Mount Athos

Mount Athos is situated in the entire third, eastern peninsula o fChalkidiki, called the peninsula of Athos. The Athonian monastic community has inspired Macedonia for more than 1000 years. Since the Middle Ages this peninsula has shared the fate with Macedonia: the glory ofByzantium, Ottoman domination, numerous revolutions, defeats, disasters, looting, hope and despair, and eventually the liberation by the end of the Balkan War in 1912.Throughout the ages, in times of war and peace, the Athonian spirit never stopped inspiring the culture and spiritual life of the orthodox world and the region of Macedonia in particular.This site has been designed to provide you a fully guided tour from the past up to the very present time of the lively and flourishing ecclesiastical community.Mount Athos is the oldest monastic state that still exists. It was officially founded in 963 by the monk Athanasios the Athonite, who built the monastery of Great Lavra. However, anchorites have lived in the northern of the peninsula of Athos, from the mid-ninth century. In the centuries that followed, twenty monasteries and some smaller communities, known as sketae, were built. Today, many monks live in kellia, kalyvae, kathismata, and hesychasteria which are forms of small monastic communities or hermitages. The administrative center of Mount Athos is the village “Karyes”.
Monks and visitors at the court yard of the monastery of Vatopedi
Kalyvae at the skete of Saint Anne, Major
As time went by, three forms of monastic life evolved: coenobiticidiorrhythmic, and solitary.

The coenobitic rule is characterized by discipline, and the monks come together for worship and meals. In the coenobitic monasteries, the monks rise an hour after midnight to pray, alone in their cells at first and then all together in the main church, the katholikon, where they remain until daybreak. They then eat together in the refectory. The meal is followed by prayers, and after that the monks withdraw in order to do the tasks assigned to them by the monastery. No-one is exempt from work, not even the hegumen (abbot). After midday, the monks sleep or rest. In the late afternoon, they gather in the church again for the esperinos (evening service), and they then go to the refectory, if it is not a feast day. The apodeipnon (the last liturgy) of the day follows. The monastery gates are closed, and the monks retire to their cells, where they read, pray, and sleep.

Photo credit: Costas Argyris Solitary monk

The idiorrhythmic way of life was the result of the Ottoman conquest and of the imposition of harsh taxes on the monks, as well as the establishment of the sketae. In the sketae and the idiorrhythmic monasteries, the monks organize their own time for praye and work according to their personal needs. They gather in the church for the Divine Liturgy only on Sundays and feast days; on ordinary days, each one fulfils his religious obligations in the chapel, in his own kalyva or hut.

The solitary life is the most difficult of all. The monks who have chosen to be hermits live in complete solitude in caves or rudimentary dwellings on precipitous slopes or cliff sides. They eat as much as they need to stay alive, work in order to keep their minds alert and devote all their time to pray. Occasionally, they go to the nearby monasteries to receive communion.

Useful information and guide for Mount Athos

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