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church has the features of a monastic building. The naos is triconch in plan,
covered with a dome. To the right and left of the east apse, two more semicircular
structures are attached. To the west of the naos there is the spacious narthex,
surrounded by an exterior peristyle along the three sides. At the east ends of
the north and south peristyle there are two chapels, each roofed with a dome.
Of the church's interior wall paintings very few fragments survive today, especially
in the narthex.
The church was the catholicon (main church) of a monastery, dated
to the 14th century A.D. The monastery was once thought to be the Nea Moni but
later it was identified as the Monastery of Akapnios, dedicated to Christ. The
church was converted into a mosque after 1430 and restored to Christian worship
after the liberation of the city in 1912. During the turkish occupation, practically
all the frescoes of the church were stripped away.
Excavations in the monument's precinct were carried out in the years
During the Turkish occupation, the monument was reinforced with colossal
buttresses, due to serious stability problems. Its present form is the result
of a series of restorations and interventions which were completed in 1961.
The monument today is used as a church.
Monastery of the Vlatades (or Vlatees)
Foundation, history and name of the Monastery.
In a letter of Patriarch Matthaios, from the year 1400, to the Metropolitan
of Thessaloniki, Gavriil, the Monastery is mentioned for the first time, under
the name of the Monastery of the Pantokrator (= Christ the Lord of All), and reference
is made to "Lord Dorotheos, who also indeed, established the monastery of
the Pantokrator in the beginning". Other sources also mention that the Monastery
is dedicated to Christ the Lord of All. The name which has predominated, however,
has the founders in the plural: "Vlatadon" or "Vlat(t)aion",
which means that there were at least two. In the oldest metropolitan document,
which is kept in the Monastery Archive (1488), it is termed the Monastery of the
Pantokrator of the Vlatadon or Vlataion. Besides, in manuscript no. 92 of the
Monastery, there is another reference, probably from the 14th century concerning
the venerable Monastery of the Pantokrator of the Vlatadon, while elsewhere in
the same document, it is called the Monastery of the "Vlataion".
There were, indeed, two priest-monks known at that time who bore the
name "Vlat(t)is", Dorotheos and Markos. They were friends and disciples
of Saint Gregory Palamas, whom they followed to Constantinople,
when he was called to appear before the synod which was to deal with the hesychast
controversy and his theological differences with Barlaam the Calabrian. Having
witnessed and shared the tribulations of Saint Gregory Palamas during the years
1341-1350, Dorotheos came with him to Thessaloniki and took up permanent residence
in the city. He later occupied the metropolitan throne of Thessaloniki (1371-1379).
Markos, who it seems was somewhat older, quickly left Constantinople
for the Holy Mountain, where
he lived as a monk at the Great
Lavra. He, too, then came to Thessaloniki to be with his brother, in 1351.
An inscription set into the wall above the lintel of the west door
to the Katholikon states that the Monastery was established "by the founders
Vlateon, men of Crete".
This inscription, however, is much later (1801) and there is no historical evidence
to support it, as regards the founders' birth place.
It should be taken as read that the Vlatades were born in Thessaloniki.
The Thessalonian patriarch Philotheos Kokkinos a childhood friend of the two brothers,
says of them: "Both Dorotheos and Markos, who were brothers of the same family
as well as being monks of rare worth, sprung from Thessaloniki the great, were
the best of friends with Philotheos from childhood, fellows in spirit and in asceticism".
The Monastery must have been founded immediately after the enthronement
of Saint Gregory Palamas, once the brothers had taken up residence in the town,
perhaps in 1351, or even a little later. It was dedicated to the Transfiguration
of the Savior, of which the light was for them, their teacher Saint Gregory and
the Hesychasts the centre of their theological thought and life.
To this day, the Monastery tradition commemorates empress Anna Paleologina
as founder, together with her husband Andronikos III, who had, of course, been
dead for some time. Once Anna had taken up residence in Thessaloniki, in 1351,
she remained there permanently as Governess until her death. A gate in the east
wall of the city, close to the acropolis, which was built by her, bears an inscription
with her name (1355). It was probably at this same time that construction work
on the Monastery was being carried out.
The Monastery is called royal because it was established by a grant
from Anna Paleologina and through a royal chrysobull, which has not survived,
but which must have been issued in 1354, in the name of the emperor Ioannes Kantakouzenos
and the empress Anna Paleologina, during the term as patriarch of Philotheos,
friend of the founder. It is also called patriarchal and stavropegic because a
patriarchal sigillium was issued for it, shortly afterwards, by the Ecumenical
Patriarch Neilos, and the cross was places there. Another form of name which was
used during the period of Turkish rule and is still used by many local people
even today is Cavus Monastir. The most likely explanation of this name is that
at some time a unit of Turkish troops was billeted there, with a cavus or sergeant
in command. When the Turks captured the city of Thessaloniki for the first time,
in 1387, they established a garrison in the acropolis, with a strong guard-post
outside the south wall on the flat platform of the premises, and to watch the
postern-gates which were in the walls at that point. The church was also taken
over and converted into a mosque to meet the needs of the soldiers. After the
second capture (1430), a guard-post must have been established there for the same
reasons. The commander of the post, a "cavus", gave his name to the
monastery. The grave of one of these commanders is to be seen in front of the
south door of the Katholikon.
Another tradition is of great interest. It maintains that a certain
guard commander damaged the church and the building installations a good number
of years after the fall of the city. After this, he became gravely ill. Then,
in a dream, he saw an elderly man who promised to cure him on condition that he
repaired the damage to the church. The commander did so and was cured. From then
on he was wont to go there to enjoy the view. He also did the Monastery a good
many kindnesses and because of this the monks buried his remains outside the Katholikon.
This extract is cited May 2003 from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople URL below.