Saint Nicodemus of Vatopedi, elder and teacher of Saint Gregory Palamas

11 July 2014

There is no doubt that, in the 14th century, the Vatopaidi Monastery attracted major figures to settle there from the larger cities of the Byzantine Empire. This seems to have been due not only to the fact that the Monastery was at that period one of the most famous on Athos, but was also one of the main centres of Hesychasm on the Holy Mountain. For this reason, figures such as Saint Sabbas the Younger, Saint Nicodemus the elder and teacher of Saint Gregory Palamas, Saint Gregory Palamas himself, and Saint Philotheus Coccinus – all fervent champions of the Hesychast experience and theology – chose for the place to practise their asceticism either the Monastery itself or one of its kellia nearby.

nikodimos-isichastis INSaint Nicodemus, whose name in the world was Nicephorus, lived as an ascetic in a kelli near the Vatopaidi Monastery in the early 14th century. We learn about his personality from an encomium delivered by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Saint Philotheus Coccinus, in honour of Saint Gregory Palamas. According to Patriarch Philotheus, Saint Nicodemus, “a man admirable in his practice and theory”, lived the monastic life to begin with at the mount of Auxentius near Chalcedon, which had been a famous centre of monasticism as early as the 5th century. Later, obviously because of Turkish raids, he took refuge on the Holy Mountain, where he settled near Vatopaidi. There he met Saint Gregory Palamas, who, impressed by his virtue, became his disciple and lived with him “in fasting and vigil and sobriety and prayer without ceasing” for three years (1319-1322), that is until the death of Nicodemus. Saint Nicodemus must certainly have had a profound influence on Saint Gregory Palamas, but the information which has come down to us is not sufficient to determine its extent.

The feast day of St Nicodemus is on 11 July.