Skip to main content


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.

Xenophontos Monastery on Mt. Athos.


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Mount Athos peninsula is the easternmost "leg" of the larger Chalkidiki peninsula, protruding into the Aegean Sea. The seas around the end of the peninsula can be dangerous. In 483 BC, Xerxes I had a channel excavated across the isthmus to allow the passage of his invasion fleet.

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.

---


Pope Francis calls for your 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women:
That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.

Keywords: mount Athos, monasteries, Greece, sketes, wildfires



NEWSLETTERS »

E-mail:       Zip Code: (ex. 90001)
Today's Headlines

Sign up for a roundup of the day's top stories. 5 days / week. See Sample

Rate This Article

Very Helpful Somewhat Helpful Not Helpful at All

Yes, I am Interested No, I am not Interested

Rate Article

1 - 1 of 1 Comments

  1. David Carlon
    1 year ago

    Unfortunately, the Greek Orthodox Church has been plagued by corruption...

Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment

More Greece (Footsteps of St. Paul)

Modern Greece traces its roots to the civilisation of ancient Greece, generally considered the cradle of Western civilization. It is the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature, political science and more.

Videos more

Agios Prokopios beach, Naxos Island, Greece

Agios Prokopios beach, Naxos ...

Naxos island, Greece

Naxos island, Greece

Agia Triada Monastery, Greece

Agia Triada Monastery, Greece

A visit to Patmos and the Monastery of St John

A visit to Patmos and the ...


Photos more

213

213

The beaches of Naxos

The beaches of Naxos

Roussanou Monastery

Roussanou Monastery

The Parthenon

The Parthenon


Topics more

The Parthenon
The Parthenon is a temple in the Athenian Acropolis, Greece, dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their ...

Mount Athos
Mount Athos is a mountain on the eponymous peninsula in Macedonia, Greece. The peninsula is called the "Holy Mountain". In Classical times, the ...

Agia Triada Monastery
Agia Triada Monastery is a Greek Orthodox monastery in the Akrotiri peninsula in the Chania Prefecture, Crete, Greece. It also contains a ...


News more

The Coliseum continues to draw in tens of thousands of tourists every year.
Ancient architectural wonder of Rome

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM) • Catholic Online • 4/15/2014

The Coliseum is an elliptical amphitheater in the center of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire. It is considered one ...



Stonehenge is the center of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.
England's great Neolithic site

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM) • Catholic Online • 4/15/2014

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about 3.2 kilometers (2.0 mi) west of Amesbury and 13 kilometers ...



The Parthenon, located in Athens, is a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, who was the patron deity of the ancient city.
Ancient temple of the goddess Athena

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM) • Catholic Online • 4/11/2014

The Parthenon, an ancient temple in the Athenian Acropolis in Greece, was dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens ...





More Travel Destinations

Holy Land (Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jordan)
Britain & Ireland
Greece (Footsteps of St. Paul)
Fatima & Spain
Lourdes & France
Guadalupe & Mexico
Medjugorje & Central Europe
Rome, Vatican & Italy

Book your Trip Now