The autonomous monastic republic on Mount Athos, which has been the stronghold of Orthodox Christianity for around 1000 years, comprises twenty large monasteries. The monasteries, which flourished again in the 19th century after a period of decline (in the 16th / 17th centuries), contain valuable collections of books and manuscripts as well as famous wall paintings.
Mount Athos: facts
|Official title:||Mount Athos|
|Cultural monument:||important monastic settlement of the Greek Orthodox Church|
|Location:||Áthos, eastern peninsula of Chalkidike|
|Meaning:||the monastic republic of Áthos as a center of orthodox spirituality|
Mount Athos: history
|843||first written mention of the pious men of Áthos|
|963||Founding of Megístis Lávras|
|980||Creation of Ivíron|
|1030||documentary mention of Dochiaríou and Esfigménou|
|1374||Foundation of Dionysíou, frescoes of the “Apocalypse” in the refectory|
|1430-1912||center of the Orthodox world even under Turkish rule|
|1924||the number of monasteries is legally fixed at 20|
|1926||Confirmation of autonomy by the Greek government|
|1980||in the accession treaty of Greece to the then EEC stipulation of the special status of the monastic republic|
|since 1990||Abolition of idiorrhythmy, the private property of the monks|
|2004||severe damage from fire in the Serbian monastery of Chiliandari|
A pure man’s world
For some hikers with a sense for the unusual, the region is an insider tip, that north-eastern finger of the Chalkidike. Hiking on old donkey paths from monastery to monastery, spending the night in simple cells of an old monastery wing and briefly participating in the secluded life of the Orthodox monks – some tour operators would like to include such an adventure tour in their program. But the clocks run differently on Áthos.
A visit to the monastic republic, which celebrated its millennium in 1963, has to overcome a number of hurdles. One of them is insurmountable for half of the people: A decree dating from the 11th century and still valid today prohibits women from entering the holy mountain, even female animals are frowned upon. Women can only be found on Áthos as images of female saints and religious figures, apart from the bones of female martyrs, which are kept as relics in some monasteries. An elaborate process to obtain the coveted permission to visit and an appointment, as well as the limitation of the daily number to 120 guests, of which only 10 are foreigners who are allowed to visit the monastic republic, guarantees that..
Large monasteries and numerous smaller settlements are scattered around the more than 2000 meter high, eponymous mountain Áthos, in which around 2200 monks now live and prefer the remote mountain world to everyday life in a restless industrial society. According to thereligionfaqs, in addition to the majority of the Greek Orthodox monasteries and monks, one monastery each professes to the Russian, Bulgarian or Serbian Orthodox tradition, even if all monks are compulsorily Greek citizens. Working and praying determine the daily routine, it has been like this for centuries. Some monks work in agriculture, others are engaged in handicrafts or making icons. Social tasks and missionary zeal are completely alien to the monks of Áthos; To get closer to God is the only goal of the monastic community. But the heyday of the monastic republic is long gone, when up to 40,000 monks formed the center of Orthodox culture and learning. Thanks to gifts and foundations from Byzantine emperors and nobles, the monasteries were also powerful landowners. At least the land on the peninsula has remained, as has extensive self-government within the Greek state.
Even though cell phones and jeeps have long since found their way and numerous salaried workers are active in the monastic republic, an almost unreal magic has remained on the Áthos peninsula to this day. This is felt most vividly by those to whom, after hours of often arduous march, the gate of an ever-new monastery world opens. The relatively young 14th century monastery Grigoríou was built directly on the water. It gladly accepts visitors – which does not apply to all monastic communities who fear “foreign infiltration”. In sight of this, the picturesquely situated monastery of Símonos Pétras is enthroned on a 230 meter high cliff. A day’s hike away is the Dionysíou monastery, with up to eight floors stretching into the sky. Balconies and rooms resting on spreader beams are partly located above a dizzying abyss. The local monastery library is a veritable treasure trove with thousands of manuscripts and prints. The oldest monastery, Megístis Lávras, resembles a medieval fortress with its towers, churches and walls on a rocky plateau. Colorful domes, mighty facades and wooden balconies characterize the Russian monastery Ágios Panteléimonos, founded in the 12th century, which a few decades ago could accommodate 2,000 monks and is now only inhabited by a few monks. Churches and walls on a rocky plateau of a medieval fortress. Colorful domes, mighty facades and wooden balconies characterize the Russian monastery Ágios Panteléimonos, founded in the 12th century, which a few decades ago offered space for 2,000 monks and is now only inhabited by a few monks. Churches and walls on a rocky plateau of a medieval fortress. Colorful domes, mighty facades and wooden balconies characterize the Russian monastery Ágios Panteléimonos, founded in the 12th century, which a few decades ago offered space for 2,000 monks and is now only inhabited by a few monks.