Catalonia pays for Athos fix-up

Exactly 700 years after a band of Catalan mercenaries rampaged through Mount Athos, a ceremony was held yesterday at one of the holy site’s monasteries to mark a major restoration project which was funded by the local government in Catalonia. The Vatopedi monastery held a low-key ceremony to mark the end of two years of restoration work which, according to some reports, cost more than 200,000 euros. The money was put up by the Catalan administration as a goodwill gesture after it became aware that mercenaries known as Almogavers had ransacked one the holiest sites in Christian Orthodoxy in 1305, the monastery’s Father Arsenios told Kathimerini. The Almogavers had been hired by the Byzantine Empire to help in the fight against the Ottoman Turks. They fell out with their paymasters when their leader was thought to have been assassinated by killers hired by the Byzantine rulers. Thousands of Byzantine documents and icons are housed in the monastery’s vestry, which was the focus of the restoration work and which will be turned into a museum.