The archives of the monasteries on Mount Athos constitute the largest new documentary deposit for the mediaeval and modern history of the Romanian Principalities outside the Romanian borders. The Romanian documentary funds of the 20 large monasteries (in Slavonian, Greek, Russian, French, Romanian, and in Romanian with Cyrillic characters) were founded in the 15th–19th centuries, both on Mount Athos, and in the subordinated monasteries within the country. From here, the documents were taken after the secularization of monasteries’ fortunes (1863) to the Holy Mountain. Only a small part could be used in the Romanian historiography, kept in copies in the Romanian National Archives. Then, a small part was made public thanks to the efforts of certain Romanian and foreign historians before World War I and in the interwar period. After World War II, because of the political system in Romania, it became very difficult to study the relations between the Romanian Principalities and Mount Athos. Nonetheless, this important issue of the Romanian and European historiography caught the attention of important Romanian historians and of several foreign specialists.
A crucial event for the knowledge of the relations between the Romanian Principalities and Mount Athos was the opening of the archives within the monasteries of the Holy Mountain, starting with the ninth decade of the 20th century, thanks to the efforts of the Romanian researchers in exile – Dumitru Nastase and Florin Marinescu. After 1990, Florin Marinescu elaborated five volumes with abstracts in Greek of the documents in the archives of five monasteries. The project leader contributed to two of them. There are also three other volumes in Romanian (one with full documents and two with abstracts), edited by Petronel Zahariuc and Florin Marinescu.
From the scientific perspective, the research of the Romanian archives on Mount Athos is highly important, being one of the few sources that could actually bring new information on the Romanians’ history. By publishing the documents within a new Romanian archive on Mount Athos (archive of the Simonopetra Monastery), many field of the Romanian history will be enriched. These documents will be used to elaborate original studies, for a better knowledge of an important chapter in the Romanians’ history – the relations with Mount Athos. This chapter of the Romanians’ history contributes to determining the Romanians’ role and place in the culture of European East and to revealing the cultural relations with the other Orthodox peoples. From a socio–economic perspective, researching the relations between the Romanians and this centre of the Orthodoxy will contribute to better understanding the economic rapports between the Romanian Principalities and Mount Athos (with larger connections in the Levantine and Turkish world). It will also contribute to the development of contemporary pilgrimage (Routes of faith in the Medieval Mediterranean. History, Monuments, People, Pilgrimage Perspectives, Thessaloniki, 2008) and of other activities related to cultural tourism (in this sense, see Dan C. Mihăilescu, Oare chiar m–am întors de la Athos?, Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 2011).
Because it was very difficult to access the archives and libraries on Mount Athos (it began only 30 years ago), a long–term scientific work is required in order to publish the huge documentary material discovered and to do a historical interpretation on the information within. In order to process and publish the documents within the archives on Mount Athos (in the Simonopetra Monastery, in this case), solid knowledge of Slavonian, Greek, and Romanian–Cyrillic palaeography is required, as well as a vast experience in valorising these documents, to integrate them in the bigger picture of the Romanians’ history.
To better understand the novelty of these scientific investigations, one may follow the information boom after 1986, when P. Ş. Nasturel published the solid monograph entitled Le Mont Athos et les Roumains. Recherches sur leurs relations du milieu du XIVe siècle à 1654, Rome, 1986. One may also consult the volumes of historical sources edited by Virgil Cândea, Marturii romanesti peste hotare. Mica enciclopedie, vol. I–II, Encyclopaedic Publishing House, Bucharest, 1991–1998. At the beginning of the third millennium, two researchers in Romania and the Republic of Moldova became interested in studying this issue, but they use only scarcely the Athonite archives (Ioan Moldoveanu, Contributii la istoria relatiilor dintre Tarile Romane si Muntele Athos. In intimpinarea a 1040 de ani de la fondarea Muntelui Athos (963–2003), Bucharest, 2002; A. Zubco, Biserica din Tara Romaneasca şi Moldova in secolele XIV–XVII. Relatiile cu Muntele Athos, Chisinau, 2001).
