Mount Athos is the spiritual capital of the Orthodox Christian world, consisting of 20 monasteries and approximately 2,000 monks.
Mount Athos | The spiritual capital of the Orthodox Christian world!
Mount Athos is one of the most important centres of the Orthodox Christian world! Located on a Greek peninsula, it is home to the oldest surviving monastic community on Earth. The way of life for the monks is practically unchanged since the first monks arrived in the ninth century. Most of the monks live within the walls of their chosen monastery, but others choose to live in complete isolation, away from any distractions.
Women are not allowed!
Women are not allowed! This is because the Virgin Mary is said to have visited the peninsula and prayed to have it as her own.
For the majority of monks on the holy mountain who live inside one of the 20 monasteries, prayer takes up most of the time. Even when they are hard at work or eating in the refectory, they are in prayer. Services take place in the monasteries’ often exquisitely ornate churches.
- Monks usually pray in the early hours of the morning as they believe this is when they are closer to God and their prayers can be hear
Services that run for up to 6 hours!
The timings of the services vary and can sometimes run for six hours. Most prayer takes place at night, with one of the services starting at 2am and finishing at 6am – this is because the monks believe prayer is easier when the monastery is at its quietest.
It is a common misconception that monks do nothing but sit and pray all day. In fact they spend a lot of the day working on the tasks given to them by the abbot. This can include cleaning the guest houses for visitors, making wine, preparing dinner or building and renovating the monastery.
Job given directly by God..
Every effort is used for whatever job a monk is given as they believe it is a job given to them directly by God and are often reciting a prayer while they work.
The monks eat silently, often listening to one of their number reciting a prayer in the refectory of the monastery. Their food is usually rather simple – consisting of mainly vegetables and sometimes fish, and complimented with water and wine.
We make everything here, even the wine and raki. We work hard but we like it because it allows us to feel close to God. The abbot of Pantokratoros
Most of the ingredients are commonly grown on the monastery’s farms, and they all have their own vineyard for the supply of the wine.
Karoulia | The most isolated part of Mount Athos
If a monk would rather not live the monastic life, they can live in a skete, a small community which allows relative isolation. The most isolated part of Mount Athos is known as Karoulia, where cells hang precariously on the cliff-edge with crashing waves hundreds of feet below. Monks may choose this life of complete isolation and simplicity to feel closer to God and be far away from any distractions to their prayer. Because most of the cells are so inaccessible, supplies such as firewood and food need to be brought over in baskets suspended from ropes.
Not long ago, hermits could only access their cells by hauling themselves up with ropes or chains that passed over makeshift pulleys. In some of the most inaccessible cells, if the hermit ever needed help they would have to raise a flag which would alert their neighbor – and only then would someone visit.
- Bones belonging to the monk who previously lived in that cell are kept in a silver box. Even after death, the monk remains in the cell!