The history of Vatopedi Monastery, stretching back over a thousand years, encompasses a multitude of marvellous and remarkable events which have moulded the character of its spirituality, its cultural and social influence, and the vast extent of its buildings and surrounding area.

According to tradition, the Monastery of Vatopedi was founded by Constantine the Great. The saint erected a church, dedicated to the Holy Mother of God, on the spot where the chapel of the Cincture of the Holy Theotokos now stands. Later, the emperor Theodosius the Great and his sons Arcadius and Honorius became benefactors of the Monastery. On the site of the present Monastery Theodosius the Great built a magnificent church as a mark of his gratitude to the Mother of God, who saved his son Arcadius from drowning in the sea and brought him to the coast below the Monastery, where he was found under a bush. This was the origin of the name Vatopedi, from the nouns vato, bush, and paidion, child.

At the start of the 10th century Arabian pirates looted and destroyed the Monastery. At the end of the 10th century three wealthy noblemen from Edirne, Athanasius, Nikolaos and Antonius, having been persuaded to become monks on the Holy Mountain by Saint Athanasius the Athonite - who at the time was building the Great Lavra monastery - arrived and restored the ruined Monastery, and formed a large community there.

Over many centuries it became one of the most important centres of Orthodoxy, with its practice of hesychasm, its large number of saints, and also its extensive missionary activity both outside and within Greece.

The contribution of the Monastery to the nation throughout its history of more than a thousand years is inestimable. During the Ottoman Occupation, in 1749, the Monastery founded the Athonite Academy, which is famous for having been the most important educational establishment for the enslaved people and which produced major figures such as Saint Kosmas the Aetolian, Equal to the Apostles, Rigas Feraios, and many other teachers of the nation.

The Monastery provided substantial financial support to the 1821 Revolution. The Vatopedian metropolitan of Eirinoupolis and Vatopedi, Gregorius, was the first to bless the Revolutionary flag of Ypsilantis in the Danubian Principalities and presented the sum of half a million piastres to the cause of the Revolution. Moreover, the Monastery contributed to the re-establishment of the Phanar Greek Orthodox College/Great School of the Nation, to Athens University, and to the Theological School of Halki, and undertook to build the School of Languages in Constantinople, as well as giving financial support to most of the educational establishments of the Greek state.

In 1912 it averted the slaughter of the inhabitants of Vrasna and Stavro in Halkidiki, by paying the inflated taxes which they were unable to hand over to the Turks. In 1917, after the devastating fire in Thessaloniki, it supported the victims with a generous donation. After the Asia Minor disaster in 1922 and the exchange of populations, the Monastery donated 62,000 and subsequently another 38,000 stremmata of land [10,000 hectares] for refugee settlement on the island of Thasos and on the Halkidiki peninsula (Ouranoupolis, Nea Triglia, Nea Roda, all the island of Ammouliani, Moudania, Vatopedi and Saint Mamas).

Owing to the great scarcity of men on the Holy Mountain after the 1950s, the Monastery declined markedly, both materially and spiritually. In 1990, by the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Holy Community of Mount Athos, it ceased to be idiorrhythmic and became cenobitic. It was settled by Elder Joseph's brotherhood of 22 monks from Nea Skete, and the first Abbot to be enthroned was hieromonk Ephraim.

The new Brotherhood's first concern was with the spiritual rehabilitation of the Monastery, and its priorities were the restoration of the buildings, the preservation and protection of the unique imperial and other relics, and the reinstatement of the Monastery to its rightful historical position. Today the Monastery numbers 120 monks from various countries.

The Monastery of Vatopedi is an enormous complex of buildings covering 35,000 square metres, and the Sketes and Kellia which belong to it are more than 50,000 square metres in extent. From 1990 up to the present, around one third of the Monastery has been restored at a cost of 45 million euros. The Skete of Saint Andrew (Serai) at Karyes is also in need of restoration, as are the Skete of Saint Demetrius, the Old Athonite Academy and many Kellia belonging to the Monastery, which cover a built area of more than 50,000 square metres. Considering that the annual grants from the State derived from European funding cover a mere fraction of the costs, it would be impossible to complete this restoration work without a substantial financial contribution from the Monastery itself.

The monastery has in its keeping 3,500 icons, 2,200 manuscripts, 350,000 documents, 40,000 incunabula, a large number of articles of goldwork and metalwork in gold and silver, and relics of inestimable cultural and historical value, which for many decades had been disregarded and left to rot and decay. Two new Reliquaries have been constructed for the exhibition and protection of these relics. The restoration of the wall-paintings by Manuel Panselinos (1312 CE) in the Katholikon [main church] has already been completed, along with that of hundreds of portable icons, manuscripts and objects of worship.

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