The Karakalou Monastery is situated on the southeast side of the Athos Peninsula in northern Greece, between the monasteries of Great Lavra and Iviron. Karakalou is dedicated to the Apostles Paul and Peter. It is ranked eleventh in the hierarchical order of the twenty monasteries located on the Mount Athos peninsula.
Founded in the 11th century, the monastery received its name after either the Roman emperor Karakala or the monk, Karakalas, who was said to be its founder. Karakalou was first mentioned in documents from 1018 and 1087. Built on the side of a mountain Karakalou appears now like a fortress overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, the consequence of having been destroyed twice.
In the 14th century it was devastated by Latin and pirate raids during the period of occupation by Frankish forces after they had conquered Constantinople in 1204. Then, prior to its rebuilding in the 16th century, the monastery was destroyed again by pirates. The emperors Andronic II and John V Paleologos rebuilt Karakalou after the first destruction and after the second raid it was rebuilt by Peter, the ruler of Moldavia and his descendants. According to the local athonite tradition, later on, Peter took monastic vows at Karakalou. In the 17th century, Karakalou was given ownership of the dependency of St. Nicholas in Ismaelia. Under Ottoman rule the monastery lost its estates to expropriation by the Turks. The monastery also played a role in the struggle by the Greeks for liberation of their homeland from Ottoman rule.
The main church, the katholikon, was built between 1548 and 1563 in the Athonite style. The murals were added in 1716, and in 1763 the outer narthex was painted with scenes from the Book of Revelations. The church houses a portable icon of the Apostles that was painted by Dionysius in the early 18th century. There are seven chapels within the walls of the monastery. In addition the monastery has eighteen Kellia, four in Karyes and fourteen in the forest southwest of the monastery. The monks of Karakalou have followed the coenobium discipline since 1813.
In its treasury, Karakalou, among many vestments, ecclesiastical vessels, and relics of saints, possesses portable icons of Ss. Peter and Paul and the Circumcision of Christ, and a piece of the Holy Cross. The library contains 279 manuscripts, including 42 on parchment, some 2,500 printed books, and many official documents.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.