Great Lavra - Mount Athos
The Great Lavra is first in the hierarchy of monasteries and dedicated to the Dormition of hosios Athanasios, the wise monk and friend of the emperor Nikephoros II Phokas, who in A.D. 963 founded the first lavra (small group of hermits with a common superior and a central house of prayer) on Mount Athos at a site probably previously occupied by the ancient township of Akrothooi.
The monastery, a model of the cenobitic life and an example for those that followed, received generous gifts from Nikephoros II Phokas, his successor Ioannis Tzimiskes, and Basil II the Bulgar Slayer, and experienced moments of glory and grandeur down to the end of the l4th century. It was rescued from decline - the result of destructions and raids by pirates (15th-16th centuries) - by the patriarch Dionysios III (A.D. 1655), who gave his entire fortune to it. It was later rescued both by the Russian tzars and by the princes of the Danubian principalities. The great Cretan painter Theophanes and Frangos Katelanos both worked in the Great Lavra - the former in A.D.1535 and the latter in A.D.1560.