The “Royal and Patriarchal Monastery of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ the Pantokrator” stands at the foot of a wooded slope on
an imposing rocky headland rising approximately 30 metres above
the sea on the north side of the Athos peninsula. This location
gives the monastery the privilege of magnificent views, both of
the North Aegean Sea with the island of Thassos, the more distant
ones of Lemnos and Samothraki, and even distant Imbros when visibility
is good, as well as along the coast of the Holy Mountain towards
the magnificent Athos with its steep summit.
Aerial view of the monastery.
The location of the monastery has
been praised by both Greek and foreign writers and visitors. John
Komnenos in his Traveller’s Account of 1701 notes that, “The Holy
and Revered Monastery of Pantokrator is extremely beautiful, because
it is located in a wonderful landscape near the sea and is enclosed
within strong fortifications,” while Cosmas Vlachos eloquently notes
that the monastery is “located on the east coast of the Mountain
having its north-eastern wing supported by a wave-washed rock. It
looks out upon the broadest horizon and the sea, as the waves break
in front of it, provides a wild and enjoyable spectacle.”
The monastery occupies an imposing site, dominating the surrounding
area. On its south side, the cliffs fall away to one of the two
mantrakia (inlets) of Mount Athos, where small boats used to seek
refuge from rough seas in the past, and which has been shaped into
a small harbour. In addition to the approach from the sea, a road
has been opened up to the monastery from Karyes. It winds through
the forest, branching off from the road to Iveron shortly after
the bridge. The monastery is also connected by paths with the monasteries
of Vatopedi to the north-east and Stavronikita and Iveron to the
south-west, while a good paved road leads to the dependent skete
of Prophet Elijah through beautiful scenery.
In older Byzantine documents, the monastery is referred to as “a
divine study of Christ Pantokrator the Saviour”, and in later documents
as “the Royal and Patriarchal Monastery of our Lord God and Saviour
Jesus Christ the Pantokrator”, which reminds us of the older Byzantine
monastery of the same name, the famous monastery of Pantokrator
in Constantinople, in which a number of great figures from the history
of monasticism settled during the Byzantine era.
The monastery holds seventh place in the Athonite hierarchy of twenty
sovereign monasteries, after the monastery of Koutloumousiou and
before the monastery of Xeropotamou. It maintains quarters for its
representative in Karyes, with a chapel dedicated to the Three Hierarchs.
Every five years its representative participates in the four-member
Holy Epistasia. It belongs to the group of four monasteries in which
the senior monastery, having the Protepistasia, is Iveron, and the
others are Philotheou and Simonopetra.
South-west view of the monastery’s buildings, the harbour,
the shipyards and the workers’ houses.