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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to us by the monks of Vatopedi, to Caryes, or "The
Hazels," the central and only village in Athos, where the
Holy Synod of the mountain holds its sittings, and
the Turkish governor resides. This village, which lies in
a lovely position high up on the eastern slopes of the
central ridge, in the midst of the trees from which it
takes its name, consists mainly of one long street, with
open shops forming a kind of bazaar, and is remarkable
for its cleanliness, and for the entire absence of women
and children. The exclusion of females from Athos is
absolute : not only are women prevented from landing
on its sacred shores, but no cow, ewe, shegoat, sow, hen,
or other creature of the forbidden sex, is under any
circumstances admitted. This restriction, which seems
absurd at first sight, is in reality a singular parallel to
some of the ordinances of the Mosaic law ; such, for
instance, as those in Lev. xix. 19, where garments of
mixed linen and woollen texture are forbidden to be
worn ; the object being in both instances to enforce the
main precept by keeping it before the mind of the

64 Mount Athos. Chap. III.

people in a number of minor analogous cases. Even
the Turkish governor is obliged to leave his Harem
behind him during his term of residence. This officer,
the representative of the Porte, and the only Mahometan
who is allowed to live here, is in reality of very little
influence in the affairs of the monastic community, his
duties being for the most part confined to the collection
of taxes. The defence of the district is confided to a
body of about twenty-five Christian soldiers, who may
sometimes be seen in the monasteries, flaunting about in
their gay Albanian dresses ; but they are under the
direction of the Holy Synod. The independence and
immunities of Athos, in respect of which it is the most
favoured part of the Turkish dominions, are of long
standing. Shortly before the taking of Constantinople
the monks of that period agreed to submit to the rule of
Amurath II., on his guaranteeing them the privileges
which they then enjoyed, and this engagement has been
observed with tolerable fidelity by later Sultans. The
tribute, when divided among the different monasteries,
amounts to about ten shillings a head, and they are not
exposed to any irregular exactions.

The Holy Synod of the Mountain is a representative
body, which, like the Councils of our two English Uni-
versities, manages the general affairs of the community
at large, without interfering with the independent self-
eovernment of the several monasteries. Each of the
twenty monasteries sends a representative (avTiTrpoa-coTro';),
who is maintained at Caryes at the expense of his
society ; besides these, there are four presidents (eVi-
ardrai), taken in rotation from the different monasteries,
who form the administrative body ; and one of them again,
according to a fixed cycle, takes precedence of the rest,
and during his year of office is called "The First Man of

Chap. III. The Holy Synod. 65

Athos." After paying a visit to the Turkish governor,
and presenting to him the finnan of the new sultan/
which he kissed and reverently pressed to his forehead,
we were introduced to the " First Man," who was a monk
from Vatopedi, and gave him an introduction which we
had brought from the Patriarch of Constantinople. We
were then conducted to the chamber of meeting, a room
of moderate size, with a divan running round three sides
of it, where ten of the representatives were waiting to
receive us. We were seated at the upper end, and after
the customary refreshments and some informal conver-
sation, received a commendatory letter to the monas-
teries, written by the secretary in ancient Greek, a very
curious document, stating the object of our visit, and
requesting them to entertain us and pay attention to our
" creature comforts " {a-wyuaTiKi]v avairavaiv koi aveaiv),
to show us all we desired to see, and to "speed the
parting guest" from place to place by means of the
mules of the monasteries {hia MovacrTrjpiaKoJv ^(ooov). This
letter serves as a passport, to show the monks that your
visit is sanctioned by the authorities ; as a stimulus to
their hospitality it certainly is not needed, for it would
be hard to find elsewhere such unvarying kindness and
liberal entertainment as the traveller meets with here.
He is not expected, as in the smaller Greek monasteries
and the conventual establishments of the west, to defray
the expenses of his entertainment by a donation ; and
the means of transit are provided for him gratis, both by
land and water. A present to the servants, however, will
generally be found acceptable.

After the assembly was dismissed, several of the
caloyers, as the Greek monks are called {Koko'yepo'^, a

■* Abdul Aziz succeeded to the throne early in the summer of 1861.

