A fire that damaged large portions of an 800-year-old Orthodox Christian monastery on the all-male enclave of Mount Athos also destroyed centuries-old wall paintings, officials said Friday.
Portions of the Helandariou monastery, which is run by 25 Serbian monks, still smoldered after a fire Thursday tore through its northeast wing, library, dining room, reception area, entrance and storage rooms.
The fire also destroyed two small churches, but all books, manuscripts and icons were removed in time with the help of dozens of other monks who rushed over from another monastery and nearby sanctuaries. The destroyed frescoes, dating from the 16th and 18th centuries, were in the small churches.
Firefighters remained on the scene Friday to ensure the fire was extinguished completely before allowing experts to make a full appraisal of all the damage.
It took firefighters more than three hours to reach the isolated site, one of 20 Orthodox monasteries on the peninsula about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southeast of Thessaloniki.
The cause of the fire was not immediately clear, but officials said it may have been caused by a heater.
The monastery has relics from the 14th century and wall paintings from the same period in the dining room, but the extent of that damage was unclear.
Fires in 1722 and 1896 caused severe damage to the monastery.