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Monastery Hiliandariou

The impressive Serbian abbey of Helandariou, lies in a wooded area, fifty meters above sea level, and at some distance from the sea. It celebrates the Presentation of Virgin Mary on the 21st of November. Its’ name comes from the founder of a small abbey who was calle Hilandarios or Helandarios Ratskos, the son of the Serbian King Stephen Nemania, who came to Athos where he became a monk at the St. Panteleiomonos abbey, under the name Savvas. His decision, shocked his father –who was the son-in-lax of Emperor Alexiou Angeloy the 3rd- and he follwed him to Aghion Oros. There King Stephen became monk under the name Simeon. Later, the request of Serbia’s new king, Stephen the 2nd, Emperor Alexios Comnenos the 3rd offered to the Serbian monks the ruined abbey of Helandariou , which belonged to the Vatopedi abbey, and confirmed the offer by issuing a document, sealed with his golden seal. There, the two monks built the Helandari (or Hilandari) which as is said, means some kind of ship. They enriched the abbey with treasures and gems and from the beginning of the 13th century they developed it into an intellectual and religious center for their people.

Later on, Savvas became the archbishop of Servia. When the two monks died, they were proclaimed Saints. Their graves are located to the northeast of the main temple.

During the following years, the abbey received many benefits and treasures from the Serbian Kings and in that way, it acquired the largest –next to Lavra’s-share of land in the Athos peninsula.

The small abbeys of Scorpios, Comitissa, Kalica, Strovilea and the fourth in the hierarchy abbey of Zigous were annexed to the Helandariou abbey, which then became fourth in the hierarchy. In 1722 and 1891, after the visit of the Serb King Alexander Overnovits, many Serbian monks enrolled in this abbey. When Macedonia was emancipated (in 1913) the Serb monks strongly favoured the unity of Aghion Oros with Greece.

Nowadays, the abbey comes in the fourth place among the abbeys and it has about twenty five monks. The main temple was built in the 13th century. Its wallpaintings were painted in the 14h century but they painted it again in the 19th century and the excellent walpaintings of the Macedonian movement were destroyed. The mosaics on the floor and the wooden sculptured reredos (which date from 1774) are the best of their kind, in Aghio Oros. Among the twelve chapels of the abbey, only St. George’s has wall paintings.

The library contains 800 manuscripts and 7.000 prints. The altars wal paintings were painted in 1623. Among the treasures which are kept in the vestry (which was recently decorated) we can see two crosses made of wood from the Holy Cross, another one with precious stones, sceptres, embroideries, excellent portable icons, banner of kings, coin collections, objects of worship, icons historical documents, engravings on copper and many others.