66 Mottnt A thos. Chap. 1 1 1 .

good old man), accompanied us to the school, which has
been established at Caryes for the education of some of
the younger monks, two on an average being sent by
each monastery. It is a commodious building, with well-
arranged class-rooms, and a library containing editions
of the classics, and standard authors in several European
languages ; but it had a deserted aspect, as the school
was closed at this time, in consequence of a dispute
which had arisen amongst the monasteries. The history
of this I will now relate, not from any wish to expose the
quarrels of my hospitable entertainers, but because it
illustrates in a curious way the influence of the Great
Powers, and of England in particular, in very remote-
districts. Who would imagine that Great Britain could
be deeply involved in a dispute of the monks of Athos .''

The subject which was the origin of the dispute carries
us back to the Emperor Alexius Comnenus. That
eminent personage founded the two monasteries of Cut-
lumusi and Pantocratoros, the former of which is close to
Caryes on the mountain side, the latter on the sea-coast
below. He endowed them with adjoining lands, and one-
farm belonging to Pantocratoros lies within the territory
of Cutlumusi. A dispute arose about a watercourse, that
fruitful source of litigation, connected with this piece of
ground. The Holy Synod took up the question, and
cited the warden of Cutlumusi to appear before them ;
this however he refused to do, as he knew beforehand
that judgment would be given against him, and main-
tained that they had no authority in the matter. The
Cutlumusi monks had a further story, about a Russian
general who, during a long stay on Athos, had become
enamoured of some MSS. in their library, and had
fomented this quarrel for his own purposes ; but it seemed
to rest on a somewhat doubtful foundation. However,.

Chap. III. Monastic Dispute. 6"/

one morning a number of the members of the Synod
coming with soldiers, broke open the doors of the
monastery, seized and imprisoned the most influential
monks, and stripped the warden naked, in order to search
his clothes for papers, on a suspicion of treachery. It
happened, however, that these monks were from the
Ionian Islands, and therefore British subjects ; so when
they saw that they had no hopes of redress from other
quarters, they appealed for protection to the consuls at
Salonica and Cavalla. Mr. Wilkinson, the English consul
at Salonica, laid the matter before the Pasha of that
place, whom he found already preparing for a voyage to
the Holy Mountain ; accordingly when he arrived there,
and the case was put into his hands, he decided that the
ejected monks should be reinstated. After procuring
the acquiescence of the monks generally in various
changes, such as the dismissal of the guard of soldiers,
the Pasha returned home laden with presents, or, more
properly speaking, plunder, in the shape of works of art,
which he had obtained from the monasteries. At a later
period, however, by means of representations from the
Russian embassy at Constantinople, the decision of the
Pasha was reversed in several points ; in consequence of
which five of the monasteries, which disapproved of the
whole proceeding, seceded, and withdrew their represen-
tatives from the Synod. This was the state of things at
the time of our visit, but there was some hope of a recon-
ciliation being brought about by the good offices of
Mr. Wilkinson. Subsequently, when we were again at
Salonica, in the summer of 1865, we learned from that
gentleman that this had been effected shortly after our
departure, and that outwardly, at all events, harmony
had been restored.

We were at that time so accustomed to look on the

F 2

6S Moiint Athos. Chap. III.

position of the inhabitants of the Ionian Islands towards
the EngHsli as one of undisguised opposition, that it
seemed curious to find them relying- so much on the pro-
tection of England when at a distance from home. But,
as one of them frankly admitted, it was only in the
Islands, where the fact of the Protectorate was before
their eyes, that they grumbled, while here they enjoyed
all the advantages of a powerful connection. This how-
ever led to much bitter feeling and jealousy of England
on the part of the other caloyers. " Whatever fault is
found with an Ionian monk," they would say, " he cries
directly, 'Hands off! I'm a British subject; I shall
appeal to the English consul.' " But I am bound to add
that the feeling of these lonians towards an English
traveller was of the most friendly description, and that
the disinterested kindness which we received from many
of them was remarkable, even in the midst of the hospi-
talities of the Holy Mountain.

