In the early 1870s, the Saint Panteleimon Monastery established the first photography studio in Mount Athos. With the blessings of the Starets’, they documented all significant events in the lives of the monks through photography. However, the photographic history of the Russian monastery began to decline in the 1930s due to financial constraints.
According to the monastery’s archives, from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, Russian monks regularly provided weekly alms to those in need. Ships, both large and small, loaded with food, departed from the ports of Odesa and Taganrog in southern Russia, heading towards the Saint Panteleimon Monastery in Athos. These provisions were intended for the monastery’s 3,000 residents and the 4,000 Russian laborers who worked at various monasteries, farms, cells, and huts throughout Mount Athos.
During the days of almsgiving, a large number of impoverished monks and devout pilgrims would gather to beg at the main gate of the monastery. Around 600-800 individuals would receive grains from the monks’ hands.
On August 14/27, 1903, the Saint Panteleimon Monastery received a letter from the Holy Koinotita expressing her dissatisfaction with the monks’ begging practices. The leadership of Mount Athos requested the monastery to discontinue this custom and find a more acceptable way to provide for and assist the poor monks.
On August 21/September 3, 1903, the poor monks received their final alms at the gate of the Saint Panteleimon Monastery. It was during this time that Monk Gavriil captured a photograph. When the photograph was developed, a remarkable image of the Theotokos appeared on the left side of the picture, humbly receiving a blessed morsel. Just before this, a few brothers had seen her clearly among the monks at the gate and wanted to inform the gatekeeper, but on the day the photograph was taken, no one had witnessed her presence.
Following this event, the monastery continued to provide food for the needy in Mount Athos.