Morea, and the widow of the last king of Bosnia, Stefan Tomasevic, who was executed by the Ottomans after the conquest of his country in 1463. MariaHelena was then only seventeen years old. She finally settled in the Ottoman territories with her two paternal aunts, Mara Brankovic, the widow of Sultan Murad II, and Katerina Kantakouzena, the countess of Cilli. When they died, Maria-Helena inherited their fortune, which, however, was difficult to trace because of the bequests they had made to various monasteries of Mount Athos, with which Mara maintained particularly good relations. To recover what she considered rightfully hers Maria-Helena went before an Islamic tribunal accusing the monks of Xeropotamou of holding the sum of 30,000 golden coins, which had allegedly been taken for safekeeping from the countess of Cilli by the latter's trusted servant Anastas, who became a monk of Xeropotamou. Maria-Helena accused the monks of holding on to the money after Anastas's death, even though it should have gone to her. She proved completely unable to substantiate her accusation.30 Nevertheless, the incident shows what extraordinarily large sums of money were to be found in one Athonite monastery. Well before the middle of the sixteenth century it was common knowledge that they functioned as deposit banks. In 1545 Sultan Suleyman dismissed the voevoda ofWallachia Radul, but rumours were soon circulating that the latter had sent a huge treasure to Mount Athos. The sultan immediately sent orders to the sancak-beg and the kadi of Thessalonike instructing them to find it and return it to the treasury.31
Under the Ottomans the monasteries of Mount Athos were able to increase their landed property thanks to continuing donations from the faithful. They exchanged their agricultural surpluses for cash within the framework of the institution of adelphata and functioned as places of deposit. Another side to their business activities was an active interest in shipping. This is reflected in old engravings of the monasteries of Mount Athos, which often depict their ships approaching the monastic dockyard - a feature of some monasteries.32 In the Byzantine period several monasteries possessed commercial vessels, which were actually engaged in selling off their surplus agricultural produce, but were nominally used to bring foodstuffs for the monks, which justified the
30 V Demetriades and E. A. Zachariadou, 'Serbian ladies and Athonite monks', Wiener Zeitschriftfiir die Kunde des Morgenlandes 84 (1994), 35-55.
31 M. Berindei and G. Veinstein, L'Empire ottoman et les pays roumains, 1544-1545 (Paris: Editions de l'Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales; and Cambridge, MA: Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, 1987), 181-2, 183.
32 P. Mylonas, Athos and its monastic institutions through old engravings and other works of art (Athens: National Academy of Fine Arts, 1963), 32, 46, 172.
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