Scholarship Winners

The Mount Athos Foundation of America is pleased to announce the winners of our Mount Athos Travel Scholarships. These scholarships provide up to $1,000 to support research projects related to Mount Athos. Applicants are required to be conducting research which is related to Mount Athos, which study requires travel either to Mount Athos, or to a dependency of one of the Athonite monasteries, or to one or more institutions such as museums or research institutes essential to the completion of the applicant’s research project.

2024 Winner

Vanessa R. de Obaldia, PhD: The Exhibition, Presentation & Publication of Unique Documents dating from the Ottoman Period from the Archives of Simonopetra Monastery.

Prof. de Obaldia holds a Doctorate in History from Aix-Marseille University in France.

Currently, she works as an affiliated scholar and Ottomanist for the European Research Council grant project titled Mount Athos in the Medieval Eastern Mediterranean Society (MAMEMS). Her job responsibilities include the creation a database of persons who lived during the Ottoman era on Mount Athos, using Ottoman archival sources.

The Professor is trained in Ottoman paleography, and she has undertaken research in the Ottoman state archives in Turkey, and in ecclesiastical and monastic Ottoman archival collections in Turkey, Greece and France.

MAFA is providing financial assistance to Prof. de Obaldia to cover her costs to carry out research at the Institute of Historical Research of the National Hellenic Research Foundation in Athens, the Simonopetra Monastery’ Metochion of the Ascension of the Lord, and at other research libraries, museums and institutions. This research will enable the successful realization of the Professor’s three primary objectives of the project: exhibition, a presentation and a publication.

2023 Winner

Nikoleta Tzani PhD: An Examination of Past Images of the Holy Mountain.

Prof. Tzani is an art historian by training. She works as a curator for the Municipality of Volos in Greece and as an adjunct professor of art history at the Democritus University on Thrace. Currently, she is in residence at Princeton University to embark on a new research project, which she describes as follows:

“This project seeks to examine the romantic, picturesque and oriental images that appeared in illustrated magazines, newspapers, and travelers’ account in the United States, France and Greece in the 20th century. It includes books and other written, photographic accounts, and other artworks by American, French, and Greek travelers [to the Holy Mountain]. Our project aims to analyze the choices of the works, monuments, and viewpoints of each author/artist.”

MAFA is providing financial assistance to Prof. Tzani to cover her travel costs from Greece to Princeton, New Jersey.

2022 Winners

Lee (Elias) Morest: The study of how Anthonite monk-priests prepare for and perform the daily services and sacraments, and the potential lessons which parish priests can learn.

As a third-year student at Hellenic College Holy Cross Seminary in Brookline, MA, Mr. Morest became interested in how a parish priest spiritually and functionally prepares himself for the day-to-day ministries, sacraments, and responsibilities. For guidance, Mr. Morest traveled to several monasteries on Mount Athos, to interview a number of elders and priest-monks. The Mount Athos Foundation of America provided financial assistance for his journey to the Holy Mountain.

Upon his return from the Holy Mountain in August 2022, Mr. Morest participated in the celebratory inauguration of the two-month exhibition, Mount Athos, the Ark of Orthodoxy, which was the result of the close collaboration between MAFA and the Mount Athos Center of Thessaloniki. The event was held on 9/13/2022 at the Maliotis Center at Holy Cross Seminary. To those in attendance at the event, Mr. Morest delivered an inspirational and moving account of his travels to the Holy Mountain, and related what lessons he learned from the elders and priest-monks there.

A former member of the United States Marine Corps, and a graduate of Gordon College. Mr. Morest is on track to receive his Master’s Degree in Divinity from the Holy Cross Seminary in 2024.

Justin Willson: Study of the Miraculous Three-Handed Mother of God Icon at Hilander Monastery, and the study of Word Labyrinths in Monastic Manuscripts.

Prof. Willson is preparing a book manuscript The Moods of Early Russian Art, which builds on his 2021 dissertation in the Department of Art & Archeology at Princeton University. With the financial assistance of MAFA, Professor Willson traveled to Hilander Monastery on Mount Athos, to examine the miracle-working icon known as the Three-Handed Mother of God, along with it metal covering (known as a revetment) and to discuss the icon’s powers, influence and history with the elders of the monastery.

At the Koutloumousiou Monastery on Mount Athos, Prof. Willson also conducted a study of grids of letters, commonly known as word labyrinths, which often appear at the beginning or ending of a manuscript codex. He endeavored to decipher messages which are often contained and encrypted in these word labyrinths.

Prof. Willson received his PhD from Princeton, where his a post-doctoral fellow.

2021 Winner

Kostis Smyrlis: On-site survey of the medieval estates of the Zographou Monastery.

The monasteries on Mount Athos, with their libraries and archives, preserve a time capsule of the history of Byzantium from the Middle Ages to the present. The editorial work of the Archives de l’Athos Archives de l’Athos (1937 to the present) is a central endeavor in the academic field to study and preserve the history of the Athonite monasteries. The scholars who perform this editorial work are based in the College de France in Paris. They study Athonite documents which are accessible through printed editions and photographic albums located in the respective libraries of the monasteries.

With the financial assistance of Mount Athos Foundation of American, Prof. Kostas Smyrlis and three other researchers have conducted a survey of the medieval estates of the Zographou Monastery on Mount Athos, through the on-site study of the monastery’s archival documents. His team expect that the publication of their study of Zographou’s landed holdings will further underline the strong historic and cultural bonds between the Holy Mountain and local communities in Chalkidike and Eastern Macedonia.

