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Middle Byzantine period (867-1204)

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The monastic state of Mount Athos

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Agios Panteleimon Monastery
Exterior view of Agios Panteleimon Monastery, founded in early 11th century, Mount Athos.

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Agios Panteleimon Monastery
Exterior view

The monasteries, chief supporters of icon worship, had suffered greatly during the Iconoclast controversy. In the second half of the 9th century, however, they entered upon another period of ascendancy, as a widespread sense of triumph accompanied the restoration of icon worship. Prevailing circumstances (resistance to barbarian raids, Arab assaults in the East) favoured the systematic organisation of monastic life on Mount Athos. Patriarchal and imperial interest in the Balkans (conversion of the Slavs) strengthened this movement.

The transition to organised monasticism was marked by the foundation of the Great Lavra Monastery in 963. Wooden huts were replaced by large stone buildings, and hermitic existence by community (coenobitic) life organised according to principles laid down by its inspirer Athanasios the Athonite. The 'Typikon' of the Great Lavra Monastery, a parchment signed by the emperor John Tzimiskes was the first constitutional charter of Mount Athos (in 1045 Constantine IX, Monomachos issued the second and fuller charter).

By the mid-11th century the "monastic democracy" of Mount Athos, administered by the 'Protos' (elder) at Karyes, possessed many coenobitic monasteries in which were gathered together Greeks, Iberians, Amalfians, Serbs, and Russians. Acting throughout the Orthodox East as a magnet, the spiritual centre that was Mount Athos acquired a cosmopolitan character which became more pronounced in the following centuries.

See Also
History - The Church (565-867)
The Church (867-1204)
Travelling - The church of Ayios Andreas, Peristera
In Focus - Every day life in Byzantium


Macedonian Heritage
Content courtesy Ekdotike Athenon S.A.