Simonopetra Monastery is an Eastern Orthodox monastery in the monastic state of Mount Athos. Simonopetra ranks thirteenth in the hierarchy of the Athonite monasteries. The monastery is located in the southern coast of the Athos peninsula. While the southern coast of Athos is quite rugged in general, the particular site upon which the monastery is built is exceptionally harsh. It is built on top of a single huge rock, practically hanging from a cliff 330 metres over the sea.
The monastery was founded during the 13th century by Simon the Athonite, who was later sanctified by the Eastern Orthodox Church as Osios Simon the Myrrohovletes. Tradition holds that Simon, while dwelling in a nearby cave, saw a dream in which the Theotokos instructed him to build a monastery on top of the rock, promising him that she would protect and provide for him and the monastery. In 1364, the Serbian despot Jovan Uglješa funded the renovation and expansion of the monastery.
In 1581, Simonopetra was destroyed by a fire, in which a large portion of the monks died. Evgenios, the monastery's abbot traveled to the Danubian Principalities hoping to raise funds to rebuild the monastery. The most important donor was Michael the Brave, Prince of Wallachia, who donated large portions of land as well as money to the monastery. The monastery was also burnt in 1626, and the last great fire happened in 1891, after which the monastery was rebuilt to its current form.
During recent centuries, the monks of the monastery were traditionally from Ionia in Asia Minor. However, during the mid-20th century the brotherhood was greatly thinned out because of a great reduction in the influx of new monks. The current brotherhood originates from the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron in Meteora as in 1973 the Athonite community headed by Archimandrite Emilianos decided to repopulate the almost abandoned monastery.
The monastery consists of several multi-storeyed buildings, the main being in the place of the original structure, built by Simon. The monks of Simonopetra traditionally count the floors from top to bottom, thus the top floor is the first floor and the bottom floor the last. The monastery is built on top of the underlying massive rock, and the rock runs through the lower floors.
The expansion and development of Simon's original structure almost always followed one of the monastery's great fires. Following the 1580 fire and with the funds gathered by abbot Evgenios, the western building was erected. The eastern building was built following the 1891 fire mostly with funds raised in Russia.References:
The city walls of Avila were built in the 11th century to protect the citizens from the Moors. They have been well maintained throughout the centuries and are now a major tourist attraction as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can walk around about half of the length of the walls.
The layout of the city is an even quadrilateral with a perimeter of 2,516 m. Its walls, which consist in part of stones already used in earlier constructions, have an average thickness of 3 m. Access to the city is afforded by nine gates of different periods; twin 20 m high towers, linked by a semi-circular arch, flank the oldest ones, Puerta de San Vicente and Puerta del Alcázar.