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Mount Athos🏴󠁧󠁲󠀶󠀹󠁿| Where is Mount Athos?

The Holy Mountain of Athon is a peninsula connected to the Greek mainland on the southern side. With the other three sides bathed by the Aegean Sea. The length of the Holy Mount Athos is 60 km, and the width varies between 12 and 18 km. The altitude of Athon’s peak is 2030 meters (see Athon’s Peak (2030 m)). The area of the peninsula is 389 km2.

Mount Athos is a peninsula with a length of 60 km and a width varying between 8-12 km; the total area is 360 square km. Mount Athos, or Athon, according to some old obscure traditions, would come from Athos, a nickname given to the God Joe (Jupiter), who had a temple on one of the peaks of the mountain.

The temple of the God Apollon was built among the other temples on Athos, on one of the highest peaks, which surpassed them all in size, height, and art.

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Where is Mount Athos?

On Mount Athos, some caves still house hermits, as they have for thousands of years. There are also many simple houses or lions that house monks.

Mount Athos is located in one of the three arms of the Halkidiki peninsula in Greece. Enormous monasteries, resembling castles or fortresses, appear on the mountainsides at every turn of the road.

On Mount Athos, some churches have more gold in their vaults than some countries possess. Many of these churches house icons that work miracles. First of all, the bad news is that if you are a woman, you cannot go to the monasteries of Mount Athos.

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Did Mary visit Mount Athos?

Lazarus, resurrected by the Saviour Christ on the fourth day, was on the island of Cyprus, where he had been ordained bishop by the Holy Apostle Varnava. So he was in Cyprus and longed to see the Mother of God with all his heart. But hesitated to go to Jerusalem for fear of the hatred of the Jews, who sought to kill him. So he wrote to Our Lady, asking her to come to the island of Cyprus. The Mother of God replied that she would send him a ship. 

According to historical sources, the Virgin Mary visited Mount Athos. Seeing the beauty of the place, the Blessed Virgin asked her Son to give her this mountain as an inheritance. Then a voice was heard: “Receive this place as your inheritance, and all who wish to be saved will find salvation.”

When the Mother of God and the Holy Apostle John came ashore, the devils in the idols began to cry out in fear, being compelled by the power of God: “Come out to meet Mary, Mother of God, at the shore of Clement!”. So the people, amazed and terrified at what they heard, went ashore to see what had happened, wondering what kind of God had come, more excellent than their own.

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How many people live on Athos?

The number of monks at the end of the 10th century was 1,000, and by 1020 it had reached 3,000, according to the life of St Athanasius the Athonite. Only 30 years later, the number of monks had been born was 6000, and the number of monasteries was 180. After the fall of Constantinople (1453), the number of monks fell sharply to 1500.

The number of monks and men on Mount Athos has varied according to historical periods, but now there are around 3000 people. In 1920, the situation was as follows: Russians – 4800; Greeks – 3900; Romanians – 500; Bulgarians – 500; Serbians – 150; Georgians – 50. In a short time, from 1920 to 1970, the number of monks decreased from about 10000 to 1146. And from 1974 it starts to increase slightly, reaching today around 2500 monks.

In the Holy Mountain, there have always been monks of all nations. They lived in the same monasteries without the need for separate monasteries.

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Can anyone visit Mount Athos?

If only monastic life were as easy as beautiful, we would all follow it. But it is shown to be a way of the few, not the many, precisely because its burdens seem beyond our powers. We, as lay people, are characterized by a certain pragmatism, making a point of making our lives as easy as possible. But on the other hand, Monks look for the hard part that requires constant effort and stamina. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in Mount Athos, the only monastic state of the Orthodox Church.

According to the monks of Athos, any man can visit Mount Athos because Mount Athos can not be known from books, photographs, or documentary films. All these captures too little of its grandeur. On the other hand, even those who visit it as a museum cannot discover much of its mysteries. In Athos, you can only be a pilgrim. A pilgrim who travels through the hidden paths of the heart in search of God.

The number of monasteries is set at 20 and of hermitages at 12. The number of monasteries is unknown, as many were abandoned and fell. 

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Why is Mount Athos male only?

The Holy Mountain Athos is a permanent front of spiritual battles. For this reason, the monks here have a special devotion to the Mother of God, knowing her holy covering protects them. In this regard, we see the icon in which Our Lady is represented as the patroness of the Holy Mountain.

Mount Athos is only for men because an ancient tradition turned into law says that Mount Athos is not allowed to step on a woman’s foot.

The mountain is mainly self-governed, with free movement of people and goods forbidden on its territory without formal permission. As a result, many of the traditions on Mount Athos may seem outdated to outsiders. For example, the monks’ day begins at sunset, in the Byzantine style.

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Is Mount Athos only for men?

This mountain is full of surprises. St John the Baptist and the Apostle Andrew relics, miracle-working icons, and a spring whose water is said to cure cancer. Pilgrims find this when they come to the holy Mount Athos, even for a few days, in the Garden of Our Lady. The Holy Mountain of Athos is a peninsula linked to the land of Greece on the southeastern side, with the other three sides bathed by the Aegean Sea.

According to Orthodox monks, Mount Athos is for men only. But, beyond all that, Mount Athos is an enclave of the righteous faith always in the care of the Mother of God, which is why the place is nicknamed the ‘Garden of the Mother of God. Her presence here is also linked to the legend behind the ban on women entering this holy place.

