"XENOFONDOS" MONASTERY - West coast of Mount Athos
The Holy Monastery of Xenophontos stands on the western shore of the peninsula, between the Monasteries of Docheiariou and St Panteleimon. It has a long history which goes back to the 10th and the 11th century, to the time when the Megiste Lavra was founded. Its founder was St Xenophon, who was also its Abbot.
The Monastery has had its share of vicissitudes, starting from the time when it was set up. One such difficulty was the quarrel which arose in the late 11th century with the eunuch Stephen - subsequently a monk with the name of Symeon - drungarius of the Emperor Nicephorus Botaneates. Initially the fact that Stephen had become a monk was beneficial to the Monastery: the provision of funds made possible the construction of buildings. However, his subsequent career as Abbot brought him into conflict with most of the monks, resulting in his removal. Symeon's appeal to the Emperor Alexius Comnenus ended in an imperial order that he should be restored to office.
Apart from such episodes of an internal character, there were others with external causes. As a monastery on the sea shore, Xenophontos was frequently the object of pirate raids. In the 13th century it was laid waste by Latin pirates. In the Third Typikon it occupied eighth place, while today its position in the hierarchy is sixteenth. During the period of Turkish rule it was supported by wealthy Christians of Vlach descent, either by means of the revenues which came from the 'Romva' Skete or from two villages donated to it by Romanian princes.
During the 16th century the majority of the monks were Slavs. In the century which followed it was discovered to owe huge sums to a syndicate of Jewish usurers. The result was its financial ruin - in a more general atmosphere of decline which prevailed at that time on Athos. In the 18th century the Monastery was re-established, the first concern being a return to the coenobitic system in 1784. The vigorous Abbot Paοsios of Lesvos added new buildings and brought new life to the Monastery. It was at that point that the building of the large new katholikon in the northern part of the Monastery was begun. This was finished by the time of the outbreak of the Greek Revolution in 1821.
On the southern side of the Monastery is the old katholikon, decorated with Early Christian symbols. Its construction dates back to the 11th century, although there have been subsequent phases of additions (it was adorned with a wooden sanctuary screen in 17th century; its wall-paintings were repainted). The belltower was built in 1864 and the holy water phiale in 1901.
The Monastery has some 600 manuscripts and approximately 7,000 printed books. Two icons of the 14th century, showing St George and St Demetrius, are important works of art; it also has the famous wonder-working icon of Our Lady Hodeghetria. Among the treasures of Xenophontos are a piece of the True Cross, sumptuous reliquaries containing the relics of saints, sacred vessels, and vestments. The Monastery has 11 chapels inside its precinct and six outside. Its dependencies are the Skete of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin and 22 kalyves, which are, unfortunately, in decline because of a shortage of monks to live in them. The community numbers some 30 hard-working monks.
This icon had long been in the Katholikon of the Monastery of Vatopedi, on the column of the left choir. In 1730, however, it suddenly disappeared from its place, although the gates of the Monastery were locked, and was found at the Monastery of Xenophontos. Everyone thought that someone had secretely stolen it, and so the icon was brought back to its old place, while the Vatopedi fathers took stricter precautions and locked the church. A short while afterwards when the church was opened for service, the icon was again missing from its place, and soon afterwards news arrived from the Xenophontos Monastery that it was again in the same place in the katholikon there. The Vatopedi monks were now convinced that this was a miracle and determined to withstand the will of the Theotokos no longer. They hastened to Xenophontos to reverence the "hodeghetria", and for a long time afterwards used to send oil and wax for her in her new home