Esphigmenou Cloister

The Monastery of Esphigmenou is one of the 20 monasteries of Mount Athos, 18th in the hierarchy of Mount Athos. The Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou is seaside and lies north and east of the Athonite peninsula.

By the name of Esphigmenou Monastery there was already a Monastery from the 10th century and it seems to have been in prosperity. According to tradition, the monastery was founded by Empress Pulcheria (408-450) and many of the founding monks came from the original monastery which was destroyed by landslide. In the 14th century, the abbot of the monastery was Gregory Palamas. Also, Patriarch Athanasios I has been there for some time. He was deserted many times by pirate raids, mainly from the Agarinos, but he gained considerable power after the 18th century. The katholikon was built in 1810 on the site of an older temple that was demolished, while the wall painting was made by Galatsan painters in 1811 and 1818. The monastery was captured by the Turks during the 1821 Revolution, where it suffered great invasions from the invaders and most of the fraternity executed or forced to abandon it. The oldest building of the Monastery is the bank that retains frescoes of the 16th-17th century.

In addition to the catholic and the Trapeza, the monastery has a very good collection of Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons, from which the mosaic image of Christ stands out. The library includes many and rare manuscripts, among which stands number 14 for its rare thumbnails.

After the meeting of Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paulus VI in Jerusalem in 1965, the monks of Esphigmenou ceased to commemorate the Patriarch and in 1972 they left the Holy Community, the supreme governing body of the Athonite state, and stopped the communication with the rest of the monastery in Mount Athos and the Orthodox churches, accepting as the head the old Archbishop of Auschwitz, recommending what the Charter of the Mount Athos describes as a “forbidden brotherhood”.

Residents of the monastery are considered schismatic by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and by every local Orthodox Church and Patriarchate. In 2002 the Holy Community was elected a new fraternity to man the monastery, but it has not yet been possible to enter it because of its continued conquest and temporarily resides in Karyes.

The so-called “schismatic” and “illegal” fraternity, residing in the main building of the monastery, hasabout 107 old-timbered monks. The head of this unrecognized group living in the monastery since 1999 is Mr. Metodios Papalamprakopoulos, who has been officially deposed of all priestly degrees and is pending the deportation from Mount Athos.

In this monastery is worth seeing the frescoes of the Galatsan painters (1811), the Napoleon Bonaparte sculpture section and the rarel illustrated manuscripts in the historical library of the Monastery.

According to the convictions of the Greek courts, it’s uncertain what will happen to the relics and  the archive in the future  due to the conquest  that hinders the entry to the monastery  to representatives of the competent 10th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities.