The Monastery of Stavronikita is one of twenty monasteries on the Mount Athos peninsula and is located on the northeastern side of the peninsula at an elevation of about 50 meters above the sea. It is fifteenth in hierarchical rank among the monasteries. Stavronikita is the most recently built monastery on Mount Athos. It is also the smallest monastery among the twenty monasteries and is dedicated to St. Nicholas.
There are a number of legends concerning the founding of Stavronikita. A monastery was probably founded on the site of Stavronikita in the 10th century as the Haritona monastery according to one legend. According to another, two monks, Stavros and Nikitas, made their cells there, thus giving rise to the name ‘Stavronikitas'. About 1530, a monk, Gregory, purchased the cells of the early monastery from the Philotheou monastery. Over the next several years, abbot Gregory began rebuilding the monastery. With the help of Patriarch Jermiah I the katholikon was built between 1527 and 1536 and dedicated to St. Nicholas.
The monastery has experienced several major fires that caused serious damage. The earliest was in 1067. Other followed in 1607, 1817, 1864, and 1879. While the damages caused by the fires was repaired little maintenance could be done nor renovation and expansion could be undertaken as the monastery was constantly in debt until 1960 when the monks retired the monastery's debts.
The structure of the Stavronikita follows the traditional Athonite form with the katholikon situated in the center of the enclosed monastery space. Stavronikita has a pronounced shape of a fortress. The refectory is on the first floor of the southern wing. Six chapels are located both inside the monastery as well as outside. The frescos in the katholikon date from the sixteenth century and include work by the Cretan painter Theophanes and his son Simeon.
The monastery library contains 58 manuscripts on parchment from the eleventh to thirteenth centuries. There are two manuscripts on silk and 109 from the fourteenth to nineteenth centuries on paper in addition to several hundred printed books. Additionally, the monastery holds many other treasures including portable icons, crosses, relic of saints, and liturgical objects. A mosaic icon of St. Nicholas the Streda from the fourteenth century is a major treasure. The icon received its name ‘Stredas' (which is oyster in Greek) from the oyster on the forehead of the saint's image.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.