The Monastery of Great Lavra is the first monastery built on Mount Athos. The founding of the monastery in AD 963 by Athanasius the Athonite marks the beginning of the organized monastic life at Mount Athos. Athanasius began the construction according to the will of his friend and Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas who funded the project. The emperors gave also the Great Lavra many other lands of property including the island of Saint Eustratius and the Monastery of Saint Andreas in Thessaloniki.
The building project, according to the biography of Athanasius the Athonite, began with the protective wall and continued to the church and cells. After Athanasius' death, the monastery continued its operation normally. The emperors favored its development and during the 11th century there were 700 monks, while smaller monasteries had been ceded to Great Lavra.
In the 14th century the monastery suffered, like all the other monasteries of Mount Athos, from Catalan and other pirates. The result of the crisis was the formation of a peculiar way of monasticism, the Idiorrhythmic Way, despite the objections of the official Church and the emperors. In 1574, the Patriarch of Alexandria, Sylvester, helped and the monastery operated again under cenobitic monasticism, but soon the peculiar monasticism was again introduced.
In 1655, the Patriarch Dionysios III, who also became a monk, donated his personal fortune for the return to the cenobitic life but again these attempts were insufficient and the peculiar monasticism remained until the 20th century (1914), when there were new attempts for the return to the cenobitic life but without results. Since 1980 the monastery has been cenobitic.
The main church (Katholikon) was found by Athanasius who lost his life together with 6 other workers when one of the domes fell during the construction. The architectural style of the temple is characterized by the two large areas of the chorus and the prayer. This style was then consecrated and was copied by the other monasteries. The frescoes were made in 1535 by the great painter Theophanis. However, the narthex was painted in 1854.
North of the narthex (liti), there is the chapel of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste in which there is the grave of Athanasius. South of the liti, there is the chapel of Saint Nicholas, painted by Franco Cantellano, in 1560. The trapezaopposite the central entrance has a shape of cross and is the biggest on Mount Athos. Its interior is full of frescoes, painted by Theophanis or his school.
The library of the monastery is located behind the main church. It contains 2,116 Greek manuscripts and 165 codices. There are also over 20,000 printed books, and about 100 manuscripts in other languages. The collection is one of the richest collections of Greek manuscripts in the world.
The vestry is behind the main church. Some of the most important artifacts are a manuscript of a gospel with a golden cover which is a gift from Nikephoros II Phokas and the list (Kouvaras) of the monks since Athanasius. There are also 2,500 icons which cover the whole history of hagiography of the second millennium.References:
Varberg Fortress was built in 1287-1300 by count Jacob Nielsen as protection against his Danish king, who had declared him an outlaw after the murder of King Eric V of Denmark. Jacob had close connections with king Eric II of Norway and as a result got substantial Norwegian assistance with the construction. The fortress, as well as half the county, became Norwegian in 1305.
King Eric's grand daughter, Ingeborg Håkansdotter, inherited the area from her father, King Haakon V of Norway. She and her husband, Eric, Duke of Södermanland, established a semi-independent state out of their Norwegian, Swedish and Danish counties until the death of Erik. They spent considerable time at the fortress. Their son, King Magnus IV of Sweden (Magnus VII of Norway), spent much time at the fortress as well.
The fortress was augmented during the late 16th and early 17th century on order by King Christian IV of Denmark. However, after the Treaty of Brömsebro in 1645 the fortress became Swedish. It was used as a military installation until 1830 and as a prison from the end of the 17th Century until 1931.
It is currently used as a museum and bed and breakfast as well as private accommodation. The moat of the fortress is said to be inhabited by a small lake monster. In August 2006, a couple of witnesses claimed to have seen the monster emerge from the dark water and devour a duck. The creature is described as brown, hairless and with a 40 cm long tail.