Catalans on Mount Athos: The 14th century looting, the apology and the restoration of a monument

Catalan Mount Athos

With 260,000 euros, the Catalans helped restore the unique vault of the Vatopedi Monastery as an apology for the raid and destruction in the 14th century by their mercenary compatriots in Mount Athos.

Now, Catalan MPs and bodies are coming to Mount Athos and the surrounding region.

On May 26, a large delegation of MPs and other representatives of Catalonia will visit Mount Athos and the Vatopedi Monastery.

The reasons for the Catalan visit date back to previous centuries.

In the 14th century, mercenaries of the Catalan Company, who had been hired by the Byzantine emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos, ended up looting Mount Athos.

It is also recalled that in the early 90's, the troubadour José Torres was expelled from a monastery in the Athonite State too, but let's take the things from the beginning!

At the beginning of the 14th century, the emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos was defeated by the Ottomans.

He then asked for the help of the Catalan mercenaries, with their leader Roviro de Flor asking for a huge sum.

The emperor agreed to pay, but in 1305 de Flor was assassinated in Edirne. Then, the mercenaries started an uncontrollable course and reached Mount Athos, which they looted!

The expulsion of a Catalan from Mount Athos

In the early 1990s, the architect Faidonas Hatziantoniou, who worked for 39 years on restorations inside Mount Athos, arranged for his very good friend, a lover of Greece, José Torres, a trip to Mount Athos but without accompanying him.

The trip of the Catalan troubadour was completed and after a while Hatziantoniou, visiting Barcelona, ​​met with Torres.

"I had organised his trip to Mount Athos and I had written down some names of monk friends. It was a journey of a lifetime for him since he is a lover of Greece," Hatziantoniou said.

"He went on this trip and later, when I visited Barcelona we met and he told me that there was an issue to discuss with the Government of Catalonia, and in particular with the then Secretary General of the Government, the writer and historian Carles Duarte.

"They revealed to me that they had expelled José from a monastery on Mount Athos when they learned that he was Catalan, telling him 'the Catalans have no place here and not to come back.'

"He was very impressed and he sought to find out what had happened. He discovered the Catalan mercenary invasion of Mount Athos in the early 14th century.

"At that time, the Catalan mercenaries had stayed on Mount Athos for about a year and a half, had done great damage and then left.

"But this had remained in the collective consciousness of the people of Mount Athos."

The donation of 260,000 euros 

Then Torres and Duarte suggested something unique to the Thessaloniki architect.

"I was told that in the context of the European Union, the Catalan people and their government would like to offer the restoration of a monument on Mount Athos, in order to erase this mark from their history," Hatziantoniou said.

"They asked me where they could go and I suggested various monasteries and finally the monastery of Vatopedi was chosen.

"The Catalans offered about 260,000 euros to restore the old sacristy of Vatopedi which is a very important building for Vatopedi.

"Inside the sacristy there are important relics kept since the Middle Ages, gifts of emperors and patriarchs to the monastery, but also a rich collection of gifts of John Katakouzinos."

This building is very rarely opened, in fact, it was last opened... in the early 1950's!

"The Catalan movement highlights the friendship of the two peoples"

The Catalan donation was a key factor in the restoration of the monastery's sacristy, which was completed in 2006.

Outside the historic building there is a plaque commemorating the donation.

The bilingual, Greek / Catalan, marble donor inscription at the base of the staircase that leads to the floor of the building where the Sacristy is housed in the Vatopedi Monastery. © Photo: Faidon Chatziantoniou.

The mayor of the local area, Stelios Valianos, decided to open his beautiful tourist area to Spain while visiting the country, and of course he did not forget the historic "apology" of the Catalans for the looting of Mount Athos.

He described their move to pay compensation after hundreds of years as "significant because some of their ancestors destroyed part of the Mount Athos heritage" and said it was "a wealth of friendship between the two peoples".

"In fact, on May 26, 2022, it is scheduled that a group of parliamentary representatives and mayors from Catalonia will visit the region. Unfortunately, the mayor of Barcelona, ​​who as a woman is not allowed to enter Mount Athos, cannot come," said Valianos.

He added that the Catalan visit is expected to have an official tone with the participation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

READ MORE: Greeks In The Spanish Civil War.