Holy Mountain of Athos


The peninsula of Holy Mountain Athos occupies an area in northern Greece - Aegean Sea. In 8th century, settled on Athos St Peter the Athonite. He initiated Athos into its new role. He lived the ascetic life on Athos for 53 years, without ever meeting another human being.

In 9th century St Euthymius lived an ascetic life there. Also St. Basil of Amorion, set up a small monastic house at the foot of the mountain. In 883 Basil I the Macedonian issued an imperial chrysobull which favoured the development of Holy Mountain into a monastic republic, with the request that those living the monastic life there should pray "for peace and for the whole community of Christians".

In the 10th century, St Athanasius (born at Trebizond in 930) founded Megiste Lavra Monastery with the help of emperor Nicephorus Fokas. In 11th century ather great monasteries were established: Vatopaidi, Iveron, Xeropotamou, Zographou. The number of monks reached 3000.

The crusaders of the fourth crusade (1204) entered the Holy Mountain, which was made subject politically to the 'state' of Thessaloniki under Boniface of Montserrat. From this point on, tyranny, pillaging, humiliations and murder became a way of life.

In 1222 the Despot of Epirus, Theodore Ducas, liberated Macedonia and Athos. When Constantinople was recovered in 1261 by Michael VIII Palaeologus, the Holy Mountain renewed its ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

During the period 1307-8, Catalan brigands, led by a Jewish Arnaldo de Villanova, overran Athos, bringing with them ruin and destruction. From 1380, the HM was dominated for quarter of a century by "the impious and God-hating and all-abominable race of the Ottomans", but in 1403 Manuel II Palaeologus recovered Macedonia and compelled the Turks to abstain from entering Athonite territory. The devotees of Allah not only stole property, not only razed buildings to their foundations, not only burnt down corps, but rounded up human beings as prisoners.

The fall of Constantinople (1453) and, eight years later of Trebizond (1461) mark one of the greatest disasters in Greek history. The darkness of tyranny thickened also in Holy Mountain. In 1568, Sultan Selim II confiscated the Athonite estates. But the Greek world and the HM were preparing themselves to throw off the Turkish yoke. St. Kosmas Aitolos encouraged and inspired every Greek, reminding him of his noble ancestry.

The liberation of Athos came in 1912. Today 1500 monks live in Mount Athos. For Greeks, Mount Athos is the cradle of their national traditions and a part of Greece that for over a thousand years has preserved their Greek-Christian traditions, literature and authentic Byzantine worship. It is a sacred repository housing still unknown sources for scholars investigating theology, philosophy, history, Byzantine and post-Byzantine art and eastern mysticism, and a boundless museum containing invaluable treasures and heirlooms of the Orthodox tradition.

For a good choice of hotels with discount prices, visit Mount Athos Accommodation for more information.

Stavronikita Monastery
Vatopediou Monastery
Monastery of Simonopetra
Xenofontos Monastery