Legend has it that when the ship carrying the Mother of God came ashore, all the idols on the mountain fell on their faces and shattered into thousands of pieces.

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Why are women banned from Mount Athos?

According to the Law of the Avaton, women are not allowed within 500 meters of the coast of the Greek peninsula. Moreover, it is said that Mount Athos is officially known as the Monastic Autonomous State of the Holy Mountain. Therefore, there are not even female animals, except for wild birds.

Women are not banned from Mount Athos, not because they are considered inferior to men or unclean, but because they can become temptations for the monks. The monks of Athos have decided that women cannot climb the mountain. It is because a monk can sin even in thought when he sees a woman. Asceticism is a way of life in which one must not sin, even with heart or view.

For more than 1,000 years, this law has been kept and observed with sanctity. Naturally, there have been daredevils who, displeased by the strictness of this measure, have broken the rule over the years. But none has ended well after this experience.

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Why is Mount Athos sacred?

The Athonite monks chose the place, wild and uninhabited, and they also built monasteries and churches on the rocks. The monks sanctified the site with their prayers and blood. And they also decided, in one voice, that the “Avaton” would remain valid. Regardless of the laws and desires of the pagan world.

Mount Athos is sacred because it was declared a holy place of monks by the decree of the Byzantine Emperor Basil I Macedonian. They were issued in the 9th century. Over the years, countless monks have sacrificed their lives to guard the Holy Mountain against pirates and pagans. Who sought to plunder and destroy the place.

Mount Athos began to be a place of retreat for monks. Since the time of the last Roman persecutions against the Christians. In 726, when the first edict against icons was issued. And until 843, many monks from all over Byzantine territory came to Mount Athos. They brought documents, relics, art objects, and numerous icons. From this period, the first Athonite chapels began to be built.

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mount athos

Representation of Mount Athos Monasteries

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Mount Athos is probably after the Vatican, the holiest area in the Christian world. All those who helped build Mount Athos agreed that it should be under the protection of Avaton. A fact reinforced by countless charters and seals. At one time, a woman tried to climb a mountain to reach her father. Who had built it, but as she was climbing, she heard a voice reprimanding her for her boldness. And would not let her go any further. Finally, she had to give up. Below, we will give you four facts about Mount Athos.

1. Mount Athos height

Mount Athos is 2,033 m high and has a peninsula 60 km long and between 8 and 12 km wide, with a total area of 360 square km in north-eastern Greece, in the Greek region of Central Macedonia. There are 20 monasteries, 12 hermitages, and many Orthodox monastery cells, where more than 1500 Orthodox monks live. The area is administratively autonomous, forming a monastic state with its capital at Karelia.

2. The Entry to Athos

Entry to the Holy Mountain is, after all, visitors obtain a diamonitirion, a form of Byzantine visa which is written in Greek and dated using the Julian calendar, and signed by four secretaries of important monasteries. This certifies permission to enter the Holy Mountain and stay in the sanctuaries there for the pilgrimage.

3. The Mountain of Mary

Mount Athos is the mountain of the Mother of God, and therefore everything on this mountain, the forests, the caves, and the springs, are under her protection. The Mother of God has multiplied the oil, flour, and food here and has always protected the mountain from fire, water, earthquakes, and wars. For these reasons, the monks of these lands consider the Mother of God to be the only woman who can walk the paths of this mountain.

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4. Orthodox Spiritual Center

Mount Athos became an Orthodox spiritual center in 1054 and has enjoyed an autonomous status since Byzantine times. Geographically, it is located in northeastern Greece. “The ‘Holy Mountain’ is where children and women are entirely forbidden. There are 20 monasteries built throughout the region, home to around 2,000 monks. Their way of life has remained unchanged since the arrival of the first monks in the 9th century. Most monks live within the walls of their chosen monastery. All those here have chosen to spend their days in solitude, away from distracting temptation and worldly things.

Primary Takeaways

  • Many monasteries, hermitages, huts, and huts were built. There were periods when the Holy Mountain flourished. From the first decades of the 9th century, Augustan monasticism entered a new phase. Mount Athos acquired its character as an exclusively monastic region with clearly defined borders, administrative organization, and capital at Karelia.
  • In the 9th century, two great personalities lived in the Holy Mountain: St Peter the Athonite, considered one of the greatest hermits, and St Ephtimius of Thessaloniki. They founded a monastic labyrinth in the mid-9th century.
  • The first royal seal dates from 883, showing the Athonite monks’ efforts to secure the peninsula’s ascetic character. The Byzantine Emperor Basil I of Macedon ordered that the monks of Athos should not be disturbed. In 943, the boundaries of the Holy Mountain were definitively fixed by a royal decree, and they remain largely the same today.

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This peninsula has attracted the attention of travelers with its curious shape since ancient times, being made up of a mountain whose height exceeds 2,000 meters. In ancient times, this mountain was a place of worship and consecrated to Jupiter, known as Athos, and other minor gods. For example, in the time of the Thracians, the religion of Sabazis and the goddess Bendis must have had their altars here. Today Mount Athos is consecrated to the Mother of God, inhabited by about 10,000 monks belonging to all nations of the Orthodox Church: Russians, Greeks, Romans and Germans, Serbians, Bulgarians, and other nationalities.

The existence, renovations, and active income of the Monasteries come entirely from donations. Over the years, they have received substantial contributions from many prominent individuals and even states. 

Karelia, the capital of the Holy Mount Athos, is situated about halfway down the peninsula and is also home to the monks who are in charge of the administration and police of this monastic republic.