The present study owes a lot to my late teacher, Professor Nicholas Oikonomides. It was his scientific guidance which prepared me to work resultativеly with the complex evidence of the Athonite archives. However, my research should have never been completed without the scholarly fellowship I was granted by the Dumbarton Oaks Research Center for the year 1999-2000, since this provided to me perfect conditions for work in a library whose richness is difficult to describe. I am also greatly indebted to the Director of Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, Prof. Alice-Mary Talbot, for her friendly criticism and constructive ideas, which greatly improved the initial structure of my text. One of her basic recommendations was that an English-speaking editor must be appointed to correct and adjust the final text of this book to the norms of what is commonly accepted as a good English scientific style. Unfortunately, financial reasons prevented me from complying with her advice, and I do really regret that the English of the present monograph was not improved to the highest possible level of lingual and stylistic perfection.
Last but not least, my greatest gratitude is directed to my parents, for their love and patience during the twelve years of my absence abroad.
Sofia, June 26, 2001