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Athos Holy Mount

Athonite Paper Icons
4.1 Panorama of Mount Athos
Collection of Simonopetra Monastery
Dimensions of copperplates:
a: 68.7 x 54 cm, b: 68.7 x 54.2 cm


The Original New Testament

The east and west sides of the Mount Athos peninsula are shown here joined end to end, giving Athos the appearance of two steep-sided mountains in contact with each other.

A precipitous ravine runs down the western slope of Athos to the sea. On the flanks of the mountain and on the coast, nestling among dense clumps of trees or perched on rocky promontories, are the fortified complexes of the twenty monasteries, drawn with scant regard to accuracy but in roughly their correct locations. Also shown are the Protaton, the principal sketae and the arsenal towers with their cannons firing. Monks can be seen moving between the monasteries by mule and on foot, a religious procession descends from the Monastery of Vatopedi and just below this two monks drawn on a larger scale hold the icon of the Panagia Vatopedini or Esphagmeni (the Wounded Virgin), the Virgin being depicted holding the infant Christ on her right arm rather than on the more usual left. The ridges of the peninsula are crowned by long rows of trees. Boats with monks, and also larger ships, sail on the sea, and two imaginary sea-monsters are shown.

The sky is filled with several miniature scenes, on the left the host of All Saints, next Christ Pantokrator and the Annunciation to the Virgin, surrounded respectively by twelve smaller icons of venerated saints from the Athonite monasteries and sketae, and on the right a rectangular frame with the inscription: 'Lines to the icon of the Mother of God that was injured in the cheek, from which blood flowed'.

The work is titled 'Theatron Sancti Montis Athonos' (Panorama of the Holy Mountain of Athos). 'The divinely protected Mount Athos of most holy name with all the holy and celebrated monasteries therein on the east and west coasts, engraved and printed to be seen by devout Orthodox Christians for their benefit and devotion, 1713'.

The lower part carries two texts from the Proskynetarion for the Holy Mountain of Athos by the philosopher-physician Ioannis Komnenos (Monastery of Synagovou, 1701), in Greek and Slavonic, and a list of Athonite monasteries in Greek. At both lower corners are short prayers to the saints and the Virgin, with spaces for the names of the pilgrims or donors.

This exceptionally fine and painstaking engraving by an experienced hand uses western iconographic elements and exploits the rich tradition of engraving in the West in the immediately preceding centuries, thus giving a Renaissance feel to the representation of the Athonite landscape.

The first attempts to engrave panoramic views of Mount Athos were made in the sixteenth century. The present work is one of the three earliest original engravings of this most popular Athonite subject,which was represented at least fourteen times during the eighteenth and ninteenth centuries. There is a clear connection between the Vatopedi engraving and that by Alessandro della Via (Venice, early 18th c.), which can be characterised as the Iviron engraving (Papastratou 1986, no. 420). Komnenos' Proskynetarion was published earlier (1701, 1708) and contains an engraving on which these two were modelled.

Bibliography: Tavlakis 1996, pp. 549-50 and fig. on pp. 18-19.

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