The monastery of Megisti Lavra is about an hour from Karyes. It is located at the southeast end of the peninsula of Athos and takes the first place in the hierarchy of the monasteries of Mount Athos.
It was built on the ruins of the ancient city “Arothathos” by Aghios Athanasios in 963 AD. as the saint himself mentions in his covenant. During its thousand-year history, the Monastery spent seasons of prosperity and decadence. More than 50 saints trained in this monastery and its area.
The Monastery celebrates on 5 July the “Koimisi” of Saint Athanasios of Athonite. The monks of the Great Lavra also honor the first of October and Panagia Koukouzelissa. The material resources for the construction of the Lavra Monastery were offered by the Byzantine Emperor Nikiforos Phokas. Shortly after the emperor’s death, Emperor John Tsimiskis provided immediate assistance for the project. After a difficult period, help in the pressing crisis of the debts was given in 1655 by the patriarch Dionysios III who bequeathed his personal property to the Monastery.
In the sacristy of the Monastery are hold extremely valuable ecclesiastical vessels, golden vestments, precious icons – one of which is the icon of the Sotiros and John the Theologian that dates back in 843. Also noteworthy is the icon of the Hypocrisy Theotokos of Koukouzelissa, the holy icon of the Virgin Mary, the icon of the miracle made by Saint Athanasius, and the icon of “Yperagias Theotokos of Oikonomisas”.
It is noted that the Katholikon of the Monastery of the Great Lavra is the model for all the Gothic Catholics, with which the architectural typology of the tribune of the Orthodox temple was inaugurated, that is, with two smaller sanctuaries on either side of the main sanctuary.
In front of the katholikon is the bottle, the oldest on Mount. The bank, located just opposite the katholikon, is the oldest of Mount Athos. The walls, the floor, and the marble tables date from the time of its foundation. Its frescoes date to the 16th century and are attributed to Theophanes. In the very remarkable sacristy of the monastery there are kept many bones of saints, functional vessels, the crown and the bag of Nikiforos Phokas, a number of sacred bibles, etc. The library of the monastery includes 2046 manuscripts, 165 codes, and 30,000 printed books.
Most of the monasteries of Mount Athos belong to the Megisti Lavra monastery. Specifically, there are three cloaks (Agia Anna, Kavoskalivia and Timios Prodromos), “Kathismata”, many cells and “Isichastiria” in the areas of Morphon, Provata, Agios Nilos, Kerasia and Karyes.