The Holy Monastery of Chilandari stands on the north-eastern side of Athos. Some maintain that its name comes in all probability from the founder of an older monastic house on the site, while others derive the name from the word 'chelandion ' - a kind of Byzantine ship.
We now know that the Monastery was founded in the 12th century by Stefan Nemanja, Prince of Serbia, and his son Rastko, who subsequently became monks, taking the names of Symeon and Sabbas, as which they are perhaps Serbia 's most popular saints. Chilandari initially belonged to the Vatopedi Monastery, but was ceded to Sts Symeon and Sabbas. In 1198, the Serbian possession of the Monastery was ratified by a chrysobull of the Emperor Alexius III. Gradually many other smaller historic monasteries, such as those of Zygou, of St Basil, of Komitissas, of Kalyka, of Paparnikion, of Omologetou, and of Strovilaias were annexed and included within the boundaries of Chilandari 's property.
The constant manning of Chilandari by fresh recruits from Serbia and the wholehearted support given to it by the Serbian people and their princes ensured that the Monastery continued to flourish and enjoy prolonged prosperity in the difficult years of Turkish rule. Among the Serbian princes who gave generous financial support were Stefan Milutin (1282 - 1321) - the tower built on the road to the Monastery 's arsanas bears his name - and Neagoe Basarab (1512 - 21). In the 17th century the number of monks coming from Serbia dwindled, and the 18th was a period of decline, following a disastrous fire in 1722. At that time the Monastery was effectively manned by Bulgarian monks. There was another, equally catastrophic, fire in 1891.
Chilandari played an active part in the struggle of the Greeks to achieve their independence, and in the two World Wars. The katholikon of the Monastery is dedicated to the Presentation in the Temple of the Blessed Virgin Mary and was built in the 14th century. Its fine wall-paintings were executed in the early 19th century. The katholikon also has an older marble sanctuary screen behind the more modern one of carved wood. The phiale of the Monastery dates from the 18th century, while the refectory is of the same period as the katholikon.
Chilandari holds fourth place in the hierarchy of the Athonite monasteries. It has 11 chapels and two outlying chapels, as well as 17 kellia, 15 of which are at Karyes. Of its metochia, the Monastery still has three: Komitsa, the Fount of Life near Ierissos, and that of St Nicholas at Sozopoli in Chalcidice. Among the many treasures which the Monastery possesses, of particular importance in the silver larnax (or coffin chest) of St Symeon and its vine, the fruit of which has cured many women of sterility, and the miracle-working icons of Our Lady Tricherousa, Our Lady Hodeghetria, and Our Lady Avramiotissa. It also has embroidered vestments and materials, two crosses made of the wood of the True Cross, a diptych with 24 miniatures, the reed and the shroud from the Passion of Christ, and chairs decorated with mother-of-pearl. The library contains 181 Greek and 809 Slavonic codices, at least 20,000 printed books, of which 3,000 are in Greek, as well as 400 documents, in various languages. The community today consists of 22 monks.
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