Mural paintings are the main part of the artistic heritage of the Holy Mountain, where all trends from the 12th century on are represented.
The first samples of mural paintings appear in the monastery of Vatopedi. They depict the apostles St. Paul and St. Peter. The same trend and incidentally the same depiction is found at the remains of the paintings of the Moni of Ravdouhou. It was an ancient 12th century monastery which today is a Kellion (dependency) of the monastery of Pantokratoros.
Newer mural paintings belong to the 14th century. The paintings of that period are characteristic of the Macedonian school of painting. Here it must be pointed out that although the term Macedonian is a geographic definition, it does not mean that there was a specific central school somewhere in Macedonia. It was simply an artistic trend, samples of which are found in the main church of Karyes (the Protaton), and in the main churches of the monasteries of Vatopediou and Chelandariou.Similar comments can be made about the mural paintings of the 16th century, which belong to the Cretan school of painting. Works of this period are found at the monasteries of Megiste Lavra, Stavroniketa, Koutloumousiou, Xenophontos, Dionysiou, Agiou Pavlou and Iveron.
Some specialists claim that it would be closer to the truth to consider the two schools simply as two main poles. All paintings, both the mural paintings and the portable icons, up until the middle of the 16th century, are closer to one or the other pole. Only from that point of view can we say that a painting belongs to a certain school.
After the middle of the 16th century pictorial art declines, due to the difficult economic condition of the monasteries. No foundation in the Holy Mountain could afford to invite a master of pictorial art. A new revival of painting is observed from the beginning of the 18th century, which is called popular art. Samples of this art are found in the Monasteries of Xenophontos, Docheiariou, Gregoriou, Koutloumousiou, Pantkratoros, Philotheou, Katakalou, Xeropotamou and Esphigmenou.
See also a selection of Mt. Athos mural paintings