The Panagiaria of Vatopedi Monastery, Mount Athos (14th–16th centuries)
The Panagiaria of Vatopedi Monastery, Mount Athos (14th–16th centuries)

By Dimitris Liakos | Ministry of Culture and Sports / Ephorate of Antiquities of Chalkidiki and Mount Athos


Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos preserves twenty-two panagiaria dated between the 14th and the 19th centuries. The artworks presented here range from the 14th until to the 16th century, and are made out of wood, bone, and metal. They carry painted, relief, incised, or enameled decorations, and they consist either of a single or a double disc icon connected or unconnected. Some smaller panagiaria-pendants (enkolpia) are also included, but in a second type.

The oldest panagiarion was carved in Serbia in the second half of the 14th century or in the early 15th century. It is of particular interest because an older pendant dated to the 12th century was embedded in its design. Three panagiaria dated to the 15th and 16th centuries come from workshops active in Russia (Novgorod) and in the northern Balkans. Another one is both painted and carved and, as it has been shown, was created on Mount Athos in the 16th century by a monk craftsman or by two cooperating monks, a painter and a woodcarver.

Only two artifacts bear dedicatory inscriptions: the first one was donated in 1510–11 by the Great Komisos Neagoe, future ruler of Wallachia, Prince Neagoe Basarab (r. 1512–21); the second was a gift of Stefan and Helen, both Orthodox Greeks, probably active in the region of the Danubian Principalities during the second half of the 16th century.

The most common representations on panagiaria are the Theotokos Blachernitissa, the Hospitality of Abraham, the Crucifixion, as well as the Hierarchs Nicholas, Gregory, and Basil. Neagoe’s panagiarion, in which in addition to the usual representation of the Blachernitissa the scenes of the Ascension, Annunciation, Deësis and other sacred figures are also depicted, reflects a common artistic trend among the workshops of the Danubian Principalities, namely the preference for a rather rich iconography in the double panagiaria.


A panagiarion is a small liturgical object, a dish, either single- or double-sided, decorated with the Theotokos Blachernitissa surrounded in many cases by other scenes, saints, evangelists, etc. A panagiarion is intended to carry the loaf of bread offered to the Theotokos during the ceremony of the Elevation of the Panagia, which takes place after the meal in the monastic refectories or in the course of the Orthros service.

The portable nature of panagiaria and mainly their inscriptions allow us to learn more about their patronage. The oldest object, which comes from Serbia and dates to the second half of the 14th century or the early 15th century, could have been donated by a Serbian ruler or a dignitary from the Serbian court. It is known that Vatopedi had close relations with Serbia in this period, and Serbian rulers extended their patronage to Vatopedi, which is evident through monetary donations, gifts, etc.

The panagiaria produced in workshops active in the northern Balkans, the Danubian Principalities, and Russia – regions that fostered firm connections to Vatopedi already from the 15th century onward – could be considered as gifts either by the local wealthy population or by traveller-monks. The latter, according to the written sources, upon their return from the dependencies (metochia) to their monasteries, used to bring with them liturgical objects. The mentioned donors Stefan and Helen could have been members of a family with commercial activities in the Danubian Principalities during the second half of the 16th century, a fact well attested by other artifacts endowed by individuals to Mount Athos. It is noteworthy that these objects bear Cyrillic and Greek inscriptions: the religious scenes are inscribed either in Greek or Cyrillic, yet the dedicatory inscriptions are written in Greek, namely in the donor’s native language.

With regard to the way that the panagiaria presented here were acquired by Vatopedi, the following is a possibility: some of them probably belonged to the monastery’s dependencies in the Balkans and in Russia, from where they arrived later (at an uncertain time), since those churches or monasteries were abandoned or ceased to exist for several reasons.

Finally, the painted and carved wooden panagiarion belongs to a rather rare type, as far as I am aware. However, it can be added to the early production of the minor-scale wood carved artworks created by Athonite monks already in the 16th century. This object could have been donated to the monastery by the craftsman himself (or by collaborating craftsmen, a painter and a woodcarver). However, it is also possible that it was donated by a commissioner, layman or monk, who did not have the resources to order it from abroad.

Further Reading

Liakos, Dimitris. “Παρατηρήσεις σε παναγιάρια της μονής Βατοπεδίου (14ος–16ος αι.).” Δελτίον της Χριστιανικής Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας 39 (2018): 427–438.

The article deals with five panagiaria kept in the treasury at Vatopedi Monastery. The four already published are re-examined, and the one hitherto unknown is presented. New observations concerning the style, dating, as well as their origins and patrons are discussed.

Εγκόλπια: Ιερά Μεγίστη Μονή Βατοπαιδίου. Mount Athos: I.M.M. Vatopaidiou, 2000.

This valuable publication contains the unique collection of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine enkolpia kept at Vatopedi Monastery. Among these, there are several panagiaria-enkolpia dated to the Post-Byzantine era.

Karakatsanis, Athanasios A., ed.  Θησαυροί του Αγίου Όρους [Treasures of Mount Athos]. Exhibition Catalogue. Thessaloniki: Holy Community of Mount Athos, 1997.

A catalogue of the unique exhibition of the Treasures of Mount Athos (icons, manuscripts, minor arts, etc.) held in Thessaloniki, Cultural Capital of Europe in 1997. Some very important Byzantine panagiaria from the Athonite monasteries of Xeropotamou and Hilandar are presented (pp. 329–331, 339, ns. 9.8, 9.9, 9.17 by K. Loverdou-Tsigarida)

Le Mont Athos et l’ Empire byzantin: Trésores de la Saint Montagne. Exhibition Catalogue. Paris: Paris-Musées, 2009.

A catalogue of the exhibition of the most eminent Byzantine artworks kept in the sacristies of several Athonite monasteries. The oldest panagiarion kept at Vatopedi was first presented in this context (p. 242, n. 128 by I. Tavlakis).

Milikovic, Bojan. ‘‘The Serbian Panagiarion from Vatopedi.’’ Zbornik Radova Vizantoloskog Instituta 49 (2021): 355–364.

This article discusses the oldest panagiarion kept at Vatopedi, with significant documentation about its style and origin.

Piatnitsky, Yuri. “The Panagiarion of Alexios Komnenos Angelos and Middle Byzantine Painting.” In Perceptions of Byzantium and its Neighbors (843-1261), edited by Olenka Z. Pevny, 40–55. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

This study re-examines the known but lost panagiarion from the Monastery of St. Panteleimon.

This contribution was sponsored by the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture at Hellenic College Holy Cross.


Dimitris Liakos, "The Panagiaria of Vatopedi Monastery, Mount Athos (14th–16th centuries)," Mapping Eastern Europe, eds. M. A. Rossi and A. I. Sullivan, accessed June 3, 2023,