he Holy Monastery of Karakallou is 11th according to the hierarchical order of the 20 Monasteries on Mount Athos. Built upon a hilltop in the midst of a densely wooded forest and at only a short distance from the sea, the monastery is located in an isolated area of the northeastern coast of the Athonite peninsula between the Monasteries of Iviron and Great Lavra. It is also at walking distance of half an hour from the more inland Monastery of Philotheou.
Outwardly, the monastery is reminiscent of a small-fortified castle. The architecturally impressive and elegantly designed tower, equipped with a machicolation and bastions is considered to be one of the Holy Mountain’s most beautiful.
The monastery was consecrated in honor of the Leaders of the Apostles, Saints Peter and Paul, at the close of the 10th century or the dawn of the 11th, which is during the first 50 years of organized coenobitic life in Athos, a period that coincides with the presence of Saint Athanassios the Athonite and the founding of Great Lavra. The first presence of the monastery’s name in historical documents dates from 1018, referring to an already organized ruling monastery with clearly defined territorial boundaries. It is therefore almost certain that the monastery is already traversing its second millennium of history.
Uncertain, on the other hand, remains the derivation of the Monastery’s name, with the most plausible theory up to now being that which connects it with the surname of its founder.
The main church of the monastery was built during the 16th century. Apart from it, the monastery houses 12 other chapels, scattered within its walls and immediate surroundings (including one within the belfry and one within the tower).
Τhe most famous icon of the Monastery is the exquisite Embrace of the Apostles Peter and Paul, work of the iconographer Konstantinos Paleokapas from 1640, which miraculously survived a fire in the early 18th century.
Some of the more important treasures amongst the monastery’s rich collection of holy relics are a substantial piece of the honorable wood of the Holy Cross, the skull of the Apostle Bartholomew, the skull of Saint Christopher, the right hand of Great-martyr Saint Theodore the General and a piece of the right hand of Saint John the Baptist and Forerunner. The sacred repository also includes relics of the new monk-martyr Gedeon of Karakallou (†1818). The holdings of the monastic library include over 330 manuscripts and 3,000 incunabula.
Today, the Monastery’s brotherhood numbers around 50 monks.