The Holy Monastery of Simonopetra

Simonopetra Monastery or Simonos Petra (Greek: Σιμωνόπετρα or Σίμωνος Πέτρα) is one of the many monasteries that occupy the peninsula of Mount Athos and it is dedicated to the Nativity of Christ. It is ranked thirteenth in the hierarchical order of the Mount Athos monasteries located on the peninsula. While the origins of a monastery founded by Blessed Simon the Myrrh-flowing that may have been the beginnings of the existing monastery are clouded in the mists of time, the recorded establishment of the present monastery around 1368 is credited to the Serbian prince Ioannis (Joan, Jovan) Uglješa. The monastery has through the years experienced changing fortunes as it has weathered various political and leadership issues and natural disasters. With the formation of a number of metochia during the twentieth century the monastery is weathering the latest disastrous fire of 1990.

In 1581, Simonopetra was destroyed by a fire, in which a large portion of the monks died. Evgenios, the monastery’s abbot traveled to the Danubian Principalities hoping to raise funds to rebuild the monastery. The most important donor was Michael the Brave, Prince of Wallachia, who donated large portions of land as well as money to the monastery. The monastery was also burnt in 1626, and the last great fire happened in 1891, after which the monastery was rebuilt to its current form.

During recent centuries, the monks of the monastery were traditionally from Ionia in Asia Minor. However, during the mid 20th century the brotherhood was greatly thinned out because of a great reduction in the influx of new monks. The current brotherhood originates from the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron in Meteora as in 1973 the Athonite community headed by Archimandrite Emilianos decided to repopulate the almost abandoned monastery.

The monastery consists of several multi-storeyed buildings, the main being in the place of the original structure, built by Simon. The main building has been described as the “most bold construction of the peninsula”. The monks of Simonopetra traditionally count the floors from top to bottom, thus the top floor is the first floor and the bottom floor the last. The monastery is built on top of the underlying massive rock, and the rock runs through the lower floors.