The Holy Monastery of Xeropotamou, a classic example of Athonite architecture, is more or less in the middle of the Athos peninsula in a conspicuous position, at 200 metres above sea level.
Xeropotamou is one of the oldest Athonite monasteries, but its early history remains obscure as to its exact date of foundation and the identity of the founder. Oral tradition makes the founder of the Monastery the Empress Pulcheria, who lived in the 5th century, while another version regards the founders as the 10thcentury Emperors Constantine VI Porphyrogennetus and Romanus I Lecapenus.
In the manuscripts and various documents there is some obscurity about the name of the Monastery and the personality of Blessed Paul, probably Xeropotamou 's principal founder. Paul was in all likelihood an ascetic who was highly regarded on Athos, a contemporary of St Athanasius. Oral tradition identifies him as the son of Michael I Rhanghaves.
The Monastery flourished until the 13th century, when in the years of Frankish rule, it suffered from financial difficulties and pirate raids. However, it soon obtained the assistance of Byzantine Emperors, particularly after the fire of 1280, and with donations and chrysobulls thae rights of ownership of the Monastery were confirmed (13th - 14th centuries). Other donations from the principalities of Wallachia and Hungro-Walachia were the means of renewal and prolonged prosperity in the life of Xeropotamou, and among its benefactors must be numbered the Sultan Selim I. Like the other monasteries, Xeropotamou has had periods of decline. Two catastrophic fires in the early 16th and 17th centuries and the burden of debt in the 18th brought it to a low point. Between 1821 and 1830 the Monastery was occupied by Turkish troops, while in more modern times, in 1950 and 1973, it was again damaged by fires.
Today the Monastery of Xeropotamou occupies eighth place in the hierarchy of coenobia. In its ownership are the port of Dafni and its six surviving kellia. The Monastery has seven chapels inside its precinct and nine outside. The katholikon is dedicated to the Forty Holy Martyrs and was built in the 18th century on the site of an earlier church. Outside the katholikon is the holy water phiale, constructed in red marble in the last quarter of the 18th century at the expense of a learned monk of the Monastery, Kaisarios Dapontes. The library contains 409 manuscripts and some 6,000 printed books. Among the treasures of Xeropotamou are the paten of Pulcheria, made of steatite, relics of saints, goldembroidered vestments, and priceless episcopal staffs, but its greatest treasure consists of two pieces of the True Cross, the largest anywhere in the world, which have a hole made by one of the nails of the Crucifixion. At present the Monastery has about 25 benevolent and peace-loving monks.
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