The Monastery of Simonos Petras, also called Simonopetra, is 13th in the hierarchy of the monasteries of Mount Athos. It is located at an altitude of 300 meters from the sea, on a granite rock, which is 10 kilometers deep within the earth and which almost seems to hang.
Osio Simon founded this cloister, who practiced in the middle of the 13th century in a cave near the monastery and had a vision of its future reconstruction. At the beginning of his practice, he stayed in the narrow and humid cave and heard the voice of the Virgin Mary, to build the monastery on the opposite conical rock. At first he hesitated,b ut then, after listening to the Virgin Mary’s voice for the second and third time, he began to build the monastery (in 1257), which was named “Nea Bethlehem “ by the Virgin Mary, in honor of the Birth of Christ which celebrates on December 25 (with the old calendar as all the monasteries of Mount Athos). It is one of the brightest buildings of the Middle Ages, meaning a seven-storey vaulted house on a large basement.
During the years 1365 – 1371 the monastery was renovated and extended by the Serbian ruler of Serres Ioannis Onglesis. In 1581 it was destroyed by a fire in which a large number of monks were killed. Then the abbot of the monastery, Eugenios, traveled to the Danubian Principalities to raise a fund. The ruler of Wallachia, Michael Gennaus, was interested in the monastery and donated a property, as well as donation for the monuments of the monastery’s rebuilding. The monastery was burned three times in total. Its present form were created after the last great fire of 1891.
On the first floor of the eastern wing, it is the chapel of St Mary Magdalene, whose left hand is preserved indestructible and sometimes at human hand temperature for many centuries. On November 1888, the Archimandrite Neophytos Molakas, accompanied by Hieromonk Dionysios and his successor to the hegemony of Ierodiokonos Ioannikos, traveled to Russia to find economic support for the Monastery. They took with them a silver box, containing the Holy Cross, the left hand of St. Magdalene, part of the body of Holy Theodrome of Anne and part of the Great Great Martyr Panteleimon. When on 28 May 1891 they arrived at Postov, and on the same day they would depart from Odessa on Mount Athos, they received a telegram from the fathers of Simonopetra through their Russian brothers, Metaxios of Moni of Agios Panteleimonos who informed them that the monastery was burned. On November 29, 1892, they returned to Monastery after four years (20-21 November 1888 to 29 November 1892).
On the second floor is the chapel of Saint Charalambos. In the middle wing, under the bank, there is the chapel of St. George. The chapel of the Monastery of Simonos Petras is located southeast and it’s honored in the “Koimisis” of the Virgin Mary. Saint John the Baptist’s chapel is located in the fourth wing, which was built in 1996 and was completed in 2000, following the approval of the Kedakis Center (Thessaloniki).
The Monastery celebrates on 25 December the Birth of Christ. The celebration of the founder of St. Simon is on December 28th. Also is celebrated on 22 July, the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, which is honored as the monastery’s convent.
The Monastery of Simonos Petras has the following places in Karyes, that are, various buildings which house either Kellia or other services: a) Her Representative, dedicated to the AgioiPantes, b) 5 Kelli: 1. Kelli of the Evaggelismos of the Virgin, located under the Athonian School, near the Empire’s pit, 2. the St. Nicholas’ Chapel of Capral, 3. the Celtic of Saint Minna, with its miraculous icon, 4. the Timel of the Cross , while in the square of Karyes is also found the 5th St. of Saint George, called of Kalathas. It was founded in the 14th century and houses the ground floor shops. c) The building housed by OTE’s offices, next to the sacred temple of the Protaton, is owned by the monastery. It was bought as a church in 1367 by the Great Messiah by the architect Ioannis Onglesis and dedicated to the Monastery of Simonos Petras. It was the first Representative of the monastery until the year 1621, when until the middle of the 19th century it was given to monks. Since then it has been rented to professional individuals. In the wider area of the monastery we find the remarkable Kelli of Agios Nikolaos-Donta at the boundary of the Xeropotamos monastery, which since 1368 is the farm of the monastery. The monastery has around its area and other “Kathismata”, such as: a)”Kathima” of St. Simon, located next to the cave, where the monk Simon Samon was practiced. b) ”Kathima” of St. John the Theologian, south of the monastery to the sea. c) the Holy Trinity Cathedral, above the church of St. Simon, d) ”Kathima” of Saint Savvas, southeast of the monastery, in the middle of the cobbled streets to the arsana, e) ”Kathima” Panagitsa, located to the southeast of the monastery, a stream at the boundaries of the Monastery of Gregorius and finally ”Kathima” of Agios Moudos – Karavasara, just above the port of Dafni . . In the forest area there is the forestry with the church of Agios Dimitrios and a retreat: the Kourtzidikon, a building of the 19th century, located at the borders of Iveron – Xeropotamos – Simonopetra, another “Isichastirion” is Kalamitsi, next to the sea, close to St. Mithos Cathedral. In the sanctuary of Simonopetra is the old Tower and the church of Saint Nicholas.
The monastery also has the following Metropolises outside Mount Athos: a) the Metohi of Saint Charalampos in Thessaloniki; b) the Metochi of the Revelation of the Lord in Vyronas, Attica; c) the Metochi of Saint Artemios and Antypas in Sifnos; d) The Virgin Mary of Protouri in Protopou Lemnos, with the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary, e) the Holy retreat of Osi Nicodemos in Pentalofos of Goumenissa, where the image of the Virgin Mary of Asia Minor is kept from Iconion of Asia Minor and f) in France the Metochi of Agios Antonios , south of the city of Lyon. From the Monastery of Simonopetra, the following women Metochia are also dependent: g) the Sanctuary of Ormyalia of Halkidiki, h) the Metochi of Agia Skepis in Solan, in the south of France, and i) the Metochi of Sotiros’ Metamorphosis in Terasson, France. The total number of monks in these three Metohia is 140-150 sisters.
There are currently 58 people in the monastery , monks and pilgrims. Outside Mount Athos, the monks living are about 40 people. Thus, the total number of the monks inside and outside of Mount Athos is about 120-130 monks. Moni has a historical library with remarkable books, a sacristy, anthills collections and engravings of its gallery.