Karyes is the capital of the Holy Mountain of Athos. Historically it was a
separate form of monastic community. The Abbot of the Lavra of Karyes - the socalled
Mesi - held the title of the Protos ('First') of the 'Assembly of Elders'.
Karyes is the seat of the Holy Community of the Holy Mountain and of the Holy
Epistasia, as well as of the delegations of the twenty monasteries. It also has a
number of authorities and services, such as the civil governor's office, the police
station, the post office, the office of the Telecommunications Organisation of
Greece, and a doctor's surgery. The famous Athoniada school is also at Karyes.
One important aspect of the life of Karyes is the history of its market and its
workshops. At one time, the Karyes market was termed 'the Paris of Chalcidice'.
As early as the 10th century, Karyes was a market which did a considerable
amount of business. On a number of occasions, this caused disturbances in this
holy place and the issue had to be resolved by the intervention of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate. Under the Turkish rule, there is evidence of trading in a large
number of commodities. The 19th century could be described as the golden age
for the development and running of shops and establishments trading in a variety
of products by both monks and laymen. The disorder which resulted led to the
taking of various decisions restricting these practices by the Holy Community and
the Patriarchate, but without these being implemented in practice. The traditional
weekly open-air market and the annual trade fair on 15 August gradually declined
in importance and fell into abeyance.
Without doubt, the most important building in Karyes is the Church of the
Protaton - dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos - which is also the oldest
church on the Holy Mountain. In style, the church is a three-aisled basilica
without a dome, with the later addition of a side aisle. The history of its
architecture extends from the 10th to the mid 20th century - the date of its latest
restoration. Figures such as Magister Leon, brother of Nicephorus Phocas, and
Ioannes Iberas were benefactors of the Protaton and adorned it with many
treasures. After the fire of 1290, the wall-painting of the church was carried out
by the leading artist of the Macedonian School Manuel Panselenus, in the early
14th century. In the time of the Turkish occupation, various supplementary works
were undertaken. In 1781 the bell-tower was built on earlier foundations. With the
passage of time the building began to show evidence of dangerous damage,
which necessitated its restoration. This work was begun in 1955 and succeeded
in saving the famous wall-paintings, though not without creating certain
The icons of the Blessed Virgin known as 'Axion Estin' and of Christ
'Antiphonetes' are renowned throughout the Orthodox world.