Eagle flag of the Byzantine empire



The devotion and love for God is expressed mainly through prayer. However this spirit is also present in the works of art. The art is present mainly in these few aspects. Iconography, architecture, sculpture, carving and manuscripts’ copying.


The orthodox church does not decorate the churches with statues like the catholic belief. On the contrary, worship is channeled through icons, frescos and mosaics of the Virgin Mary, of saints, martyrs and various events of the orthodox tradition representing dogmatic and religious themes. Most of these works of art date from the 16th century and on. From the early works few remain. Some of the most important paintings can be found at the church of Protaton in Karies. The artist behind these works is Manouil Panselinos of Thessaloniki who lived in the 13th century. Of course many other beautiful icons and frescos also exist in the Catholicon churches of other monasteries like Iviron, Vatopediou, Xenophontos, Chelandariou and others.


The architectural interest of the monasteries is also very significant. The monasteries follow a general outline of building with modifications according to the era, the cost and of course the topography of the place. Regardless of the position, the outer shell always bears the characteristics of a byzantine castle, with heavy and strong fortification and in some occasions a moat. The interior has a softer character. The predominant building is of course the main church, the Catholicon. In the wings and in the other buildings one can find the refectory, the Trapeza, the basin for the blessing of the water, the Phiale, the monks quarters, the library, the guesthouse, the kitchen and of course numerous chapels.


Sculpture plays a very small role in Agion Oros as it was considered a relic of idolatry. The pillars are usually crowned with a decorated capital. Other sculpture can be found over main doors and over the entrances of the Catholicon. However these artifacts are brought from other places and are often the ruins of earlier temples. Wood carving and handmade artifacts from gold and silver are a frequent sight. In most cases they are intended for church and other adoration uses and also as reliquaries.


Despite the frequent pilferage, destructions, fires even today Agion Oros houses the most significant collection of micro-manuscripts. It is estimated that some 12.000 manuscripts on papyrus and paper are protected behind the thick walls of the monasteries’ libraries. They have biblical, theological, liturgical and secular themes. Most of the manuscript are adorned with beautiful decoration. The oldest ones date back to th 10th and 11th century.