Hilandar is first mentioned
in a Greek manuscript of 1015 as being "completely abandoned and
empty", for which reason it was given to the monastery of Kastamonitou. It
was certainly established a good hundred years earlier: a certain George
Chelandarios (Boatman), mentioned among important Athonites in 980, was
probably the founder of the monastery, which was subsequently called after him.
The monastery's name appears thus in Greek acts of the 11th and 12th centuries,
but later, in the first Serbian sources, it takes the form of Hilandar (D.
Anastasijevich). At that time the monastery was already dedicated to the
Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple (November 21). The last appearance of
the form Chelandar is in a Protaton act of 1169, the signatories of which
included abbot Gerasimus of Chelandar. After this, the monastery declined and
was abandoned, like many other small monasteries and kellia at Milees, as this
part of Athos was called in the Middle Ages. Up until that time, the area had
been prey to constant attacks by pirates and brigands of various kinds. The
ancient cell of Helandaris was donated by Emperor Alexios III Angelos
(1195–1203) "to the Serbs as an eternal gift..." and Stefan Nemanja
established and endowed the monastery in 1198 (before 13 February 1199).
Hilandar became one of the most important cultural and religious centres of the
In 1426 Gjon Kastrioti, an
Albanian lord, and his three sons (one of whom was Skanderbeg) donated the
right to the proceeds from taxes collected from the two villages of Rostuša and
Trebište (in Macedonia) and from the church of Saint Mary, which was in one of
them, to the Hilandar where his son Reposh retired and died on 25 July 1431: in
his honor the Tower of St. George of Hilandar was known as the "Albanian
tower" (Serbian: Arbanaški pirg). By the end of the 15h century according
to the Russian pilgrim Isaiah, the monasteries in the area were both Albanian
Ottoman and modern
The Byzantine Empire was
conquered in the 15th century by the newly established Ottoman Empire. The
Athonite monks tried to maintain good relations with the Ottoman sultans and
therefore when Murad II conquered Thessaloniki in 1430 they immediately pledged
allegiance to him. In return, Murad II recognized the monasteries' properties,
something which Mehmed II formally ratified after the fall of Constantinople in
1453. In this way the Athonite independence was somewhat guaranteed. Two
medieval Bulgarian royal charters, the Virgino Charter and the Oryahov Charter,
have been found in Hilandar's library, attesting to the allegiance.
The 15th and 16th centuries
were particularly peaceful for the Athonite community. This led to relative
prosperity for the monasteries. An example of this is the foundation of
Stavronikita monastery which completed the current number of Athonite
monasteries. According to author Georgi Gulabov-Roshavski of the history of
Zograf Monastery, following the conquest of the Serbian Despotate by the
Ottomans many Serbian monks came to Athos. The extensive presence of Serbian
monks is depicted in the numerous elections of Serbian monks to the office of
the protos during the era. In the 17th century the number of Serbian monks
dwindled, and the disastrous fire in 1722 saw a decline: in his account of
1745, Russian pilgrim Vasily Barsky wrote that Hilandar was headed by Bulgarian
monks. Ilarion Makariopolski, Sophronius of Vratsa and Matey Preobrazhenski had
all lived there, and it was in this monastery that Saint Paisius of Hilendar
began his revolutionary Slavonic-Bulgarian History. The monastery was
dominated by Bulgarians until 1902.
However, in 1913, Serbian
presence on Athos was quite big and the Athonite protos was the Serbian
representative of Hilandar.
In the 1970s, the Greek
government offered power grid installation to all of the monasteries on Mount
Athos. The Holy Council of Mount Athos refused, and since then every monastery
generates its own power, which is gained mostly from renewable energy sources.
During the 1980s, electrification of the monastery of Hilandar took place,
generating power mostly for lights and heating.
On March 4, 2004, there was
a devastating fire at the Hilandar monastery, with approximately 50% of the
walled complex destroyed in the blaze. The blaze damaged the northern half of
the walled complex, including the bakery. The library and the monastery's many
historic icons were saved or otherwise untouched by the fire. Vast
reconstruction efforts are underway, to restore Hilandar.