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 Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.