Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/71

This page needs to be proofread.




one representative from each of the 20 principal monasteries; from among these is elected annually, and in due rotation, a committee of 4 presidents. The great seal of the united monasteries is in four pieces and is divided among the members of this .■ommittee. One of the members is chosen as chair- man, or Protos. Meetings of the assembly are held weekly (Saturday), at Karyaes, and the' assembly acts as a supreme parhament and tribunal, with appeal, however, to the patriarch at Constantinople.

The Turkish Government is represented by an agent at Karyaes. the diminutive capital of the peninsula and the landing-place for visitors. A detachment of Christian soldiers is usually stationed there, and no one may land without permission of the monastic authorities. The monks have also an agent at Salo- niki and another at Constantinople. Almost the only source of contention among them is the rivalry be- tween the Greeks, inheritors of old traditions and customs, and the Russians of the great monastery of Rossicon (St. Anna), representative of the wealth, power, and interests of their church and country, and generously supported from St. Petersburg. In its present form the constitution of the monasteries dates from 1783.

Mox.\STic Life. — Each of the twenty great monas- teries (twenty-one, including Karj'aes) possesses its own large church and numerous chapels within and without its enclosure, which is strongly fortified, re- calling the feudal burgs of the Middle .\ges. The high walls and strong towers are reminders of the troubled times of the fourteenth and fifteenth cen- turies when corsairs abounded and self-defence was imperative. All of the great monasteries are on the Holy Mountain proper, and are most picturesquely situated from sea to summit, amid dense masses of oak, pine, and chestnut, or on inaccessible crags. To each of these monasteries is attached a certain number of minor monasteries (o-k^toi, asceteria), small monastic settlements (Kaffla-fLara), and her- mitages {KeXKla, cetl(F). Every monastic habitation must be affiliated to one or the other of the great monasteries and is subject to its direction or super- vision. All monasteries are dedicated to the Mother of God, the larger ones under some specially signifi- cant title. The ancient Greek Rule of St. Basil is still followed by all.

In the observance of the Rule, however, the greater monasteries are divided into two classes, some fol- lowing strictly the ccenobitic life, while others per- mit a larger personal freedom. The latter are called "idiorhj-lhrnic"; in them the monks have a right of personal ownership and a certain share in the government of the monasterj' (Council of Elders); they take their meals apart, and are subject to less severe regulations. In the former, known as "cceno- II.— 4

bitic" (Koii'dpiov, ccenobiuni, common life), there is a greater monastic rigour. The superior, or hegou- menos {Tjyov/j.dios). has absolute authority, and all property is held in common. The chief occupation of the monks is that of solemn public prayer, by night and by day, i. e. recitation of the Divine Office, corresponding to the solemn choir-ser\-ice of the Latin Church. (See Greek Rite, Brevi.\ry, Ps.\i.- MODy.) This leaves little time for agriculttu'al, in- dustrial, or intellectual labour. Some fish, or practise minor industries in aid of the common support, or ilminister the monastic estates located elsewhere; "ihers go abroad occasionally to collect a part of tiie yearly tribute (about two dollars and a half) that each monk must pay to the Turkish Govern- ment. A portion of this is collected from the monks themselves; the rest is secured by the revenue of their farms or other possessions, and by contributions from affiliated monasteries in the Balkan Peninsula, tieorgia, and Russia. The generosity of the Greek faithful is also a source of revenue, for Jlount Athos is one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites of the entire Greek Chm'ch, and the feasts of the principal monas- teries are always celebrated with great pomp. It may be added that the monks practise faithfully the monastic ^^rtue of hospitality. The usual name for the individual monk here, as elsewhere in the Greek Orient, is Kalogeros (good old man). In their dress the monks do not differ from other communities of Greek Basilians.

Architecture .\xd the Arts. — Most of the build- ings of ilotmt Athos are comparatively modern. Yet. because of the well-known conservative char- acter of the monks, these edifices represent with much fidelity the Byzantine architecture, civil and religious, of the tenth to the fourteenth centurj'. The churches are verj- richly adorned with columns and pavements of marble, frescoed walls and cupolas, decorated screens, etc.; there are not many mosaics. Some of the smaller oratories are said to be the oldest extant specimens of private architecture in the West, apart from the houses of Pompeii. The ecclesiastical art of the Greek Orient is richly represented here, with all its religious respect, though also with all its immobile conservatism and its stem refusal to interpret in- di\'idual feeling in any other forms than those made sacred by a long line of almost nameless monastic painters like Panselinos and confided by his dis- ciples to the famous "Painters' Book of Moimt Athos" (see Didron, Manuel d'iconographie chr6- tienne, Paris, 1S58). Though there is not in the 935 churches of the peninsula any art-work older than the sixteenth centurj' (Bayet) their frescoes, small paintings on boards, gilt and jewelled metal work, represent i;\ith almost unswerving accuracy the principles, spirit, and details of medieval Byzan- tine art as applied to religious uses.

LiBR.iRiES. — Each monastery possesses its own librarj', and the combined treasures make up a unique collection of ancient manuscripts (Montfaucon, Palieographia Grsca, Paris, 1748, 441 sqq.). By far the richest in this respect is the Russian monas- tery of Saint Anna (Rossicon). Some of the more valuable classical Greek manuscripts have been pur- chased or otherwise secured by travellers (Naumann, "Serapeum", X, 252; Duchesne, "Meraoire sur une mission au Mont Athos", Paris, 1876; Lambros, "Catalogue of the Greek Manuscripts on Mount Athos", Cambridge, 1895, 1900). It was in this way that the text of Ptolemy first reached the West. Similarly, the oldest manuscript of the second-cen- tury Christian text known as "The Shepherd of Hermas" came from Mount Athos. The manu- scripts now in possession of the monks have chiefly an ecclesiastical value; their number is said to be about 8,000. There are also in the librarj' and archives of each monastery a great many documents