The Monastery of Saint Panteleimon from Mount Athos
The Holy Mount Athos is part of a peninsula from Northern Greece and the region of Macedonia, been and autonomous monastic “state” having its capital in Carrea. The monastic community of Mt Athos includes twenty monasteries and twelve skits (hermitages) having more than 1,500 Orthodox monastics.
The Monastery of St. Panteleimon, also called the “Russikon”, is built on the south-west side of this peninsula. The newer church has been built starting with 1765, while the original buildings date back in the eleventh century .
The Monastery of St. Panteleimon – Russikon – was founded back in the eleventh century – under Emperor Alexios I Komnenos – by few monks arriving in the Holy Mountain from Russia. During its flourishing era, they the monastery had in average two or three thousand monks. After been almost deserted, the monastery was renewed by Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus (1282-1328) and inhabited by Greek and Russian monks .
Starting with the XIV-th century, it takes the name of St. Panteleimon. As previously mentioned, it has been burned and devastated several times but rebuilt with the help of the Russians and Romanian kings, among its founding benefactors were Scarlat Calimah from Moldavia and the Russian Tsar Alexander the IIIrd.
Staring with 1875, the monastery is led by the Russian abbots becoming the Great Lavra of Mount Athos and numbering over two thousand Russian monks.
The monastery bell is famous for been the largest bell in Greece; having about 13,000 kg, its sound is heard in the whole Mt. Athos.
The Russikon Monastery is dedicated to the Holy Martyr Panteleimom. Its impressive body includes two churches, and many chapels; the most important are dedicated to the Dormition of Theotokos, to St. Mitrofan, our Lord’ Ascension, to St. Sergius, St. Demetrios, the Holy Archangels, St. Gerasimos, Saints Constantine and Helen, the Holy Kings Vladimir and Olga and to St. Alexander Nevsky.
The monastery also bares the miracle – working icon of St. Panteleimon and priceless Holy relics: St. Panteleimon’ head as well as part of the relics of righeous Joseph, (the Holy Virgin protector), a piece of the Holy relics of the Apostle Thomas and a piece of stone from our Lord’s original Tomb.
The Monastery also has in her care four hermitages: the hermitage of Xylourgou (or Bogoroditsa), of Chromitsa, the Skete Thebais or Gournoskete as well as the Skete Paleomonastiro .
The monastery has a very rich library, including 24 Gospels on parchment dating from the XI to the XV centuries, 69 manuscripts also on parchment with chants from divine services and dating from the XI to XIV century as well as 126 manuscripts with litugical music from the XIII century.
The monastery has a similar architecture of a town: buildings of different heights and many domes. Before the devastating fire in 1968, the wing of the monastery which was used as the xenodochium, had a capacity of up to 1,000 seats .
The large church is also dedicated to St. Panteleimon. Its construction began in 1812 and ended in 1821, and its architecture is typically Athonite.
On the inside, the church is covered in frescoes belonging to the nineteenth – century Russian style.
In terms of its hierarchy, the Monastery of St. Panteleimon ranked as 19th among the 20 Athonite monasteries with cenobic life – in common.
The number of monks dwelling here varied over time from a total of 1,000 in 1895 and 1446 to only 35 in the 1990.