By publishing the Romanian documentary treasure on Mount Athos and by using these documents to write history, the Romanian historical research will be more poignant in the international historical bibliography concerning the role and place of Mount Athos in the history of the Orthodox Church and of Europe in general. Up to the beginning of the 90s, the Romanian historiography was present in the general bibliography on this issue mainly with the contributions of the historians before World War II (Irénée Doens, Bibliographie de la Sainte Montagne de l’Athos, Athonite Library, Mount Athos, 2001, second edition; Le Millénaire du Mont Athos 963–1963. Étude et mélanges, I–II, Venice, Giorgio Cini Foundation, Éditions de Chevetogne, 1963–1964). After this date, by starting to publish the Romanian archives within the monasteries on Mount Athos, the Romanian contributions grew in number and importance, a thing that reflected both in the general bibliography on Mount Athos (Bibliography, in Treasures of Mount Athos, B’ Edition, Thessaloniki, 1997, p. 672–695), and in the monographs regarding each monastery separately (The Holy and Great Monastery of Vatopaidi. Tradition – History – Art, vol. I–II, Mount Athos, 1998; The Treasury of the Protaton, vol. I, Mount Athos, 2001; Cyril Pavlikianov, The Athonite Monastery of Simonopetra in the Early 19th Century – the Archive Evidence, in “Études Balkaniques”, no. 3, 2002, p. 10–70; Aleksandar Fotić, Света Гора и Хиландар у Османском царству (XV–XVII век), Belgrade, 2000). At the same time, publishing the volumes of Romanian documents on Mount Athos, in Greek and Romanian, contributed to completing the knowledge of this priceless documentary treasure, whose scientific publication began in the interwar period, with the series “L’Archives de l’Athos” or “Άθωνικά Συμμεικτα”. The focus was on the documents since the times of the Byzantine Empire or of the Greek Renaissance of the 18th–19th centuries (Actes de Lavra, editors P. Lemerle, A. Guillou, N. Svoronos, D. Papachryssanthou, vol. I–IV, Paris, 1970–1982; Actes de Xéropotamou, editor Jacques Bompaire, Paris, 1964; Actes du Prôtaton, editor Denise Papachryssanthou, Paris, 1975; Actés d’Iviron. I. Des origines au milieu du XI siècle, editors Jacques Lefort, Nicolas Oikonomidès, Denise Papachryssanthou, with the collaboration of Hélène Métrévéli, Paris, 1985, etc.; K. Chrysoschoidis, P. Gounaridis, Ίερά Μονή Καρακάλλου. Κατάλογος του αρχείου, “Άθωνικά Συμμεικτα”, 1, 1981, p. 7–104;. D. Vamvakas, Ίερά Μονή Σίμονος Пέτρας. Κατάλογος του αρχείου, “Άθωνικά Συμμεικτα”, 1, 985, p. 105–153; K. Chrysoschoidis, Ίερά Μονή Άγίου Παυλου. Κατάλογος του αρχείου, “Άθωνικά Συμμεικτα”, 4, 1981, p. 251–300; N. Oikonomidès, Ίερά Μονή Δοχειαριου. Καταλογος του αρχείου, in “Συμμεικτα”, 3, 1979, p. 197–263, etc.). Moreover, in the last decades, several foreign researchers have studied the issues of the relations between the Romanian Principalities and Mount Athos: Boško Bojović, Chilandar el les Pays Roumains (XVe–XVIe siècles). Les actes des princes roumains des archives de Chilandar (Mont Athos), Paris, 2010; Mirjana M. Mašnić, The Icon of the Holy Virgin Vatopedini with a Portrait of voevoda Ioan Radul, in “Zbornik radova Vizantoloşkog Instituta”, XL, 2003, p. 313–314; A. Xyngopoulos, Un edifice du voivode Etienne le Grand au Mont Athos, in “Balkan Studies”, 11, 1970; Michael E. Martin, Some Western Images of Athos in Early Modern Times, c. 1554–1678, in “Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies”, vol. 22, 1998, p. 51–74; Michael Ursinus, Holy Mountain and Supreme Council: Mount Athos at the Beginning of a New Era, in “Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies”, 13, 1989, p. 258–285; Eugenia Kermeli, Central administration versus provincial arbitrary governance: Patmos and Mount Athos monasteries in the 16th century, in “Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies”, 32, no. 2, 2008, p. 189–202; M. Jivojinović, The Trade of Mount Athos Monasteries, in “Zbornik radova Vizantoloşkog Instituta”, XXIX–XXX, 1991, p. 101–116; Charalampos K. Papastathis, Savremeni pravni status Svete Gore (The Modern Legal Status of the Mount Athos), in “Zbornik radova Vizantoloşkog Instituta”, XLI, 2004, p. 525–57; Katia Tchérémissinoff, Les Archives Slaves Médiévales du Monastère de Zographou au Mont Athos, în “Byzantinische Zeitschrift”, 76, 1, 1983, p. 15–24; Bepa Георгиевна Ченцова, Икона Иверской Богоматери (Очерки историй греческой церкви с Россией в середине XVII в. По документам РГАДА), Москва, 2010; Eadem, Dionysios Iviritis et les pourparlers entre la Moldavie et la Russie en 1656, in Inchinare lui Petre S. Nasturel la 80 de ani, volume edited by Ionel Cândea, Paul Cernovodeanu, and Gheorghe Lazăr, Brăila, 2003, p. 581–603; Nicolaos A. Mertzimekis, Poalele de icoană inscripţionate ale hatmanului moldovean Necula Racoviţă aflate la mănăstirea atonită Zografu, in “Tabor”, year V, no. 2, 2011, p. 70–77; Idem, Peri ton ktitoron tou purgou tou arsana thV agioreitikhV monhV Zografou, in “Byzantina”, 20, 1999; Ivan Alexandrov Biliarsky, Un manuscrit slave du temps de Jean Mihnea voda se trouvant au monastère hagiorite d’Iviron, in “Bulletin de l’Association des Etudes du Sud–Est Européen”, 26–27, 1996–1997. The Romanian researchers – in the country and abroad – showed their preoccupation for this subject. This way, besides the abovementioned names (Florin Marinescu, Petre Ş. Năsturel, Dumitru Nastase, N. Beldiceanu, Ioan Moldoveanu, Virgil Cândea, Angela Zubco), the following researchers brought their contributions to this field: Ştefan S. Gorovei, Un document fără pecete şi o pecete fără document, in In honorem Paul Cernovodeanu, ed. Violeta Barbu, Bucharest, 1998, p. 96–102; Radu G. Păun, La Valachie et le monastère de Chilandar au Mont Athos. Nouveaux témoignages (XVe–XVIe siècles), in “Medieval and Early Modern Studies for Central and Eastern Europe”, II (2010), p. 123–184; Dan Ioan Mureşan, Zographou et la transmission de l’idée impériale bulgare en Moldavie, in “Bulgaria Mediaevalis”, 2, 2011, p. 705–755; Radu Constantinescu, Manuscrise de origine românească din colecţii străine. Repertoriu, Bucharest, 1986; Vlad Mischevca, Ştefan cel Mare şi Muntele Athos. Contribuţii, în Ştefan cel Mare la cinci secole de la moartea sa, ed. Petronel Zahariuc, Silviu Vacaru, Iaşi, 2003, p. 317–335 (in collaboration with Florin Marinescu); Daniel Barbu, Manuscrise bizantine în colecţiile din Romania, Bucharest, 1984; Emanoil Băbuş, Ioan Moldoveanu, Adrian Marinescu (eds.), The Romanian Principalities and the Holy Places along the centuries, Bucharest, 2007; Veniamin Micle, Manuscrisele româneşti de la Prodromul, Muntele Athos, Holy Monastery of Bistriţa, 1999; Voica Maria Puşcaşu, Actul de ctitorie ca fenomen istoric în Ţara Românească şi Moldova până la sfârşitul secolului al XVIII-lea, Bucharest, 2001; Lydia Cotovanu, Caritone di Koutloumousiou e la presenza romena sul Monte Athos nel XIVo secolo, in Atanasio e il monachesimo al Monte Athos. Acts of the 12th International Ecumenical Council of Orthodox Spirituality, Byzantine session, 12–14 September 2004, editors S. Chialà, Lisa Cremaschi, Magnano, 2005, pp. 153–180; Florin Marinescu, Vlad Mischevca, Mitropolitul Grigore Irinupoleos (1764–1846). Documente greceşti şi româneşti, Athens, 2011, 167 pp. (in Greek).