Hilandar Monastery is the northern most monastery located on the northeast side of the Athos Peninsula. The monastery was founded in 1198 by saints Sava and Simeon. The Monastery has been supported and populated by Serbian monkssince then. It is ranked fourth in the hierarchical order of the twenty monasteries located on the Mount Athos peninsula.
After forming the Serbian state Stephen Nemanja, the Grand Župan of Serbia, in the Council of Ras in 1196 established the basis for smooth successions of power within the state. He, then, abdicated in favor of his middle son Stefan and proceeded to pursue a life of spirituality and pray as the monk Simeon. He joined his youngest son, Rastko, who earlier had taken the monastic name of Sava and lived on Mount Athos. With the approval of the Emperor Alexius III Angelicus, who in his chrysobull of 1198 declared Hilandar as an independent monastery dedicated to the Serbians, the father and son began restoring the ruins of the old monastery as the foundation of the present day community.
Hilandar became the spiritual and religious center for the Serbs. In 1430, the Holy Mountain of Athos was occupied by the Ottoman Turks. While the Turks did not interfere with the autonomy of the monastic communities the monks were affected by the lost of income from their estates that had been taken by the occupying Turks. Thus, their survival became difficult under the new overlords. The monastery remained a symbol of Serbian culture and religious continuity and was endowed by Serbian rulers through the centuries.
Whereas most of the monastic communities on Mount Athos are built on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, Hilandar is located a few kilometers in land. The complex includes within its protective walls a katholikon and a number of small chapels, as well as cells for the monks, guest quarters, a library, treasury, and a hospital.
On March 4, 2004, a major fire sweeps through the monastery that destroyed about half the structures in the monastery. The medieval heirlooms and relics that made up the treasures of the monastery were moved to safety, but major damage was done to the abbot's cell and guest rooms as well as four chapels with the 17th and 18th century frescoes. Restoration of the damage is on going.
The monastery possesses over 1,000 thirteenth- to eighteenth-century Byzantine and Serbian icons as well as sacred objects, various artifacts, and historical documents. Many of these dated from the thirteenth century. The library contains a collection of books and some 1,000 manuscripts including Cyrillic manuscripts and the first printed books in Serbian. The library also holds many books in Russian, Bulgarian, and Greek.References:
Steinvikholm Castle is an island fortress built between 1525 to 1532 by Norway's last Catholic archbishop, Olav Engelbrektsson. Steinvikholm castle became the most powerful fortification by the time it was built, and it is the largest construction raised in the Norwegian Middle Ages.
The castle occupies about half of the land on the rocky island. The absence of a spring meant that fresh water had to be brought from the mainland. A wooden bridge served as the only way to the island other than boat. Although the castle design was common across Europe in 1525, its medieval design was becoming obsolete because of the improved siege firepower offered by gunpowder and cannons.
The castle was constructed after Olav Engelbrektsson returned from a meeting with the Pope in Rome, presumably in anticipation of impending military-religious conflict. As Archbishop Engelbrektsson's resistance to the encroachment of Danish rule escalated, first with Frederick I of Denmark and his successor Christian III of Denmark, Steinvikholm Castle and Nidarholm Abbey became the Catholic Church's military strongholds in Norway. In April 1537, the Danish-Norwegian Reformation succeeded in driving the archbishop from the castle into exile in Lier in the Netherlands (now in Belgium), where he died on 7 February 1538. At the castle the archbishop left behind St. Olav's shrine and other treasures from Nidaros Cathedral (Trondheim). The original coffin containing St. Olav's body remained at Steinvikholm until it was returned to Nidaros Cathedral in 1564. Since 1568 St. Olav's grave in Nidaros has been unknown.
From the 17th to 19th century, the island was used as a quarry and some of its masonry was sold and removed from the site. This activity was condoned by the Danish-Norwegian authorities as a way of eliminating a monument to the opposition of the Danish–Norwegian Union.
Steinvikholm fort is owned and operated today by The society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments. The island has been the site of the midnight opera which details the life and struggles of the archbishop. The opera is held in August annually. The opera is organized by Steinvikholm Musikkteater since the beginning in 1993.