indispensable accompaniment of the share in a near-by silver-mine which he also donated to the monastery.37 It seems unlikely, but not impossible, that the boat made the long journey along the Danube and into the Black Sea and eventually via the Straits to Mount Athos. It is, after all, difficult to imagine that the monks would have hoarded much of the raw silver produced by their Serbian mine in the monastery's vaults. Their boat is much more likely to have been trading somewhere closer to hand. We know that Venetians obtained Balkan silver from Dubrovnik,38 while Belgrade was another outlet. The Athonite monasteries apparently preferred to deal with the Turks.
Although deeply anti-Latin, Mount Athos managed to obtain some protection from the representatives of the papacy in the Aegean waters, the Knights Hospitallers of Rhodes. Added to the earliest known licence issued by the Master of the Rhodian Hospital for corso against the boats of the infidel Turks and their subjects was the stipulation that an exception should be made for those of the Orthodox monks of Mons Sanctus.39
The economic development of Mount Athos and the concomitant increase of its prestige was reflected in the new programmes of decoration that several Athonite monasteries undertook in the mid-years of the sixteenth century From 1535 onwards and during the next thirty years, wall painting flourished, with several painters invited to decorate churches, chapels and refectories with frescos. The Cretan Theophanes Strelitzas and his two sons painted excellent frescos in the church and the refectory of Lavra (1535) and also in those of the newly founded monastery of Stavroniketa (1546); another Cretan painter, Kyr Tzortzis, decorated with frescos the church of Dionysiou; the katholikon of Xenophon was also painted (1544); a painter from Thebes, Frangos Katelanos, left beautiful frescos on the walls of a chapel of Lavra (1560).40
This came to an abrupt end in 1568-69 when Sultan Selim II confiscated the landed properties of all the monasteries situated in his empire, including, of course, those of Mount Athos. The sultan was following the advice of Ebu's-su'ud, who since 1545 had occupied the highest post in the legal hierarchy of his empire, namely that of sheikhu'l-islam. This personage, who held office for more than sixty years under four sultans beginning as a very young man with Bayezid II (1481-1512), is considered one of the greatest Ottoman jurists. He
37 N. Oikonomides, Actes de Kastamonitou [AA 9] (Paris: P. Lethielleux, 1978), 6.
38 D. Kovacevic, 'Dans la Serbie etlaBosnie médiévales: les mines d'or et d'argent', Annales (E.S.C.) 15 (1960), 248-58.
39 A. Luttrell, 'The earliest documents on the Hospitaller corso at Rhodes: 1413 and 1416', Mediterranean Historical Review 10 (1995), 177-88.
40 M. Chatzidakis, Q-qaaupoi too Ayiou "Opoi/j(Thessalonike: Politistike Proteuousates Europes, 1997), 24-5, 36.
Was this article helpful?