One of the greatest sources of interest in a visit to
Athos consists in this, that here can be seen in one view
all the different phases of Eastern monastic life. First
of all there are the hermits, who dwell, like St. Antony,
the first anchorite, in perfect solitude, practising the
sternest asceticism. In the retreats {kuO icr [jLara) we find
small associations of monks living together in retirement,
and working for a common stock. Again, when a
number of these retreats are assembled round a central
church, a skete (d(TKr]Tr]pLov) is formed, which in some
cases differs from a monastery only in not possessing an
independent constitution. And lastly, there are the
regular monasteries, each enjoying a separate corporate
existence, possessing lands on the mountain, and gene-
rally also beyond its limits, and having the right to be
represented in the Synod. These again must be divided

Chap, III. Government of Monasteries. 69

into two classes, according to their different forms of
government ; tlie one kind being Canobitc, where there is
one warden or hegumen, and a common stock and com-
mon table ; the other the IdiorrJiythinic, where " every-
man is a rule to himself," and the constitution is a sort of
republic, the government being in the hands of two
superiors annually elected ; in these the inmates generally
take their meals in their own cells, and both in respect of
laying by money and the disposal of their time are in a
position of comparative freedom. Here also a wealthy
monk, if he desires it, can have as many servants as he
chooses to pay for. The Idiorrhythmic rule is a depar-
ture from the original form, and of somewhat recent
introduction ; and it is a significant fact, that by far the
greater number of the monasteries on the eastern slopes
have adopted the less stringent discipline, while those
which lie in more secluded positions under the rugged
precipices of the western side, have, with only two ex-
ceptions, remained Coenobite. The monastery of Cut-
lumusi had been Idiorrhythmic at the time of our former
visit, but subsequently returned to the stricter rule, and
its inmates maintained that the change had produced
great benefit. In the Coenobite convents the monks
generally communicate once a fortnight, and this is un-
usually often, according to the practice of the Greek
Church in this matter. Tlie lands which these monasteries
possess out of Athos are partly in Macedonia, partly
in Thasos, Lemnos, and other islands of the ^gean ; but
by far the greatest part consists (or, I should rather say,
consisted) of estates in the Danubian Principalities, which
were made over to them in former centuries by Hospo-
dars of Moldavia and Wallachia. From these sources
some of them derive large revenues, but of late years their
prosperity has been considerably checked by debts in-

70 Mount Athos. Chap. III.

curred during the Greek War of Independence, when a
large body of Turkish soldiers was quartered on them
for nine years, from 1821 to 1830.

The qualified statement, which has been introduced
above with regard to their possessions in the Principa-
lities, is rendered necessary by the important changes
which have taken place in respect of these since our visit.
They have, in fact, been confiscated by the government of
that country. Against this the monks, naturally enough,
exclaim with great vehemence, but the rights of the case
seem to be as follows. When the local monasteries in
Wallachia and Moldavia, to which these properties
belonged, were originally established, their founders in-
tended that they should be of service to the country as
places of refuge and means of assisting the needy. But
in order to secure the good management of the land and
its produce, they were attached to one or other of the
large convents in Greece or the Holy Land, from which
they received their superior, on the understanding that
whatever surplus accrued from the property, year by
year, in addition to the regular fixed income of the local
monastery, should be paid over to the convent on which
they were dependent. In the course of time, however,
the relative position of the two parties was changed, and
the local monasteries became completely subject to the
patron convents, so that they were regarded merely as
their farms, and the income derived from them went
entirely out of the country. The Principalities now
reclaim their lands, as having been alienated from their
original purpose ; and their cause appears a just one,
though the change must fall with great severity on the
Greek monasteries, as the present system has existed for
many generations, and they are accustomed in no slight
degree to look to this source for their support. The

>Chap. hi. Revenues. 71

question was carefully considered by the European com-
mission which was sent into the Principalities in 1857,
and after investigating the original state of things, and
finding that the circumstances were such as have just
been stated, they advised a return to the system intended
by the founders, only with the substitution of a fixed
annual payment to the Greek monasteries for the former
fluctuating income, on condition that they should resign
all control and all further claims. When Prince Couza
proceeded to strike the blow by which the Greek monks
were deprived of their possessions, he promised that an
indemnification should be paid to them once for all ;
whether they will ever receive this, however, may be con-
sidered more than doubtful. These losses, no doubt, will
greatly cripple their revenues, but it is thought by
persons who are acquainted with their affairs that the
lands and funds which they possess in other quarters will
be sufficient to enable them to exist.^

