The Holy and Great Monastery of Vatopedi on the Mount Athos was built during the second half of the 10th century, by three monks, Athanasius, Nicholas, and Antonius from Adrianople, who were the pupils of Athanasius the Athonite. A legendary tradition says that its construction was ordered in the 4th century by Eastern Roman Emperor Arcadius to honour the miraculous salvation by the Virgin Mary of his son from a shipwreck. The child is said to have been found in a brier bush — hence vatos – βάτος “brier” and paidi – παιδί “child”.
About 100 monks live in the monastery today, where extensive construction projects are underway to restore the larger buildings. The monastery is open to public.
Treasures held within the monastery
The Monastery of Vatopedi holds a belt held by believers to be the actual belt of the Theotokos, which she wore on earth and gave to Thomas the Apostole after her death and during her transition to heaven. The silver and jewel-encrusted reliquary containing the skull of St. John Chrysostom is kept in the Monastery and is credited by Eastern Orthodox Christians with miraculous healings. The monastery also contains the Iaspis, a chalice fashioned of a single piece of the precious stone jasper, and numerous icons.
Vatopedi’s library preserves a medieval royal charter, the 13th-century Vatopedi Charter of Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria dedicated to the monastery. It was discovered in the monastery’s archives in 1929.
Miracle-working icons within the monastery
There are four icons of the Mother of God considered to be miracle-working: Elaiovrytissa, Ktetorissa (Vimatarissa), Esphagmeni, and Paramythia.
The holy and miracle-working icon of the Virgin Mary was brought to the Vatopedi monastery by the blessed elder Joseph (who is still alive) from Nea Skete. The first record of the icon’s miraculous powers is from the witness of Elder Joseph. One day a young man from Cyprus went to visit and entered into the church. At that point, the elder witnessed a glowing light radiating from the face of the Theotokos and an invisible power pushed the young man down to the ground. When the young man had recovered from his fall, he began to repent and weep and confessed that he did not believe and was a participant in the black arts. He changed his life and became an Orthodox Christian.
This icon is also known for working many miracles, especially healing people with cancer. There are many recent records of people who have been healed from cancer after participating in the Supplicatory Canon to the Pantanassa at the monastery.
Near the monastery, the son of Emperor Theodosius the Great fell off a ship and into the sea. By miraculous intercession of the Mother of God, he was carried safely to shore unharmed and found sleeping in a bush, not far from the Vatopedi monastery. This is the event that defined the name of the monastery (Vato + paidi, derived from “Batos paidion”, the bush of the child).
The tradition tells us that the original expression on the faces of the figures and the position of the bodies of Christ and the Blessed Virgin changed when the following strange miracle occurred, January 21, 807:
Pirates had secretly landed on the shore of the monastery and were hiding, waiting for the gates to open in the morning in order to launch an attack on the monastery of Vatopedi. The Abbot, who had remained behind after the end of Matins in order to continue his prayer, heard these words from the icon of the Blessed Virgin:
“Do not open the gates of the Monastery today, but go up on the walls and drive away the pirates.”
As he turned to look, he saw the Theotokos turned towards her right shoulder and looking at him, while the Holy child was stretching out His hand to cover the mouth of His mother saying,
“No, Mother, do not watch over this sinful flock, let them fall under the swore of the pirates and be punished as they deserve.”
But the Blessed Virgin, taking Her Son’s hand in Hers and turning Her head a little to free her mouth, repeating the same words.
The icon is a wall-painting and is on the right choir of the chapel named after it. In memory of this miraculous event a perpetual lamp burns in front of the wonderworking icon. Every day a Canon of Supplication is chanted in honour of the icon and on Fridays the Divine Liturgy is celebrated.