were being established between the monasteries of Athos and the Ottoman court.

This becomes all the more probable if we recall the situation in the Aegean during the first half ofthe fourteenth century. Mount Athos repeatedly suffered from naval raids by Turks, who were not necessarily Ottomans but were more likely to come from the various maritime Aegean emirates, which, unlike the Ottomans, had flotillas at their disposal. Some monasteries were pillaged, badly damaged or deserted; some were in danger of disappearing for good. Large numbers of monks were taken prisoner, while others searched for new places in which to continue their spiritual life. After one devastating Turkish attack, the distinguished Athonite theologian Gregory Palamas planned to flee to Jerusalem, but he finally moved to Thessalonike, which was well fortified. Another distinguished monk, Athanasios, left Athos for good and founded the monasteries of the Meteora in the inner region of Thessaly, which was still considered to be beyond the striking range of the Turks.11

A change occurred around 1350, after which there was a marked decrease in the number of Turkish raids on Mount Athos. This coincided with a period of revival and prosperity for Mount Athos during which new monasteries were erected and old ones, which had been deserted or destroyed, were restored and repopulated, for example the monasteries of Simonopetra and of St Paul. The monastery of Dionysiou was founded between 1356 and 1362, while at the same time the monasteries of Koutloumousiou and Kastamonitou were rebuilt.12 Athonite monasteries were now able to acquire dependencies in Constantinople. For example, the monastery of Psychosostria in the capital passed under the control of the monastery of Vatopedi. The reason behind this transaction is revealing: a prosperous Athonite monastery was rescuing an impoverished metropolitan monastery.13

This reflects a change for the good in the fortunes of Mount Athos, but what was the explanation? The balance of probability suggests that it was the result of an agreement between the monks of Mount Athos and the Ottoman ruler Orkhan, which offered a degree of protection for their monasteries. This hypothesis receives indirect confirmation from the patriarch Philotheos. In a homily written no later than 1360 he states that even the infidels who ignore

11 D. M. Nicol, Meteora: the rock monasteries of Thessaly (London: Chapman and Hall, 1963; revised edn London: Variorum, 1975).

12 N. Oikonomides, 'Patronage in Palaiologan Mt Athos', in Mount Athos and Byzantine monasticism, ed. A. Bryer and M. Cunningham (Aldershot: Variorum, 1996), 100-2.

13 Angeliki Laiou, 'Economic activities of Vatopedi in the fourteenth century', in The Monastery of Vatopedi: history and art [A6wviKaüú|j|jaKTa 7] (Athens: Institute for Byzantine Research, 1999), 56.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment