Karyes has been the seat of the self-governing body of Mount Athos and the seat of the 'protos' since the 10th century. At that time the settlement comprised some small older monasteries and the residences of representatives of distant ones.
Assemblies of the monks were usually held on 15th August, the Virgin's feast-day, in the Protaton church, the very heart of monasticism on Athos; disputes between monasteries, mainly about land holdings, were settled there.
Dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin, the Protaton is a large triple-aisled basilica with narthex. Built in the 10th century it was repaired in the reign of Andronikos II Palaeologos (1282-1328). The wall-paintings (circa 1300) have been attributed to Manuel Panselinos; the artist, whoever he was, created a work that has gained world-wide acclaim in our time.
The extraordinary abundance of painted scenes, free of all abstraction and featuring exquisite figures that come close to defining the quintessence of man, give superb material expression to the vision of Palaeologan art.