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:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.