The peninsula of the Holy Mountain in the north-eastern part of Chalcidiki, is a place where
time has been defeated, according to Byzantine Chronicler Gregoras. In 963,
Emperor Nicephorus Phocas
established the Holy Mountain (Aghion Oros) as a monastic community for the whole
Orthodox Christian world and gave permission to his teacher St Athanasius to found the
Megiste Lavra Monastery.
In 11th century the monasteries Vatopaidiou, Iveron, Xeropotamou, Rossikon were built. The
monasteries were self-governing and independent.
After the Fall of 1204, the Mount Athos suffered from the Latins and tyranny, pillaging,
humiliation and murder became a way of life. In 1222, the Despot of Epirus, Theodore Ducas
liberated Macedonia and Mount Athos was free again. In 1307, Catalan brigands,
led by the Jewish Arnaldo de Villanova, overran Athos, bringing with them ruin and destruction.
In the 14th century-the age of Hesychasm, Athos triumphantly distinguished itself in theology,
art, and mysticism. In 1424, Athos surrendered itself to Sultan Murat II, having extracted
from him the promise that the isntitutions of Athos whould be respected. Now the Athonites
suffered from the the burden of vast taxation, the arbitrary conduct of state officials
and pirate raids. From the 16th century, the darkness thickened, as the tyranny became more systematic.
In 1568, Sultan Selim II confiscated the Athonite estates, together with all their
The liberation of Athos was long delayed. It was on 2 November 1912 that the forceful presence
of the flagship Averof and the legendary Pavlos Koundouriotes ensured the liberty of Aghion Oros.
In 1917, there were 10000 monks, 500 traders, 120 shops and 3 shipping companies.