April 23, 2012

Saint George, Protector of Zographou and Xenophontos Monasteries

1. The Icon of Saint George in the Holy Monastery of Zographou on Mount Athos

In the year 919, three brothers — Moses, Aaron, and Vasilios — went to Mount Athos to become monks. They built three tents in a large valley near the river. They also built a small church near there, but were skeptical about what saint to name the church after. They prepared the board on which the icon of the patron saint of the church was to be painted, however, they did not paint the icon because they could not decide to which saint the church should be dedicated. When the monks went to the church the next morning, they found that an icon of Saint George had been painted on the board. The icon was painted in an ancient style. This miracle showed the brothers that God wanted their church dedicated to Saint George.

The institution which the brothers had established was named the Monastery of Zographou, or the Monastery of the Painter, because of the icon’s miraculous appearance.

The following is considered to be the history of this icon before its appearance in the Monastery of Zographou. This icon was originally in the Monastery of Phanouel, located in Lidan. From the time that Eustratios was the abbot of this monastery, the icon had performed many miracles. One day in the presence of the monks, the icon came off of the piece of wood on which it had been painted and disappeared from their sight. The monks were extremely saddened by this event and felt that God had forsaken them. Then, the Abbot Eustratios saw Saint George before him and the Saint told him not to weep for him for he was on Mount Athos. The abbot told the other brothers of his vision. Eustratios left the monastery, and after going to Jerusalem, he embarked on his journey to Mount Athos. After searching in many of the monasteries for the icon, he finally came upon the Monastery of Zographou. When he entered the church, he saw the icon hanging without anything supporting it. Eustratios remained at that monastery until his other brothers came to see the miracle.

That icon performed the following miracle. The Bishop Vothenon visited the monastery and began to question the events without faith. Pointing to the icon, he laughed and said, "Is this the miraculous icon?" He placed his finger on the icon and there it stuck. To this day, visitors to the monastery can still see the finger hanging on the icon.

2. The Miraculous Icon of Saint George Which Came by Sea From Arabia

This icon was found in the harbor of the Monastery of Vatopaidi. Later it was discovered that the icon had originally come from Arabia. The abbots of the different monasteries began to argue as to whom the icon belonged. They decided to place the icon on the back of a donkey. The donkey was left at the cross roads between Mount Athos and Salonika. It was agreed that whichever monastery the donkey went to could rightfully claim the icon. The donkey proceeded to the Monastery of Zographou. After the donkey arrived there, it died. The icon was placed on the left pillar of the church, opposite the other miraculous icon of Saint George.

3. The Third Icon of Saint George in the Monastery of Zographou

On the third pillar of the Church of Saint George of the Monastery of Zographou hangs a third icon of the Saint. This icon had belonged to the ruler of Moldavia (Romania), Stephen. Whenever he went into battle, Stephen would carry this icon with him. After capturing Constantinople, the Turks came to the land ruled by Stephen. He decided to fight the Turks inside the walls of the city. He saw a vision of Saint George which told him that the Saint would help him to be victorious. After the battle, Stephen took the icon to the Monastery of Zographou and gave a great deal of money for the purpose of beautifying this holy place.

4. The Miraculous Icon of Saint George in the Monastery of Xenophontos on Mount Athos

During the Iconoclast Period, several soldiers had taken an icon of Saint George and thrown it into a fire with other icons. When the fire had died, some bystanders saw that it had not consumed the icon of Saint George, but had damaged only a small portion of it. One soldier ran his sword into the face of the Saint. Blood emerged from this spot. The soldiers were so frightened that they ran. Some Iconodules who witnessed this miracle, took the icon to protect it from the soldiers in case they returned. They took it to the shore and placed it into the water. Then they prayed to the Saint to guide his icon to a place where it would continue to perform miracles. The icon landed at the Monastery of Xenophontos on Mount Athos. The blood stains and the burnt clothing of the Saint can still be seen on the icon.