How the monks on the Holy Mountain make kollyva

How the monks on the Holy Mountain make kollyva


I.M. Hatzifotis

Separate memorial services are not held for monks on the Holy Mountain. Together with the kollyva for the Saint, a small saucer of kollyva is prepared for the departed. Abbots over the last 100 years are commemorated, as are priest and monks over the last thirty. Kollyva is made every time an icon is put on display in the church to be venerated. Every Saturday, however, there is always a service for the departed, with kollyva, unless it coincides with the handing back of a feast of the Lord. The kollyva here is a little boiled wheat on a tin plate, which is placed under the icon of Christ.

The kollyva for a feast requires genuine patisserie skills. On the surface, there is usually an icon of the founder of the Monastery or the saint after whom the central church is named. So we have, for example, Saint Athanasios the Athonite at the Great Lavra; and the Honourable Forerunner, Saint John the Baptist, at the Monastery of Dionysiou. These depictions are made with coloured sugar and are real works of art, which, alas, are later destroyed when the kollyva is distributed and eaten.


Ordinary kollyva is made as follows. Wheat is pounded and then placed in water in order to swell. It is then boiled in cold water. After half an hour, the water is poured off, fresh is added and boiled until the wheat opens up and the liquid thickens. A little salt is added. Afterwards the liquid is used as a drink, flavoured with sugar and cinnamon. The wheat is then washed in cold water to get rid of the starch and it is spread out to dry. Two or three hours before the Divine Liturgy, the monk responsible throws a handful of dried, finely-ground breadcrumbs into the kollyva to soak up any moisture, so that the wheat will be completely dry. The mixture is later sieved in order to get rid of the bread crumbs. The wheat is now ready and if desired, can at this stage be mixed with crushed hazelnuts. It is spread out, covered with sugar (not icing sugar, but normal crystalline) and a cross is made on it with sugar coloured with cinnamon.
The kollyva for a feast has chopped walnuts added, as well as powdered cloves and cumin. In some monasteries finely-ground hazelnuts are substituted for the chopped walnuts and cinnamon for the cloves.
The depictions of the saints are produced in a remarkable way. With either a matchstick or the wooden end of a fine paint brush, the outline is imprinted on the sugar through an anthivolo (a working sketch, matrix or ‘crib’, which was standard equipment for Late and Post-Byzantine artists (WJL). Now the clothes, face and hair can be filled in with differently coloured sugars. Sometimes sugared almonds are added or little, edible silver balls (drageés).
Normal kollyva is the everyday dessert for monks in coenobitic monasteries. On the Holy Mountain, the Russians usually make their kollyva with rice rather than wheat, as they do in Russia itself. This is the case not only in the Russian monastery of Saint Panteleïmon, but also in the Russian sketes and kellia.

I. M. Hatzifotis, Η Καθημερινή Ζωή Στο Άγιον Όρος, pubd. by Dim. N. Papadimas, Athens, 1999.





The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Bishops of the United States of America, originally commissioned by SCOBA to create a national, sustainable, and effective media witness for Orthodox Christianity and seekers around the world through media ministry.  CLICK HERE to download our brochure.  OCN has partnered with Pemptousia, a Contemporary post-modern man does understand what man is. Through its presence in the internet world, Pemptousia, with its spirit of respect for beauty that characterizes it, wishes to contribute to the presentation of a better meaning of life for man, to the search for the ontological dimension of man, and to the awareness of the unfathomable mystery of man who is always in Christ in the process of becoming, of man who is in the image of divine beauty. And the beauty of man springs from the beauty of the Triune God. In the end, “beauty will save the world”.

OCN is a 501(c)3 and recognized as a leader in the Orthodox Media field and has sustained consistent growth over twenty years. OCN shares the timeless faith of Orthodoxy with the contemporary world through modern media. We are on a mission to inspire Orthodox Christians Worldwide. We have reached 5.7 Million People in One Week. Much like public radio, the Orthodox Christian Network relies on the support of our listeners, readers, and fans. If you are interested in supporting our work, you can send your gift by direct mail, over the phone, or on our website. Your gift will ensure that OCN may continue to offer free, high-quality, Orthodox media.

Do you find it hard to keep focused on Christ when you’re on the go? OCN makes it easy!  Give today to help you and your Orthodox community stay connected no matter the location.

donate now


Spark OCN app is an Orthodox Christian News portal that allows you to take action. Spark provides daily devotions, live Bible study, and you can read and learn about events going on in the Orthodox Christian world, especially those concerning persecuted Christians. In addition to making it easy to share news and articles with friends, Spark allows you make prayer requests for those who are suffering.

Orthodox Prayer Book is the ultimate prayer assistant for Orthodox Christians. Not only does it allow you to carry your prayers around, it was designed from the ground-up for the iPhone to allow you to pray in the least distracting manner possible. Carry all the prayers, information about daily saints and fasting schedules with you throughout your day. Keep a list of people you want to pray for and have them automatically embedded into the prayers.

Click here to download the Spark OCN and Orthodox Prayer Book.

Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network. OCN is on Social Media! Follow us on TwitterFacebookYouTube, Google+, PinterestLinkedIn and Instagram

About author

Pemptousia Partnership

Pemptousia and OCN have entered a strategic partnership to bring Orthodoxy Worldwide. Greek philosophers from Ionia considered held that there were four elements or essences (ousies) in nature: earth, water, fire and air. Aristotle added ether to this foursome, which would make it the fifth (pempto) essence, pemptousia, or quintessence. The incarnation of God the Word found fertile ground in man’s proclivity to beauty, to goodness, to truth and to the eternal. Orthodoxy has not functioned as some religion or sect. It was not the movement of the human spirit towards God but the revelation of the true God, Jesus Christ, to man. A basic precept of Orthodoxy is that of the person ­– the personhood of God and of man. Orthodoxy is not a religious philosophy or way of thinking but revelation and life standing on the foundations of divine experience; it is the transcendence of the created and the intimacy of the Uncreated. Orthodox theology is drawn to genuine beauty; it is the theology of the One “fairer than the sons of men”. So in "Pemptousia", we just want to declare this "fifth essence", the divine beaut in our life. Please note, not all Pemptousia articles have bylines. If the author is known, he or she is listed in the article above.