the holy mount athos

The Holy Mount Athos

The Mount of Athos is the center of Eastern Christian Orthodox Monasticism. Set in an area of outstanding natural beauty, it is a treasury which houses and guards many artefacts and monuments of religions, national and artistic value. It is also a "workshop" where religions arts and crafts are still practiced to this day, and where deep and genuine spirituality is allowed to flourish and bear fruit. As an institution Mount Athos is, and has been, the chief standard bearer of Orthodox Christianity.


According to tradition, the Virgin Mary with John the Evangelist, or their way to visit Lazarus in Cyprus, encountered a stormy sea that forced them to temporarily seek refuge in the port which is now the Holy Monastery of Iviron. The Virgin Mary, admiring the wild beauty of the place, asked God to give her the mountain as a present. Then the voice of our Lord was heard saying: "Let this place be your lot, your garden and your paradise, as well as a salvation, a haven for those who seek salvation". Since then, Mount Athos is considered as "The Garden of the Virgin Mary".

Mount athos sunset
Sunset In Mount Athos


Mount Athos is situated in the entire third, eastern and most beautiful peninsula of Halkidiki, called the peninsula of Athos. It is the only place in Greece that is completely dedicated to prayer and worship of God. For this reason, it is called the Holy Mount. The Holy Mount is about 50 km in length, 8 to 12 km in width and it covers an area of about 350 square km.

The borders of the monasterial city are defined on the ground by an imaginary line that starts from the location "FRAGOKASTRO" in the West coast and reaches the cape "ARAPIS" in the opposite end.

The natural beauty of the peninsula is extraordinary. The highest point of Mount Athos is like a huge cone, reaching 2033 metres in height. It’s a naked, treeless crest that seems to lance the sky and its slopes are fully covered by ancient evergreens. All these help to create an area of incomparable natural beauty.

Mount athos peninsula
The Mount Athos Peninsula

The Republic of Mount Athos

The Holy Mount is a self- governed part of the Greek state, subject to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its political aspect and to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in regards of its religious aspect.

The Greek State is represented by the Governor of Mount Athos, who answers to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and who, together with the deputy governor, resides in Karyes. He ensures that the Charter is respected, attends the sessions of the Holy Community in an advisory capacity, and presides over local public services (police, customs, etc.).

Finally, with regard to the administration of justice, it should be noted that disciplinary matters and minor disputes between monks or monasteries are adjudicated initially by the individual monastic authorities, in the second instance by the Holy Community and in the third by the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Misdemeanors and minor infractions are settled by the local police authorities, while criminal offences and land disputes between monasteries are in the jurisdiction of the competent courts in Thessaloniki.

Mount Athos has been divided into twenty self- governed territories. Each territory consists of a cardinal monastery and some other monastic establishments that surround it (skites, cells, kelia, kalives, hermitages).

All the monasteries are communes (of a convent nature) which means that there is common liturgy, prayer, housing, nourishing and work among the monks. The Igoumenos (Abbot) of the monastery, being elected by the monks for life, is responsible for the affairs of the monastery.

Each monastery has a group of Gerondes to assist and advise the Igoumenos. The Igoumenos of the monastery is a member of the Holy Assembly and exercise legislative authority.

Moreover, every year the monastery elects its representative to the Holy Community (Ιερά Κοινότητα – Iera Koinotita) which exercises administrative authority, while the Holy Supervision (Ιερά Επιστασία – Iera Epistasia) exercises executive authority and consists of 4 members, elected by the 5 hierarchically preceding monasteries. The head of four is traditionally called Protos (Πρώτος-First).