The monastery of Esfigmen


The monastery stands on the coast of a quiet bay in the secluded place south-east of Hilandar. There are various traditions about the history of the monastery, one of them explains that it received its name in connection with his location between the mountains – “Esfigmen“, which means “rock bound“. Monks of Holy Mount believe that Esfigmen was founded in the V century by Saint Pulcheria and her brother Emperor Theodosius II about half kilometer from the place where it is located now. But the first monastery was destroyed, by the rock which fell on it. There are facts confirming this. Among the ruins of the monastery were found Corinthian columns and walls in the form of a Greek delta, the same as in the ancient church of St. Irene, erected in Constantinople. Esfigmen rebuilt in a new place, near the ruins of the old monastery in the late X or early XI century.

Монастырь Эсфигмен 2014

Монастырь Эсфигмен 1904

The monastery of Esfigmen was supported by the Byzantine and Serbian authorities, and it prospered before the arrival of Turks. Later, due to frequent pirate raids, fires and legal disputes over property rights, the monastery declined. In 1534, pirates plundered it to the ground, and the inhabitants were captured. In the XVII century the monastery was revived by the efforts and works of the monks and with the great support of the Russian Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich Romanov.

According to the legend, the monk Antony of Kiev-Pechersky (the founder of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra), the founder of Russian monasticism, took of moastic vow here.

By the end of the eighteenth century, the monastery was in total degrodation, but thanks to the help of Cassandra Ignatius was rebuilt, and in the early XIX century about 100 monks lived in it.

The monastery was especially damaged during the War of Greece for Independence, becouse in those years was the Turkish garrison in it. Until now, many of the frescoes in the refectory are covered with a layer of soot from the fire, which was kindled by Turks.

In the monastery are the relics of the holy apostle James, son of Alfeyev; St. Mary Magdalene, Saint Marina and St. Gregory Palamas, the faces of St. Agafangel and his brother Jacob, as well as a fragment of the Life-giving Cross of the Lord, presented by Queen Pulcheria.

The cathedral, built in 1806-1810, is consecrated in honor of the Ascension of the Lord. The monastery also has thirteen temples and chapels, including the church in honor of the Monk Antony of Kiev-Pechersky, who arranged his monastery on the Kiev mountains on the model of the Mount Athos monasteries.

The library of the monastery stores more than three hundred manuscripts, of which seventy-five are parchment. Many manuscripts are accompanied by picturesque miniatures of the XI century.

There is a belief today that the monastery is strict regimen on the Holy Mountain, it has about 40 monks.