The whole number of monks on Athos is believed to
be about 3000 ; besides these there is a fluctuating popu-
lation of seculars {icocriXLKoi), some of whom reside per-
manently in the monasteries as servants or labourers,
though without taking any monastic vows, while others
come for a time from the adjoining country, and after-
wards retire to their homes. These may perhaps amount
to 3000 more. The number of monks in the separate
monasteries varies from 25 to 300, but about 100 is the
commonest number. It seldom happens, however, that
all are present at the same time, as a certain proportion
are generally engaged in superintending the outlying
farms. We found it extremely difficult to get any
accurate information on these points, owing to that

* The whole question is very clearly put in an article in the ' Revue des
Deux Mondes' for Oct. i, 1862, p. 728.

72 Mount Athos. Chap. III.

singular dislike of statistics which is so characteristic of
Orientals. A Turk, when asked a question of figures, to
save himself further trouble, replies at once with a good
round number ; a Greek winces, utters a peculiar excla-
mation expressing something between doubt and annoy-
ance, and when he sees no means of escape tells you as
much as he knows himself " How many monks are
there in the monastery ? " " Do you mean this monas-
tery ? " " Yes ; how many are there in this monastery .? "
" Eigh ! a great many." " But what do you suppose is
the exact number 1 " " Eigh ! I don't know ; adout 80
or 90." We seldom arrived at anything more definite
than this. By far the greater number of the monks are
Greeks by race, natives of free Greece, including the
Ionian Islands, or from the Turkish dominions ; two of
the monasteries, however, — Zographu and Chilandari, —
situated in the northern part of the peninsula, are exclu-
sively inhabited by Bulgarians and Servians, and have
the service in the Slavonic tongue ; there are also a few
Georgians in the Iberian monastery ; and there are a
great many Russians, who are found partly in the Rus-
sian monastery and the sketes which they have founded,
partly scattered about among the other monasteries. It
was curious to observe the contrast between the children
of the north and the south, and I could not help fancying
that the Greek regarded the Russian as a large uncouth
being, somewhat like the Troll of the Norse tales, simple-
minded and easily outwitted. An incident will soon
occur in the course of our narrative, which will illustrate
what I mean. Notwithstanding this, as the Russian
Church has been the progressive branch of the Eastern
Church since the time of Peter the Great, so the Russian
monks are the most progressive element in the society of

Chap. III. ■ Pa?itocratoros. yi

the Holy Mountain. The other monks are aware of this,
and used to speak of their good bell-ringing and har-
monious chanting, which is indeed an agreeable contrast
to the dismal drone of the Greek services ; in addition to
this, the only printing-press on Athos is in the Russian

When we had arrived at Caryes, we took up our
quarters at the neighbouring Cutlumusi, where we were
received with especial attention as being Englishmen, in
consequence of the suit that was pending. On the even-
ing of the same day we descended to the other principal
in the dispute, the monastery of Pantocratoros, or The
Almighty. Our path lay over steep slopes, commandijig
views of extraordinary beauty, from the hanging woods
which rose above us to the ridge of the mountain, the wide
expanse of sea below, and to the south the winding shores
of the peninsula, and undulations of fertile land, diversified
with the white-walled retreats of the monks, and reaching
far away to the base of the great peak, which displayed
its fullest proportions, and appeared indescribably beau-
tiful in the light of the westering sun. Pantocratoros
is a small monastery, containing only forty monks, and
its position is confined, as it is placed on a rock which is
washed on two sides by the sea, with a little port running
in on the land side, where small vessels can lie. In con-
sequence of this it is much crowded in its arrangements,
and the buildings have to be stowed away wherever room
can be found. One of the superiors, a venerable-looking
old man, had left the monastery at the time of the War
of Independence, when the Turks came to Athos, and
fled to Greece, where he joined the insurgents, but sub-
sequently he had returned. We were sitting with him and
some of the others in a room overlooking the sea, which

