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Mount Athos

The History of the Greek Mountain and the Center of Eastern Orthodox Monasticism
Narrated by: Colin Fluxman
Length: 1 hr and 20 mins
Categories: History, European
3.5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

“Clear water where evergreens, azaleas cool ceremoniously...a kele lost among cedars, its roof open to eagles, door unhinged...silver leaves like a congregation of spiders....” When one hears these enchanting descriptions, from poet David Posner's 1964 composition “Mount Athos”, it is not difficult to understand why this sleepy paradise is often extolled as the most peaceful and private corner of Greece, if not all of Europe. Mount Athos is the easternmost finger of the Halkidiki peninsula - a mountainous sliver of land that stretches about 37.3 miles long and 4.3 to 7.5 miles wide, with a surface area of about 150 square miles. Towering over the tightly packed chestnut forests and the blue, crystalline waters of the Aegean Sea at a height of 6,670 feet is the snow-dusted crest of the mighty mountain itself.  

Known to the locals as Agion Oros, or the “Holy Mountain”, the peninsula today is most famed for its exclusivity, a place that continues to bar all women and their daughters from entry. The fortresslike monasteries scattered among the slopes and the clusters of cells clinging to the cliffs are occupied by monks of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Of course, its male-only population is just one aspect of the peninsula's anomalous nature. 

Planted on the peninsula's coast is a black Byzantine cross, a flat, cross-shaped monument with a trinity of flared, wide-armed Greek crosses in place of its arms and a traditional Christian cross in its center, kissed with rust. It serves as an emblem of the monastic society that resides there, and it delineates the boundary between Mount Athos and the rest of Greece. 

Entering this hallowed peninsula is like setting foot into a living time capsule because life here has not changed in well over 1,000 years. Mount Athos is one of only two places on earth (the other being the Mar Saba) that chooses to run on “Byzantine time”, meaning hour 0:00:00 only begins at sundown. Moreover, it is the only territory in the world that flies the Byzantine flag, a regal sword-and-cross-clutching double-headed eagle set against a rippling canvas of gold.  

Of course, to reduce Mount Athos to an antediluvian, single-sex monastic retreat would be an oversimplification of the fascinating history and simple yet complex culture that has developed on this stunning strip of land. This is a place as mystically mysterious as it is serene, a space abound with treasures, miracles, and spiritual revelations. But for a place where purity and God-fearing devotion apparently reign supreme, it is certainly burdened with its fair share of controversy.

Mount Athos: The History of the Greek Mountain and the Center of Eastern Orthodox Monasticism looks at the unique region and what life has been like there since medieval times. You will learn about Mount Athos like never before.

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

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