherto enjoyed, and
undertook to defend them from their persecutors. What
was the effect of this letter we have no means of judging,
but we may conclude that the influence of the Pope
availed in their favour, as we hear nothing more of Athos
until after the expulsion of the Latins from Constantinople
(A.D. 1261).

The succeeding period was not marked by events of
any great importance. The Palaeologi seem to have
followed the example of their predecessors in bestowing

Chap. VI. Time of the PalcEologt. 1 37

donations of land on the monasteries, and they were
further enriched by gifts from the Servian princes.
Among the latter the distinguished Stephen Dushan is
mentioned as having visited them in 1345, together with
his wife ; from which we gather that the exclusion of
females was not absolute; though, in fact, the same
thing has occurred in the present day, Lord Stratford
having been allowed on one occasion to bring some of
the ladies of his family to the monastery of St. Paul.
At this time also Zographu, the second Slavonic con-
vent, was founded. In the struggle between Michael
Pateologus and the Patriarch Arsenius, and in the
movements resulting from the intrigues of that emperor
with the Western Church, the monks took the popular
side against him, and in consequence, on one occasion,
brought down his vengeance upon them. The other
notices which have come down to us refer mainly to
restrictions on the power of the First Man, whose office
had gradually assumed overweening proportions. The
Patriarch now once more regained his influence over the
society ; the neighbouring Bishop of Erisso, who from
early times had had certain episcopal rights over the
peninsula, was restored to his former footing ; and there
are traces of the establishment of a consultative body,
composed of the leading monks, which may have been
the original of the present representative system. But
even with these limitations, the office with its executive
powers was something very different from what it is at
present, when its holder is merely the president of an

The middle of the 14th century, however, brought
with it events, both political and theological, in which
the monks of Athos took a prominent part. The

1^8 Mojtiit Athos. ' Chap. VI.

leading personage of this period is John Cantacuzene,
who in his successive characters of rebel against Andro-
nicus I., friend and counsellor of Andronicus II., regent
and guardian of his son John Palaeologus, and ultimately
of emperor, stands out as the most prominent figure in
the later Byzantine annals. His history is in many
ways interwoven with that of the monks. Already, in
the struggle between the two Andronici, the elder of the
two emperors had sent Isaac, the First Man of Athos at
that period, to his grandson in the character of a
mediator ; and, later on, after the death of the younger
Andronicus, when the queen, his widow, was persuaded
to declare against the authority of Cantacuzene as regent,
the same man was employed by him, together with
Macarius, the hegumen of the Lavra, the future patriarch
Callistus, and another monk famed for his sanctity, to
exhort the queen to peace, and to warn her against
introducing the horrors of civil war. So intimate
was Cantacuzene's connection with the monks of the
Holy Mountain, and so consistently did he defend
them from the charges of heresy brought against them,
that he was suspected of having betaken himself to
them during the lifetime of Andronicus II., in order
to avail himself of their prophetic power to discover
his future prospects. At last, when the tide of fortune
finally turned against him, he determined to embrace
the monastic profession, for which he had for some
time cherished a secret longing, and retired to Athos,
where he composed his history and ended his life.
His son Matthew, too, who had been associated with
him in the empire, and the historian Nicephorus Gre-
goras, with other writers of the period, betook them-
selves to this retreat, so that Athos became a home

Chap. VI. Theological Movements. 139

at once for men of learning, and for politicians weary
of the world.

Among the theological movements of this time, the
most prominent was that of the Hesychasts, who main-
tained the doctrine of the uncreated light of Tabor,
together with other mystical views connected with it,
which we have already noticed. The dispute, which gave
occasion for four councils, and involved emperors and
patriarchs in its confusion, continued for ten years (1341-
51), Gregory Palamas being the leader of the monks'
party, on which side also Cantacuzene was found, while
Nicephorus Gregoras supported Barlaam and their other
opponents. But this was not the only cause of theo-
logical excitement. It was commonly reported, and
there is good reason for thinking the charge well founded,
that the belief of many of the monks was impregnated
with the tenets of the Massalians, a sect which had arisen
among the Slavonic races in the reign of Alexius Com-
nenus. They were Dualists, and their doctrines in many
respects resembled those of some of the early Gnostics —
a class of views to Avhich extravagant asceticism has
always proved favourable. The suspicion went so far,
that in 135 1 a formal investigation was set on foot against
the First Man Nephon, before the bishops of Salonica
and Erisso ; and though they decided that he had done
nothing more than receive beggars and needy strangers
of that sect, and " that the sun is sometimes darkened
with clouds only to shine with greater lustre afterwards,"
yet for a time the caloyers were brought into considerable

The century which intervened before the capture of
Constantinople by the Turks was a time of prosperity to
these societies, nor did the long death-struggle of the

I40 Mo?mt Athos. Chap. VL

empire affect them injuriously. It seemed almost as if
the emperors and leading men of that time, conscious
of the increasing weakness of their position, were disposed
to make over a part of their possessions to what seemed
to them the safer keeping of the monks. The number of
the convents on the western coast was increased in the
latter half of the fourteenth century by St. Dionysius',
Simopetra, Constamonitu, Russico, and St. Paul's, and
numerous dotations in land and tithes were made to those
already existing. When the councils of Ferrara and
Florence (143S-9) were held, and the last attempt was
made to enlist the powers of the West in the defence of
Constantinople, by the reunion, or rather submission, of
the Eastern to the Latin Church, these caloyers were the
strongest opponents of any such concessions. But for
themselves, they had already made their terms with the
conqueror. The siege and storming of Salonica by
Sultan Amurath had in all respects been a lesson to them.
There the conqueror had made favourable offers to the
Greek Christians, as opposed to the Venetian garrison,
whom he treated as Western intruders ; and the pillage
which accompanied his conquest warned them what they
had to suffer in case of resistance. Moreover, the vio-
lence and oppressiveness of the Latins had caused the
ecclesiastics to regard the advance of the Mahometans in
the light of a deliverance. Accordingly they sent an
embassy to him, offering to submit to his government,
and requesting a confirmation of their immunities and
the possession of their territories — a request to which
they obtained an unexpectedly favourable reply. So far
indeed was the goodwill carried between the monks of
that time and the Turkish conquerors, that in a MS.
lately discovered by Professor Tischendorf, there is found

Chap. VI. Later History. 141

an exaggerated laudation of Mahomet 11. by Critobulus,
a caloyer of Athos, in which his heroic deeds are cele-
brated, and every virtue ascribed to him.

From that time to the present the fortunes of the Holy
Mountain have been for the most part uneventful, and
its position almost unchanged. Soliman the Magnificent
is the only Sultan who seems to have attacked the
monks ; in his reign their territory was laid waste with
fire and sword, and great injury inflicted. On the other
hand, his predecessor Selim I. bestowed great favours on
them ; and though they have had to bear heavy taxation
and exactions, yet they have been allowed to exercise their
religion undisturbed. In this way their isolation as a purely
Christian community in the midst of the Mahometans
caused them to become a bulwark of the Christian faith,
and a beacon-light to the whole Eastern Church. The
last founded of the monasteries was Stavroniceta, which
was established in 1545. The protectorate, which had
previously been exercised by the Greek emperors, now
passed into the hands of the Hospodars or Voyvodes of
Wallachia and Moldavia, who enriched the societies with
numerous benefactions. For some time, learning seems
to have flourished among them ; thus Metrophanes Cri-
topulus, a young man who was sent to England and Ger-
many by the reforming prelate, Cyril Lucar, with a view
of introducing western learning into the east, had been
educated on Athos. But the natural tendency of their
mode of life, in the absence of any stimulus from vv'ithout,
v/orked itself out as time went on, and left them as they
are now, uninstructed and unprogressive. In all proba-
bility, the present century will prove to have affected
their fortunes more than any preceding one. The con-
fiscation of their goods in free Greece by Capodistrias, at

142 Mount AtJios. Chap. VI.

the end of the War of Independence, was the beginning-
of a change, and now the loss of their property in the
PrincipaHties must affect them still further. The next
move, whatever that may be, will probably accompany
the downfall of the Turkish empire, whenever that event
comes to pass.^

* The facts contained in this notice are mostly from Gass's * Commentatio
Historica de Claustris in Monte Atho sitis;' the original documents are to
be found in the ' Urkundenverzeichniss,' in J, Miiller's 'Denkmaler in den
Klostern von Athos.'

( 143 )



Salonica — Its Triumphal Arches — Inscription — Population and History

The Egnatian Way— Roads in Turkey — The Vardar — Khans —

Site of Pella — Yenidje — Vodena— Its Beautiful Situation — The
Ancient Edessa — Village and Lake of Ostrovo — Subterranean Chan-
nels— Gumitzovo — Pigs in Turkey — Nidje and Peristeri — Approach
to Monastir,

About nine o'clock on the morning after we left Athos,
the steamer cast anchor in the harbour of Salonica, which
forms the innermost bay of the long gulf in which the
yEgean terminates towards the north-west. As seen
from the sea, the aspect of the place is very striking, and
recalls the appearance of Genoa, though it is far inferior
to that magnificent city. From the water's edge the
houses rise gradually up the hill sides towards the north,
until they reach the castle which crowns the summit.
Like that at Constantinople, it bears the name of the
Seven Towers, and was probably called so before
the time of the Turkish occupation. Behind it rise
the lofty heights of Mount Khortiatzi, from which it
is separated by a ridge and a depression ; at this point
two valleys commence, and gradually diverge from one
another as they descend towards the sea, while their
inner sides are surmounted by the picturesque lines of
white walls which enclose the city, and are defended
at their extremities by two massive towers which rise
from the water. In this way, its triangular form, the
compact mass of buildings which it presents at one view
to the eye, and the numerous elegant minarets which

144 Salonica to Monastir. ' Chap. VII.

stand up among them, combine to form an imposing

Within, the place is intersected in its lower part by
one long street, which runs from east to west, marking
the line of the old Via Egnatia, and crossed by two
Roman triumphal arches, through which the road entered
Thessalonica from the two sides. One of these, which
lies some little way within the eastern wall, is a fine

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 11 of 31)