74 Mount Athos. ■ Chap. III.

was dashing in below, when suddenly they exclaimed,
"Ah ! here he is ; here comes the Archimandrite ! " ^ As
we looked up, in expectation of some great dignitary, there
walked, or rather rolled, into the room a burly man, whose
light hair and ruddy complexion formed a complete con-
trast to the appearance of the other monks. He tumbled
himself down on the divan, and turning to us, exclaimed,
laughing, " Good evening ; you are welcome : I am a
Muscovite — a barbarian ! " We returned his salutations,
and then I asked, " As there are so many monasteries in
Russia, why do you come to Athos ? Why do you not
remain in one of the establishments in your own country ? "
" It's because of the women, sir," he replied ; " it's the
women ! In Russia there are women in the monasteries,
and I can't endure them ; and therefore I come here,
where there are no women." ' And then he went off into
a rigmarole story in broken Greek, until the rest of the
company told him, in very plain terms, that he was a
bore, and talked unintelligible nonsense ; on which he
took himself off, but, before the evening was over, showed
that he was not offended, by sending us some tea (r^at),
which is found wherever the Russians are.

Among the relics preserved in this convent there is a
very old book containing the Gospels and other writings,
mentioned by Mr. Curzon, probably of the eleventh cen-
tury, in extremely minute handwriting, accompanied by
small delicate illuminations : the binding, which is of
silver, and very curious, is embossed with strange figures,
and has chainwork at the back, which yields when it is

^ This name, which in Russia still retains its original sense of "head of a
monastery," in the Byzantine Church is simply titular.

7 In most of the Greek monasteries, except those of Athos, women of
advanced age are admitted as servants. These are called Ka\6ypiai, that
name being the feminine of 'caloyer.' Nunneries, as such, are almost
miknown in the Greek church.

Chap. III. The Sand-bath. 75

opened. The only other thing- which deserves special
notice is the frescoes of the interior of the church, which
are ancient and well executed, the arrangement of the
groups of figures being more carefully studied than is
usual in Byzantine painting. Those of the outer part of
the building have been restored, but exactly in the old
style. Leaving Pantocratoros, we rode southward along
the coast in the direction of Iveron, and stopped on the
way for a short time at the intermediate monastery of
Stavroniceta, which, like the one we had just left,
stands on a projecting mass of rock, whose steep sides
descend below it into the sea, and rises conspicuous with
its massive tower. Beyond it there is a small skete be-
longing to Cutlumusi, from which that society procures
its fish. Just before passing this we saw a patient under-
going the sand-bath, a curious and primitive remedy for
rheumatism. He was buried in the shingle up to his
chest, his head and shoulders alone appearing, and an
umbrella was spread over him, to protect him from the
scorching rays of the sun.

( 1^ )


MOUNT ATHOS {continued).

Monasteiy of Iveron — Description of it — The central Church — Byzantine
Pictures —The Refectory — ■ The Library — Miraculous Picture — Theoiy
of Eastern Monastic Life — Occupations of the Monks — Their love of
tranquillity — Fallmerayer influenced by it — Mysticism — Monasteiy of
Philotheu — Caracalla — The Lavra — Relics and Jewellery — Retreat of
" the Forerunner" — A Conversation on Canals — -A Painter — Legends
of the Peak — Ascent to the Summit — Festival of the Transfiguration
— Light of Tabor.

Our next resting-place was the convent of Iveron, that is,
of the Iberians or Georgians, which was founded by three
persons of that nation at the end of the tenth century,
and stands near the sea, between steep wooded hills, at
the mouth of a deep valley, which runs down eastward
from the central ridge. As it ranks the third in number
and importance, and is a good specimen of the larger
Idiorrhythmic monasteries, I propose to describe it some-
what minutely. In shape it is an irregular square, and
its appearance is extremely imposing, as the high stone
wall by which it is surrounded makes it resemble a vast
castle. The domestic buildings, however, by which this
wall is surmounted are entirely at variance with this mi-
litary aspect : they are of wood, singularly picturesque,
projecting at different levels and angles, and supported
by sloping beams, which lean like brackets against the
wall. From the roofs of these houses rise numerous

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 6 of 31)