The Vatopaidi Monastery and the Athonias Academy (3rd part)

5 January 2012

The Athoniada School also provided the opportunity to both pupils and teachers to stay at the Holy Mountain for two, three, even twenty and more years, and become acquainted with the fathers, benefiting from them. As far as Boulgaris was concerned, it is worth noting that he and his pupils had the same spiritual father, the holy hesychast hieronmonk, Dionysios Siasteas, who wrote the book ‘Christ’s footprints’ and was staying at the Vatopaidi Skete of St Demetrious. During his term of office, Boulgaris also became very sick ‘to the point that his soul descended to Hades for a short time’ but was healed by the icon of the Most Holy Lady of Akathistos at the monastery of Dionysiou. We believe that these were two events which were never erased from his memory.

It is also worth noting that Patriarch Kallinikos V had expressed a great interest in the school. In a letter to the Synod in 1801, he recites the school’s glorious past and requests that fundraising is launched to enable its re-opening. In the same year, the former Βishop of Trikkis, Ambrosius, is assigned as a Commissioner assisted by the committee members Christopher Prodromitis, an intelligent teacher and former pupil at the School and the renowned for his insight, virtue and numerous works, St Nicodemus the Hagiorite. The following year the Patriarch writes a new letter which he sends to 126 cities abroad from Rhodes to Russia, Amsterdam and London and asks for their financial assistance. Korais is employed along with Alexandros Vasileiou as his representatives in Paris.

During those dark and difficult times, the Athoniada School proved to be ‘the nation’s support, the country’s hope’ and was described as ‘Greece for Greece’.

The School ceased operating sometime in the 1790s. Around 1800, the Vatopaidi fathers tried to re-establish it, but it was not until 1844 when the school reopened, this time in Karyes, the capital of the Holy Mountain. The archimandrite from Vatopaidi, Dorotheos Evelpides, later on Metropolitan of Korytsas, was elected Dean by the Holy Community in 1856. In 1930, after a protracted preparation, the School is transferred to a complex belonging to the Vatopaidi Skete of St Andrew in Karyes, and operates until the beginning of the Greek-Italian war (II World War). The Vatopaidi Scholar, hierodeacon Arcadios played a huge part in this transfer. It operates again in 1953 and continues to this day. It continues to play an important role in society since many of its pupils have risen to the ranks of the Church hierarchy, becoming priests, theologians, even renowned scientists in Greece and abroad.

During the Turkish occupation, the Athoniada school benefited the Vatopaidi fathers since many substantially contributed towards the nations’ education. Among them was Ananias Vatopaidinos, who offered the substantial amount of 3750 Turkish pounds to the Great National School, 200 floria yearly to the National University of Athens and in 1866, 12,000 kesarovasilika roubles. In addition, in a reply to the metropolitan of Thessaloniki Joachim, later Patriarch of Constantinople Joachim III, he assumed the responsibility of paying the fees of many pupils at the Athoniada and the Theological School of Halki. After his repose, it was revealed in a letter by the Synod that he was giving 2000 grosia to the Theological School of Halki every year.

Sophronios Eirinoupoleos from Patmos, exarhos at the Vatopaidi dependencies in Moldova had bequeathed the amount of 2500 grosia to the Athoniada School.

Ioannikios Vatopaidinos from Cyprus, at the request of the Archbishop of Cyprus Makarius A, gives the Ecclesiastical School which was established in Nicosia (nowadays the Pancyprian Gymnasium), monies and books. His name is remembered among the benefactors of the School. At the request of Archbishop Sofronios he also established a school in his home village, Pedoulas in Cyprus.

Jacob Vatopaidinos, from Trianoupolis, gifts 2000 golden coins to the Greek schools of the Greek kingdom.

 Konstantinos from Oikonomon in a letter to Gregory Eirinoupoleos Vatopaidinos, expresses his pleasure for the latter’s intention to establish a theological School at Vatopaidi. He warns him, however, that this task was going to be ‘difficult and costly’ for those days.

Let us cite here what we have found from the archives of the Vatopaidi monastery:

In a letter of the 25th March 1875, Polyanis Meletios asks Vatopaidi to assist the schools of his region, since as he said the monastery has undertaken the task of assisting the schools of the nation. A letter of the Synod in 1876, declares that the monastery was handing over 5,000 grosia every year as a financial assistance to the Theological School of Halki. The monastery gives up the Filippoupolis dependency in order to assist the building of the Greek School. The Metropolitan of Drama, Chrysostom, thanks the monastery for its assistance in the establishment of the Agricultural School. The Patriarch Joacheim III thanks the monastery because it had relinquished the repayment of a loan by the National Fund and gifted the monies to the Theological School of Halki, in 1908. The amount was the huge sum of 5,000 Turkish Pounds. In 1912, the same Patriarch in a letter expresses his admiration for and gives the blessing of the Church to the monastery’s decision to construct the School of Languages in Constantinople, by gifting the sum of 2,500 Turkish Pounds.

As we have already mentioned at the beginning of our presentation, when the Vatopaidi monastery was operating as a coenobium during the Byzantine era, it offered many holy figures to the Church. For historical reasons during the Turkish occupation however, the monastery was operating under a different kind of monasticism, which was not conforming to the traditional type. Despite this, Vatopaidi contributed a great deal towards the Ecclesiastical life and the  education of the nation.

After the monastery became a coenobium once again in 1990, we wished to follow the tradition of our holy fathers in their way of monastic life and their contribution to society and education. Even though Athoniada is no longer directly under the auspices of the monastery, but of the Holy Community of the Holy Mountain, it is financially assisted by Vatopaidi. As a matter of appreciation, the permanent President of the School Committee is always a monk from Vatopaidi. Nowadays, we wish, as much as possible, to continue contributing to the upgrading of the School, so that it meets the current social, national and spiritual needs.

We pray that the conference tomorrow will launch a new, bright era for the Athoniada School.

Translated by Olga Konari Kokkinou from the Greek edition: Αρχιμ. Εφραίμ Βατοπαιδινού Καθηγουμένου Ι.Μ.Μ. Βατοπαιδίου, Αθωνικός Λόγος, Ιερά Μεγίστη Μονή Βατοπαιδίου, Άγιον Όρος 2010