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Vatopedi Monastery

The Vatopedi Monastery, sometimes called Batopedion ("Bramble-bush valley"), is located at the midpoint of the northeast coast of the Mount Athos peninsula. Since the rich archives of the monastery have only been partially published, the early history of the monastery is still obscure. One legend, evidently fantastic, attributes its foundation to Emperor Theodosius I; another, closer to reality, says that in the mid-10th century three archons from Adrianople—Athanasios, Nicholas, and Antony—came to Athos and at the urging of Athanasios of Athos restored a ruined monastery. The first documentary evidence is an act of the proton Paul of 985 on which the signature of Nicholas, hegountenos of Vatopedi, is the last among the hegoumenoi. In 996, however, another hegountenos of Vatopedi, Nikephoros, signed the act of the prolog John ahead of all the other hegoumenoi. Thereafter Vatopedi ranked with Iveron in second place in the Athonite hierarchy, just after Lavra. Vatopedi played an important role in the development of Hesychasm after the young Palamas took the monastic habit there. 
By the end of the 13th century Vatopedi had become a major landowner. A chrysobull of Andronikos II of 1292 lists the properties of Vatopedi, which involved it in litigation with other monastic institutions, such as Esphigmenou. From the end of the 12th century onward the influx of Slavic monks to Vatopedi became significant. In the 1190s Sava of Serbia stayed in Panteleemon and Vatopedi before building his own cell in Karyes. In Apr. 1230 John Asen II gave Vatopedi a Slavic chrysobull granting the monks a village near Serres. Stefan Uroš IV Dušan and John Uglješa also conferred upon Vatopedi sundry privileges. In 1393 Constantine Dragaš, Serbian ruler of Melnik, donated a monydrion of the Pantanassa to Vatopedi. 
The library is particularly rich in Byzantine manuscripts, containing over 600 codices, including some rare geographical works by Ptolemy, Strabo, and Pausanias, two illuminated Psalters, and a fragment of a richly illustrated octateuch. Mosaic decoration on both the exterior and interior of the church includes a Deesis, two Annunciations, and a bust of St. Nicholas variously ascribed to the 11th, early 12th and 14th centuries. Frescoes in the church are dated by inscription to 1312 but heavily restored. Vatopedi is distinguished for its mosaic icons and was the source of the miniature mosaic of St. John Chrysostom now at Dumbarton Oaks. It has been hypothesized that the monastery housed a workshop making gold and silver icon frames in the early 14th century. Among the many panels so treated are the so-called "Dolls of Theodora" (icons of Christ and the Virgin) and one of the Hodegetria, presented by an otherwise unknown woman named Papadopoulina in honor of her sister. Other treasures include a silver reliquary depicting St. Demetrios defending Thessaloniki and a jasper cup said to have been given by the despot Manuel Kantakouzenos.


Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium

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