The Touristic Info Halkidiki informs: Mount Athos - Monasteries and skites

Moni Simonos Petras

Greek-orthodox, Holiday: December 25

The large monastery is consecrated to the birth of Christ and because of its design it reminds a Tibetan Lama monastery. It is on more than 200 meters altitude on a steep rock, which completely surrounds it. 

The building has ten floors with a total height of approximately 40 meters. The founder is the legend of the Blessed Simon the ascetic on the Petra (byzantine: rocks), the monastery was built later. As a miraculous light illuminated the rock, he thought that this was a sign at this point to establish a monastery. 

Simon called it Nea Vitleem (New Bethlehem), the monastery was mentioned in the year 1345AD. The exact founding date is unknown, but in 1284AD it is often mentioned. The founder could be the Serbian despot Jovan Ugljesa. 

The monastery received at least extensive donations by him in 1364AD. So, it was already counted towards the end of the 14th Century, to the then 25 big monasteries. In 1580AD, the monastery was completely destroyed by a major fire. It is believed that this all hitherto existing documents, manuscripts, books, relics and other treasures were destroyed. 

However, it was rebuilt by the Romanian prince Michael the Brave. But in 1626AD it was again destroyed by fire. Even then there were benefactors, who have enabled a new building to be constructed. 

Afterwards, the monks of the monastery enjoyed their prosperity for about two centuries, until the middle of the 18th Century due to economic problems and political unrest they lost in importance. On 28 June 1891AD a great fire destroyed the monastery. 

The monks had with them the revered relics for safety, but all the other treasures of the monastery were destroyed. Probably this includes around 250 valuable manuscripts.

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