On a 50 meters high rock on the east coast of Mount Athos stands the Stavronikita monastery, imposing and alluring by the sea, dedicated to Saint Nicholas, who is greatly honored on Mount Athos.
There are several legends about its foundation and naming, none of which have been historically proven. One of them links the monastery’s name to its founders, Stavros and Nikitas and another one to Nikiforos Stauronikitas, the officer of the Byzantine emperor John Tzimiskes, who later became the abbot of the monastery. A document of 1012 confirms the existence of a monastic cell in place in the 10th century. Another document of 1153 refers to the Stavronikita Cell.
The Catholicon was built in 1527 and was painted in 1546 by the popular painter Theophanes of the Cretan school with frescoes, which are considered to be of the most admirable in Mount Athos. Thanks to the generous offer of Katakouzinos, a voivode of Wallachia, at the same period was built an imposing aqueduct, which facilitated the water supply for the monastery.
The generous funding of the Tsars of Russia in the first years of the 20th century offered remarkable support and hope to Stavronikita. Russian monks settled in the cells of the monastery and their offer to the regeneration of the monastic life has been substantial.
However, the situation in 1960 was again dramatic, as the only remaining was eleven elderly monks. But like by a miracle, in 1968, the renewed and invigorated brotherhood filled the monastery and decided to return to the strict coenobitic rules.
At the monastery, there are many important frescoes attributed also to the Cretan school. In the sacristy are kept holy relics, precious utensils and vestments, an embroidered in gold icon of Saint Nicholas, and many portable icons.
One of the most important jewels of the Catholicon is the mosaic icon of Saint Nicholas of the 14th century, which was concealed in the depth of the sea for centuries. One day, a few fishermen pulled it out and offered it to the monks. But in a slot of the saint’s face there was an oyster, which was considered to be a sign of the miraculous powers of the icon and so the icon was named Saint Nicholas the Oysterish. The oyster is maintained as a holy jewel, up to our days.