The Esphigmenou Monastery is located on the northeastern coast of the Athos Peninsula close to the Monastery of Chilandari. It is ranked eighteenth in the hierarchical order of the twenty monasteries located on the peninsula.
Esphigmenou monastery has existed since the 10th century, although Athonite tradition attributes its founding to Empress Pulcheria, the sister of Emperor Theodosius II, in the 5th century. The origin of the name for the monastery is uncertain. The name of the monastery came from a founding monk who wore a tight belt or from the name of the site upon which the monastery was built. The monastery is built near the sea as at the time it was built the sea was safe from foreign attackers. Manuscripts, however, record serious raids in 1047 and 1534. The 1534 raid was the most severe and was preceded by a fire in 1491.
In between the raids and fire Esphigmenou was favored by the emperors in Constantinople as imperial chrysobulls record the acquisition of property for Esphigmenou in Prolakas, Sloutarass, Krosouvo, Vrasta, Thessaloniki, and Constantinople. Also, Esphigmenou is noted as being the home, in 1310, of St. Athanasius who was Patriarch of Constantinople and of Gregory Palamas, in 1335, who was Archbishop of Thessalonki.
In the 17th century, Esphigmenou entered into a period of decline due to serious financial difficulties. The monastery began a recovery during the following century. This recovery was aided by Grigorios, Metropolitan of Melenikion who made payment of the monastery's debts his main project.
In early part of the 19th century, Theodoritos of Lavra, as the abbot of Esphigmenou, reorganized the monastery as a coenobium and began the construction of a new katholikon in 1806 on the site of an earlier church built in 1010. He built other new buildings such as a new refectory as well. Between 1821 and 1832 Esphigmenou ceased to exist as a monastery as the Ottoman Turkish army commandeered and used the monastery buildings as barracks during the Greek war for independence. With the departure of the Turkish forces, the monastery was restored by Agathangelos Ayiannanitis. The rebuilding effort continued until 1870 and resulted in the construction of the monastery's modern buildings. These included the addition of a exonarthex on the katholikon, construction of the bell tower and a number of chapels and the southern gateway.
The katholikon is dedicated to the Ascension of Our Lord. There are two chapels in the katholikon and seven outside of it.
The monastery library contains 372 manuscripts and over 8,000 printed books. Among the treasures held by the monastery, Esphigmenou's most treasured possession is the icon of Our Lady Eleousa. In addition to relics of saints, the monastery possesses the so-called cross of Pulcheria and a large part of the tent used by Napoleon. The tent remnant is used as the curtain for the sanctuary door in the katholikon on the feast day of the Holy Ascension.References:
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.