There is no doubt that in the 14th century the Vatopaidi Monastery attracted major figures to settle there from the larger cities of the Byzantine Empire. This seems to have been due not only to the fact that the Monastery was at that period one of the most famous on Athos, but was also one of the main centres of Hesychasm on the Holy Mountain. For this reason, figures such as St Sabbas the Younger, St Nicodemus, the elder and teacher of St Gregory Palamas, St Gregory Palamas himself, and St Philotheus Coccinus – all fervent champions of the Hesychast experience and theology – chose for the place to practise their asceticism either the Monastery itself or one of its kellia nearby.
St Nicodemus, whose name in the world was Nicephorus, lived as an ascetic in a kelli near the Vatopaidi Monastery in the early 14th century. We learn about his personality from an encomium delivered by the Patriarch of Constantinople St Philotheus Coccinus in honour of St Gregory Palamas. According to Patriarch Philotheus, St Nicodemus, “a man admirable in his practice and theory”, lived the monastic life to begin with at the mount of Auxentius near Chalcedon, which had been a famous centre of monasticism as early as the 5th century. Later, obviously because of Turkish raids, he took refuge on the Holy Mountain, where he settled near Vatopaidi. There he met St Gregory Palamas, who, impressed by his virtue, became his disciple and lived with him “in fasting and vigil and sobriety and prayer without ceasing” for three years (1319-1322), that is until the death of Nicodemus5. St Nicodemus must certainly have had a profound influence on St Gregory Palamas, but the information which has come down to us is not sufficient to determine its extent. The feast day of St Nicodemus is on 11 July6.