The Metochia in Roumania – Introduction

29 October 2011

Throughout their long-term development over the centuries, the relations of the monasteries of the Holy Mountain with the Romanian Principalities, and especially with Moldavia and Wallachia, were very close.

Beginning from the 14th century, but particularly after the Fall of Constantinople, and virtually until the confiscation of the monastic possessions of the United Principalities (1863), the voivodes of the two principalities in many ways assisted not only the Protaton, as the symbol of the whole of Athos, but also each monastery individually.

This assistance had as its aim a policy of an imperial nature (on the Byzantine models) which the leaders of Wallachia and Moldavia pursued. In particular, these princes “acted as successors of the Byzantine Emperors, founders and guardians of the monasteries of the Holy Mountain, as a living symbol of the universal ‘Christian Empire’, in which, theoretically, the latter had ruled”1. Taking up their duties as re-founders and protectors of the Holy Mountain, the voivodes, whether of Romanian or of Greek ancestry, put themselves forward as the lawful successors to the power of the ‘Christian Emperors’ of the East over the Orthodox peoples under Turkish rule and based on this principle their resistance to the Ottoman conqueror2.

The assistance given by the leaders, as well as by the dignitaries of the Divan*, and even that provided by ordinary folk of no particular rank, was diverse. This included the construction or repair of monasteries or their dependencies, financial support, the dedication of Romanian monasteries, churches and sketes as metochia* of the Holy Mountain, or even of villages or property directly to a specific Athonite monastery. Included in the metochia, apart from churches, there were also meadows, forests, lakes, fish farms, agricultural installations, warehouses, stables, small animals both for consumption and for commerce, large animals for the cultivation of the fields, carts and tools3.

The Monastery of Vatopaidi was, within the framework of the policy mentioned above, the recipient of nine monasteries and churches4 and of four sketes as dependencies. This number is unprecedented when compared with other religious centres of the Orthodox East.


2. Nastase, 1976, pp. 17-18, 24, 35-36.
3. It will be obvious that a complete inventory of all the metochia – in the widest sense – which belonged to the Monastery of Vatopaidi in the Danube Principalities will only become available once the entire Romanian archive has been fully investigated.