The first monastery one sees on Mount Athos, when travelling from the port of Daphne to the capital Karyes, is Xiropotamou monastery, one of the oldest in the monastic state, dedicated to the Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste.
The establishment of the monastery took place at the end of the 10th century by the monk Saint Paul, who was a contemporary of St. Athanasius the Athonite.
In 1280, when almost all the buildings of the monastery caught fire, emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus (1282-1328) provided funding for its reconstruction and offered major donations to the monastery. In the 14th and 15th century, too, the kings of Serbia offered enormous amounts of money to the monastery.
During the Turkish invasion, in 1507, another fire broke out. The dreadful catastrophe caused was overcome thanks to financial aid provided by sultan Selim I after a miraculous appearance of forty warriors in a vision, which the sultan attributed to the Forty Holy Martyrs, protectors of the monastery.
In the 18th century, monumental was the offer of Caesarian Daponte, who before becoming a monk in the monastery, was an ambassador of the Phanariote rulers of Moldova. The Greek poet Caesarian Daponte from Skopelos was a brilliant personality of his time. In his many voyages, he managed and collected significant amounts in favor of the monastery of Xiropotamou. Daponte’s method for the collection of money, with a procession of sacred relics and displaying pieces of the Holy Wood for veneration during his voyages, was imitated by others later on.
The frescoes of the Catholicon, which was constructed around 1761-1763 with Daponte’s help, were painted in 1783 by the holy painters Constantine, Athanasios and Naoum from Koritsa.
In the monastery’s sacristy is kept the biggest piece of the Holy Wood to be found, on which a hole from a nail is visible. It is the biggest part of the Holy Wood existing in the whole world with a length of 31 cm, width of 16 and thickness of 25 cm. Most of the buildings at the neighboring port of Daphne belong to Xiropotamou. The monastery celebrates on March 9, the feast of the Forty Holy Martyrs.