Vlatadon Monastery
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Thessaloniki is one of ancient Greek cities with complex and wonderful history. People gave the city lots of epithets and affectionate names, as Thessaloniki opens its soul and gives its warmth for everyone who desires it. Every street here emits an odor of history and keeps centuries-long secrets, and the traveler’s sight now and then catches more and more of new places of interest. A great number of ancient and medieval churches survived in Thessaloniki, there is a functioning monastery as well, which is included into UNESCO World Heritage list.  

About the monastery 

In the northern part of Ano Poli — the historical district of Thessaloniki that is also called the Upper town, — the monastery Vlatadon is located. It was built as far back as in Byzantine period and remains to be in excellent condition. Located at an altitude of 130 m above the sea level, Vlatadon is visible from almost anywhere in Thessaloniki and lets visitors enjoy a wonderful scenery that opens from its surrounding area.   

According to a legend, it is a place where in year 51 Apostle Paul preached to the Thessalonians. In the monastery beautiful frescoes, which date back to the end of XIV century, are preserved. There is a museum with rare icons and manuscript of the X century, a Patriarchal Institute of patristic studies is working, and in the interesting church library, you can see some rare valuable manuscripts. 

Some historical facts

At the present location of Vlatadon in ancient times, quarries were situated, and later an early Christian temple was built. The monastery was founded by brothers Mark and Dorotheus Vlatady who were the followers of saint Gregory Palamas. The exact date of foundation is unknown — presumably, the main church was built in 1351. The financial support for building was provided by Empress Anna Paleologina who settled in Thessaloniki after her husband’s death. The monastery was dedicated to Christ Pantocrator, and nowadays — to Transfiguration of the Lord. 

During the first Turkish occupation in 1387, the Catholicon was turned into a mosque, and when the Ottomans came to power in 1430, the monastery got a permission to function as a monastic fund during the whole period of Ottoman rule. Vlatadon was declared to be a patriarchal and stavropegic, and possessed the patriarchal privileges throughout the history of its existence.   

The image of Christ Pantocrator as well as the images of angels crown the dome of the temple, the walls and wall arches show Christmas festive scenes and the scenes of Entrance into Jerusalem and Epiphany Day. During the restoration works that were carried out in the XX century, the wall images that date back to the XI century have shown up. This fact made it possible to suppose the earlier existence of the temple.     

Nowadays, Vlatadon is a friary, Orthodox stavropegic monastery belonging to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Its Father Superior is an outstanding metropolitan of Tirol and Serenthia Panteleimon Rodopoulos — a professor of Divinity school, former rector of the University of Aristotle in Thessaloniki and vice-president of the Patriarchal patristic research fund. In the guesthouse of the monastery foreign Orthodox students live. They study the holy science at the theological school of the University of Aristotle in Thessaloniki by bachelor’s and master’s programmes and at the seminars of the Greek language studies.

Vlatadon has the George the Victory-Bearer Metochion in Kalamaria and Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker Metochion in Galatista.  

Significant shrines

The holy relics of saint Athanasius the Great, saint Gregory the Theologian, saint Modestus, unmercenary healers Cosmas and Damian, great martyr James the Persian are kept in the monastery. 

The Vlatadon museum stores a collection of the XII-XIX centuries’ icons, ancient manuscripts, including a manuscript dating back to the X century, great number of early-printed books and portable icons.  

How to navigate

The appearance of the monastery complex that we can see nowadays differs from the one that had been built earlier. The cruciform catholicon is the only building, which survived since the foundation of the monastery. The reconstruction was carried out several times as the temple underwent changes during the Ottoman rule and because of devastating earthquake of 1978, which destroyed the major part of Thessaloniki. 

In the rear of the main church there is a grave of an old scholar of the Theological school of Halki — the late metropolitan of Iconio, His Holiness Jacob Stephanidis. Next to the southern gates of the monastery there is an old monastery made in Byzantine style and rebuilt in 1926 on the spot of former abbey. It was renovated in 1985. To the south-west of the catholicon, there is a chapel of the Dormition of the Theotokos, which was built in 1937.
On the territory of the monastery and to the right from the entrance, there is a bookshop, a guesthouse and a building of the museum. The buildings of the Patriarchal patristic research fund are located here as well (the administrative buildings, a library, studios and amphitheater).     


At the intersection of the Eptapirgio and Akropoleos Streets, to the south of the Thessaloniki northern wall and the great gates Portares the monastery Vlatadon is located. It is not difficult to get here from the center of the city. To do this you can walk at the Agias Sofias street to the fortress walls of Thessaloniki — this way will take about half an hour. Alternatively, you can take a bus No 22, 23 or 50 — the bus stop is right opposite the monastery.


Clothes and rules of conduct

Planning to visit Vlatadon monastery, the same as in case with other orthodox churches, it is necessary to wear a quite style of clothes that cover shoulders and knees — both for women and for men. In Greece, it is not accepted to cover the head while visiting temples, and it is not forbidden to enter the church in trousers as well. 

In order not to break the monastic state of life, it is not allowed to speak loudly, listen to music, take alcohol, smoke or litter while visiting the monastery. It is recommended to shut off the mobile phone before entering the church. If you come with children, pay their attention at the fact that they should not run or make noise in the temple and in the territory.

You can light the candles near the icons before the service begins, but if it has already started, it would be better to light the candles when it finishes.  

It is worth special attention

In the south-eastern aisle of the church there is a slab, standing on which Apostle Paul delivered his sermons to the inhabitants of Thessaloniki at the dawn of Christianity.

From the observation deck of the monastery’s surrounding area a magnificent view of Thessaloniki and Thermaikos bay opens up. The territory itself is not large, but it is well-kept and beautiful, with shadowy corners and wonderful flowers. Here also there are cages with peacocks, whom you can feed with bread or crackers prepared in advance. This activity is usually a great fun for children.

A visit to Vlatadon should be planned for the first half of the day, which will allow you to stroll along the streets of the old town, visit the monastery and walk along its territory until the strong heat comes. Besides, this time offers amazing view of the bay, and in clear weather, it is possible to watch the tops of legendary Olympus.