The Monasteries of Mount Athos, Agio Oros

Mount Athos, Greece

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A World Heritage Site and autonomous polity in the Hellenic Republic, the Athos peninsula of the largest Halkidiki peninsula is home to 20 stavropegial Eastern Orthodox monasteries under the direct jurisdiction of the patriarch of Constantinople. Today Greeks commonly refer to Mount Athos as the “Holy Mountain” as Aghion Oros, and laymen must follow a certain entering procedure before visiting one of the monasteries, sketes or cells. There is a prohibition on entry for women, called avaton, which means only men can access these monasteries and appreciate the history, art and way of life of the monks living there. Formally founded in 963, when monk Athanasios established the monastery of Great Lavra, Athos’ current population numbers around 1,400 monks. Today monks from Greece, Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania live in the lush peninsula that has not only architectural masterpieces and an ascetic way of life to present, but vast green natural beauty as well. Mount Athos is one of the oldest surviving monastic communities in the world.

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