Mount Athos is largest of Greece's monasteries
Only monks are allowed to live on grounds
A mountainous peninsula in northern Greece, Mount Athos or the "Holy
Mountain" is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries and forms an
autonomous state under Greek sovereignty. Only monks are allowed to live
on Athos. The current population hovers around 1,400.
Xenophontos Monastery on Mt. Athos.
Formally founded in 963, Mt. Athos is a monastic community established by monk Athanasios and established the monastery of Great Lavra, which is still the largest and most prominent of the 20 monasteries. Mt. Athos enjoyed the protection of the emperors of the Byzantine Empire during the following centuries, its wealth and possessions grew considerably.
The Fourth Crusade in the 13th century brought new Roman Catholic overlords, which forced the monks to seek protection from Pope Innocent III until the restoration of the Byzantine Empire. Raided by Catalan mercenaries in the 14th century, it was a century that overlooked the theological conflict over the hesychasm, practiced on Mount Athos and defended by Gregory Palamas.
The Byzantine Empire collapsed in the 15th century and the Muslim Ottoman Empire took over. While for the most part left alone, the Turks taxed the monasteries heavily.
The monk population and their wealth declined over the next centuries, but saw new activity around the 19th century. Donations and new arrivals from other Eastern Orthodox countries, such as Russia, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia brought a new vitality to the area. Each country came to exert its influence on individual monasteries.
During the First Balkan War in 1912, the Ottomans were forced out and after a brief conflict between Greece and Russia over sovereignty. The peninsula formally came under Greek sovereignty after World War I.
Mount Athos monasteries have repeatedly been struck by wildfires in recent years, including in August 1990 and in March 2004. Due to the secluded locations of the monasteries and the unavailability of suitable firefighting gear, the damages inflicted by these fires are often considerable.
Essentially self-governed, the peninsula consists of 20 main monasteries plus the capital city and administrative centre, Karyes, which is also home to a Greek governor.
In addition to the monasteries there are 12 sketes, smaller communities of monks, as well as many solitary hermitages throughout the peninsula.
In order to reduce temptation, women, beardless boys and eunuchs are completely barred from the peninsula. Even female domestic animals (with the exception of cats that control rodents and hens who provide the yolk needed for the paint used in iconography) are forbidden.
However, during the Greek Civil War, Athos did shelter refugees including women and girls, and the rule against beardless boys is not strictly enforced.
© 2012, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: mount Athos, monasteries, Greece, sketes, wildfires
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Travel News
- Abbey of St. Foy is longtime medieval pilgrimage route
- Austere Abbaye de Fonteny filled only with light
- British man visits all of the world's 201 nations - without flying in a plane
- The Basilique Ste-Madeleine second only to Notre Dame in size
- Mont-St-Michel island abbey connected with natural land bridge
- Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire Abbey greets visitors near Orleans in central France
- The Abbey of Fontfroide was onetime center of orthodoxy
- France's Saint Hilaire Abbey contains sarcophagus of Saint Sernin
- Bring binoculars to the St. Matthias Abbey Church to see architectural marvels
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
More Rome, Vatican & Italy
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church.
Saint Peter's Square
Saint Peter's Square is located directly in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the papal enclave within Rome. The open space which ...
The Coliseum is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire. It is considered one ...
Sistine Chapel is the best-known chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope in Vatican City. It is famous for its ...
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM) • Catholic Online • 1/17/2013
The Abbey of St. Foy, nestled in the hills of southern France is a beautiful Romanesque church perfectly aligned with its surroundings. The ...
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM) • Catholic Online • 12/5/2012
Found in the Burgundy Valley, the Abbaye de Fontenay is a well-restored 12th-century Cistercian monastery founded by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. The ...
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM) • Catholic Online • 11/27/2012
Thirty-three-year-old Graham Hughes of Liverpool wanted to travel with his feet firmly planted on the soil. To this end, the eccentric Briton can now ...