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Karakallou Monastery


Between the monasteries of Megiste Lavra and Iviron and at an altitude of roughly 200 meters above sea level one can find one of the oldest monasteries on Mt. Athos, the Holy Monastery Karakallou. The monastery appears in Athonite documents and Typikon since the early 11th century, the period when its foundation is suggested. But according to the tradition of Mt. Athos, its foundation must be placed much earlier. Based on its name, such traditions hold that its founder was Roman Emperor Marcus Aurellius, also known as Karakallas, who reigned in early 3rd century AD. But the monastery is clearly posterior. With respect to its name, this might be attributed to some monk or Abbot by the name Karakallas, a common byzantine name in that era. This monastery also shared the common fate of the monasteries on Mt. Athos. A period of flourishing was followed, in 1204, by Latin Rule and just after the pogroms by Unificationist Michael VIII. The destruction will be completed by the Catalan raids in early 14th century. Despite such frequent catastrophes, the number of monks living in the monastery will grow, while it will also acquire dependencies and attachments. Important was the help by Vlach ruler Ioannis Petros, who will take his monastic vows there. In the revolution of 1821 Karakallou Monastery will play an active part and after the ten year occupation by the Turks it will become, in late 19th century, a place of quiet for Russian monks. A fire in 1875 destroyed a major part of the monastery, but its Catholicon, a work of the 16th century, survived. It library is home to 300 manuscripts, of which 42 are parchments, as well as 3.000 printed volumes. Its treasures and heirlooms include pieces of the True Cross, pectoral crosses, crosses, Saint’s relics, with the most important being those of Saint Gedeon, who martyred in Tyrnovo, Bulgaria. The monastery celebrates Apostles Peter and Paul. Its Catholicon was erected in 1548 and was illustrated in early 18th century. Its icon screen is adorned with the exquisite icon of the 12 Apostles, a work by monk Dionysius from Agrafa, dated 17222.