The Holy Patriarchal and Crusader Monastery of the Megisti Lavra was founded in 963 by Saint Athanasios the Athonite, with the financial support of the emperors Nikephoros Phokas and John Tsimiskis.
During the ten centuries of its existence, the monastery always occupies the first place among the other monasteries of Mount Athos due to its wealth and the relics it possesses (manuscripts, historical documents, portable icons, etc.).
The greatness in the structure of the monastery is particularly noticeable in the size of its buildings. The Katholikon with the two large chapels of the Forty Martyrs and Saint Nicholas, is the center of the monastery. Inside the compound there is also the kitchen, the library, etc. In the four aisles, which surround the monastery, are smaller monasteries, the guest house, the chapels and others.
The monastery is inhabited by 50 monks who perform various tasks every day, depending on the needs of the monastery, because they host many visitors from all over the world.
The monastery remains open all year round from sunrise to sunset. During the winter months, it is extremely difficult to reach the monastery. Visitors wishing to study or photograph the monastery’s artwork must first contact the 10th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities, as well as the monastery itself.