This is Paradise: Everyday Life in St. Andrew Skete on Mt. Athos

Not far from Karyes, the administrative center of Mt. Athos, is St. Andrew Skete, which is connected to Vatopedi Monastery. In ancient times, the monastery of St. Anthony stood here, but was destroyed in the 15th century by pirates.

The skete acquired its present-day appearance in the late 19th century, when Russian monks purchased it and turned it into the “coenobitic Skete of the Apostle Andrew the First-Called.” The skete surpasses many Athonite monasteries in size, and its main church became one of the largest in the East of those built under Turkish rule. By the beginning of the 20th century there were 800 brothers laboring in the skete, but in 1913, the larger part of the brotherhood fell into the heresy of the “name-worshippers” and had to be sent back to their homeland. The subsequent First World War and October revolution in Russia made the situation untenable for the Russian brothers of St. Andrew Skete, as well as for the St. Panteleimon Monastery. In 1971 the last monk of the old brotherhood died, the skete was desolate, and began to fall into wrack and ruin.

The skete’s rebirth began in 1992 with the arrival of the new brotherhood.

The Greeks call the skete “Serai” (Σεράϊ—“palace” in Greek). The Russian monks and pilgrims have rephrased the name to “se rai” (се рай—“this is paradise”).

Photographs by Vladimir Orlov/Pravoslavie.ru

Athonite fishermen

Athonite fishermen

Morning view of the grand St. Andrew’s Cathedral

Morning view of the grand St. Andrew’s Cathedral

The “Athoniada” theological school for boys

The “Athoniada” theological school for boys

This educational institution was founded in 1748 by the Patriarch of Constantinople Kirillos V, and the fist dean of the school was appointed by Archbishop Eugenios (Vulgaris) of Chersonese and Slovenia, an outstanding enlightener of his epoch.

Fr. Theodokh

Fr. Theodokh

All Russian pilgrims most likely know this joyful and hospitable monk from Odessa. He not only embodies Athonite hospitality but is also a wellspring of knowledge about Mt. Athos and its monastic communities. He is now one of the two brothers in St. Andrew Skete who speaks Russian.

The Cathedral of St. Andrew the First-Called

The Cathedral of St. Andrew the First-Called

The main church dedicated to the Apostle Andrew was until recent times the largest church building in the Balkans. It measures 60 m. long, 29 m. wide, totaling 2100 square meters. The church was built of granite, and has 150 windows. It has a carved wooden gold-gilt iconostasis. Near the iconostasis is a reliquary with the relics of 70 saints, including the head of the apostle Andrew. The monastery bell tower is 37 m. tall, and contains 25 bells, the largest of which weighs 5 tons. The church was constructed from 1881-1900 through the generosity of chamberlain of the Russian royal court A. N. Muraviev and Grand Prince Alexei Alexandrovich, and designed by the Petersburg architect M. A. Shchurupov.

Fr. Philotheos

Fr. Philotheos

Fr. Theodokh calls the brothers and pilgrims to evening services with the semantron.

Prerevolutionary Russian bells, which never made their way into the bell tower.

Fr. Philotheos greets pilgrims at the entrance of the St. Andrew Cathedral.

The interior of the St. Andrew Cathedral

The interior of the St. Andrew Cathedral

At the beginning of the 20th century in St. Andrew Skete there were 18 magnificent churches. At the present time, most of them have completely lost their furnishings. Remaining is the interior of the old Greek kyriakon with the upper church dedicated to Sts. Andrew the First-Called and Anthony the Great, and the lower church built by Russian monks in honor of the Protection of the Mother of God. A visit to the main church, the St. Andrew Cathedral, leaves an indelible impression created by its grandiose interior space and luxurious furnishings—a tall gold-gilt iconostasis made in Odessa, wall paintings in the “Vasnetsov” style, and icons in rich cases. Among the preserved shrines is a piece of the head of Apostle Andrew the First-Called, kept in a beautiful case (made by the master N. Prudnikov, Moscow), and particles of the relics of Sts. Sergius of Radonezh and Seraphim of Sarov, found in large icons of these saints. Over the royal doors is a copy of the main shrine of the skete, the miracle-working icon of the Mother of God, “Consolation in sorrows and grief”.

St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite and Holy Hierarch Macarios (Notaras)

St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite and Holy Hierarch Macarios (Notaras)

St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite and Holy Hierarch Macarios (Notaras)

St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite and Holy Hierarch Macarios (Notaras)

Synaxis of the Holy Monastic Fathers

Synaxis of the Holy Monastic Fathers

King of Glory

King of Glory

The reliquary with the piece of the skull of St. Andrew—the main shrine of the skete

The reliquary with the piece of the skull of St. Andrew—the main shrine of the skete

Icon of the Mother of God “Eleiousa” (Merciful)

Icon of the Mother of God “Eleiousa” (Merciful)

The icon of the Eleiousa Mother of God was brought from Constantinople in 1898, where it was found during repairs stuccoed into the wall of an ancient church. The shrine was purchased from the craftsmen who found it by Archimandrite Sophrony, steward of the St. Andrew Skete metochion in Constantinople, who also brought it to the skete in 1898. The icon case was made in 1899. The icon itself was very old—it dates to between 800 and 1000.

The bell stand at the entrance of the St. Andrew Cathedral

The bell stand at the entrance of the St. Andrew Cathedral

Fr. Theodokh at the bell stand by the entrance of the St. Andrew Cathedral. Before the revolution the skete had up to 800 brothers. It had a printing press, apothecary, and smithy, which served not only the skete’s monks but the entire Holy Mountain. In comparing the Russian monks of St. Panteleimon Monstery and St. Andrew Skete, P. Troitsky writes, “One could easily distinguish an Andrewite from a Panteleimonite, even by his outer appearance. The monks of St. Panteleimon Monastery wore shoes better adapted to the natural conditions, in the Greek manner, while the monks of St. Andrew Skete wore the usual Russian boots.” (P. Troitsky, History of Russian Monasteries on Mt. Athos in the 19th-20th centuries).

Pascal procession with the Eleiousa icon

Pascal procession with the Eleiousa icon

Abbot of the Skete, Archimandrite Ephraim

Abbot of the Skete, Archimandrite Ephraim

The refectory

The refectory

Pilgrimage cell with a wood-burning stove

Pilgrimage cell with a wood-burning stove

Main altar of the cathedral

Main altar of the cathedral

The skete ossuary

The skete ossuary

Beyond the catholicon, in the farthest corner of the complex is the skete ossuary, where the skulls of the brothers are kept. In a separate, luxuriously crafted case is the skull of the “millionaire monk”, as he was called in the press, Innocent (Sibiryakov), who donated his gigantic fortune to the building of the St. Andrew Cathedral and the hospital wing.

Fr. Philotheos

Fr. Philotheos

Comments
Rdr Isaac Pearson1/9/2018 11:20 pm
Stunning monochrome photographs executed by a professional! These are begging to be printed and exhibited Vladimir. Thank you.
Fr William (Bauer)12/17/2017 4:20 am
A very good group of pictures. Thank You.
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