Professor Kostis Smyrlis holds degrees from the University of Athens, Birmingham University and Paris University. He currently works for the National Hellenic Research Foundation in Athens.

2020 Winners

Mr. Xavier Agati: On-Site study of manuscripts of a book written by 18th century historian, theologian and Mount Athos monk Caesarius Dapontes.

Mr. Xavier Agati, a scholar from Grenoble France, is working on his PhD dissertation at the Center of Byzantine & Neo-Hellenic Studies of the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Studies in Paris. The subject of his dissertation is an annotated and commentated edition of the Book of Reigns written by a fascinating 18th century historian, theologian and Xeropotamite monk Caesarius (Kaisarios) Dapontes. Mr. Agati will use the MAFA Travel Scholarship to fund his visits to several Holy Mountain monasteries where Mr. Dapontes lived and worked as a monastic in order to study the original manuscripts of the Book of Reigns and related materials. 

Mr. Ugo Mondini: The Transmission of John Mauropous’ Canons in Mount Athos. Manuscripts and Cultural Reception.

MAFA’s second 2020 scholarship was issued to Ugo Mondini, for a study of the canons written by the 11th-century poet and hymnographer, John Mauropous. His name, John the Monk (Ἰωάννης Μοναχός) occurs throughout the Orthodox liturgical books like the Menaia, as the composer of numerous hymns that are still sung today in the monasteries. Only a small group of the 160 canons that he wrote have been published. Ugo Mondini is particularly interested in questions related to the reception of his hymns, that is, how and why they replaced earlier hymns in the services, and what role the monasteries of Mount Athos played in preserving and promoting his hymns. The monasteries of Mount Athos are one of the most valuable repositories for manuscripts of his hymns, especially the Megisti Lavra, and direct study of the physical manuscripts is critical to understanding which of John’s canons were adopted for use within the Athonite monastic services and in what liturgical contexts they were sung. 

Ugo Mondini is a Ph.D. student in Byzantine Philology in the Department of Literary, Philological and Linguistic Studies at the Università Degli Studi di Milano 

2019 Winners

Vladimir Agrigoroaei: Conducting an Analysis of a Rare 13th Century Manuscript, which is located at the Iviron Monastery.

Mr. Agrigoroaei is performing an ongoing codilogical analysis of a rare manuscript containing the story of Barlaam and Josaphat in both Greek and Old French. The original manuscript contained only the Greek text accompanied by rich illustrations, painted in gold, but by the beginning of the 13th century, after the Fall of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade (1204), its margins received an Old French translation of the Greek text. The original manuscript is currently located at the Iviron Monastery on Mount Athos. Mr. Agrigoroaei has recently visited Iviron to inspect and study this rare document in person.

A native of Romania, Mr. Agrigoroaei holds two PhDs, as well as three other degrees from institutions in Romania, France, and Italy. Currently, he is a “chargé de recherche” – researcher at the Centre for Medieval Studies in Poitiers, France.

Vladimir Bozinovic: Researching the Sculptural Decorations of the Exonarthex of the Hilander Monastery’s Katholikon.

Mr. Bozinovic proposes an on-site study at the Serbian Orthodox Monastery on Mount Athos, known as Hilander Monastery, of sculptural decorations, which are located in the outer narthex (called the exonarthex) of the Monastery’s primary church (its Katholikon). His goal is to establish a better understanding of the history and stylistic influences of Katholikon’s architecture and sculptural decorations. Mr. Bozinovic, a native of Serbia, is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Art History at the University of Istanbul. He also holds two degrees from the University of Belgrade.

2018 Winners

Maximilian Ramseyer: The Teachings and Writings of Archimandrite George Kapsanis: Toward Develoment of an Educational Model.

An on-site study at Grigoriou Monastery of the writings of the Archimandrite George Kapsanis, late elder and abbot of Grigoriou, with the objective of developing a model for orthodox religious & spiritual education that will integrate theology, philosophy and science and spiritual growth. Mr. Ramsayer’s intention is to ground this model in the foundations of Orthodox Christian teaching and learning as preserved in Athonite monastic tradition, and in particular, in the writings of the Elder George of blessed memory, whose many works on Orthodox education reveal the depth of his thinking about the implications of theology for contemporary life. Mr. Ramsayer is currently a Ph.D. student in the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and he will be applying the above-mentioned research to his Ph.D. studies. He holds a BA from Duke University and his MA from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA.

Alexander Rodriguez Suarez: Bell Ringing in Mount Athos: Regulating the Life of the Monastic Community.

A study of the history of bell ringing on Mount Athos, incorporating an on-site study of the manufacture and acquisition of bells currently in use in the monasteries and sketes of Mount Athos. Having already completed a research project based on published materials about monastic bells and bell ringing and the production of bells in the Ottoman period, Mr. Suarez plans to document the bells of the Holy Mountain, creating a typology based on their shapes, decoration, and inscriptions. He aims – to the extent possible – to establish the bells’ provenance, and answer questions about monastic patronage and dedications of the bells and about the monasteries’ relationships with centers of bell production, in the Balkans and elsewhere.

Dr. Suarez is an independent scholar with degrees from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (B.A.) and King’s College, London (Ph.D.). He is currently a summer research fellow at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown, Washington D.C.