Mount Athos, The Holy Mountain
November 20, 2002 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Mount Athos is the center of Eastern Orthodox Monasticism. It's located in the northeast of Greece and is an amazing place. If you're a man and planning a pilgrimage, make sure to read this first. And if you're a woman planning a pilgrimage, make sure to read this first. [more inside]
posted by soundofsuburbia (15 comments total)

Athos seems similar in many ways to countries where woman are covered. These poor men just can't seem to control themselves when women are around or visible.
posted by Red58 at 10:43 AM on November 20, 2002

I initially mistook this for a Dumas post (?), but it's interesting in an entirely different way. Images of women are banned?
posted by Songdog at 11:10 AM on November 20, 2002

I experience an odd sense of mental collision with such things. On one hand, I respect other people's spiritual traditions. On the other, I would hope that greater equality would come with greater enlightenment. When I visited Bali last year, I was astonished to find that menstruating women were forbidden from entering Hindu temples. "How would they know?" I wondered. (At least one member of our group was seriously conflicted over this. I was grateful I didn't have to be.) More recently, I was at a Smithsonian staff discussion on issues of online access to collections information. The new Museum of the American Indian owns images of objects and events which tribal law forbids females to see. These, of course, cannot go online. I can only assume that if you show up at the reading room to see them in person, your gender will be checked. Since SI is a federally-funded institution (well, at least in part), this will open a whole new can of legal worm
posted by SealWyf at 11:12 AM on November 20, 2002

I love this: "Exception to the no-females rule: the local cats, which even the most determined defenders of the faith have learned to leave alone."

Heh. Cats conquer all.
posted by GaelFC at 11:28 AM on November 20, 2002

I had a boyfriend in college who had spent a year studying in Greece and Turkey, and had visited Mt. Athos. He said the monks were psychic -- that they'd spent so much time meditating and being spiritual that they'd achieved this higher plane. He said they told him all kinds of things about his life (he always refused to say what), and he was convinced that a life like that would be conducive to greater understanding of the universe. I also remember him saying that some Russian(?) women had swum to the island in an attempt at a takeover a few decades ago, but that the monks ignored them and they finally got bored and left. I can't find anything about that on google, though.
posted by fotzepolitic at 11:30 AM on November 20, 2002

I think I saw this place in an episode of the Little Rascals. Is it up in a tree?
posted by condour75 at 11:56 AM on November 20, 2002

I live a couple of hours away from Mt Athos (in Thessaloniki), but I haven't actually visited. The Halkidiki peninsula with its three smaller peninsulas is a lovely place, esp. Sithonia (the middle one). Mt Athos is supposed to be absolutely gorgeous from a nature perspective with some of the greatest beaches in the Mediterrenean. This is not surprising if you consider that the Church here has inherited either from sheer influence or or grants some of the prettiest spots in Greece.

The exclusionary policy of Mt Athos bothers a lot of Greeks, not least because it hurts tourism and keeps a major attraction locked out to a lot of people (incl. couples, not just women tourists). However, the church's reasoning is completely spiritual: Mt Athos is dedicated to a woman (Virgin Mary) and no other women can be allowed in (Virgin Mary is very, very important in the Orthodox dogma, almost as much as in the Catholic one).

From a practical standpoint, however, I suspect the rule is there to keep the monks from temptation (at least the heterosexual kind) and, most importantly, from priests settling in the region with their families and parcelling out the land (Orthodox priests not on a bishop career track can marry and have kids). It's not a coincidence that Mt Athos has existed as a semi-autonomous region for centuries, practically undisturbed.

The Byzantine Museum in Thessaloniki, as well as the one in Athens often does host exhibitions for Mt. Athos artifacts and icons, BTW. And I cannot not plug my city, which is a very lively, vibrant place, quite unlike the mega-urban mess that is Athens. Thessaloniki is the gateway for Halkidiki and Mt Athos, as well as the Northern Aegean Islands. City History, Thessaloniki Film Festival.
posted by costas at 12:02 PM on November 20, 2002 [1 favorite]

When you say Orthodox you mean GREEK Orthodox, right? I'm just asking, none of the sites seem to specify except the St. Catherine site and that appears to be in Egypt, no? I mean are there Russian, Armenian, Coptic AND Greek monks in Athos or just Greek?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:16 PM on November 20, 2002

I'm in Thessaloniki, too, Costas; I didn't know there were other mefites here! Unfortunately, I don't have the proper plumbing to visit Mt. Athos, though I have seen Athos exhibits...
posted by taz at 12:21 PM on November 20, 2002

What a lively picture. Hail Djävulen.

posted by four panels at 12:23 PM on November 20, 2002

[off topic] four panels: Yeah, well, and then he got himself arrested by San Francisco's finest. [/off topic]
posted by soundofsuburbia at 12:43 PM on November 20, 2002

I mean are there Russian, Armenian, Coptic AND Greek monks in Athos or just Greek?

There are Eastern Orthodox monks of all various ethnic backgrounds on Mount Athos. Some of the monasteries on Athos are primarily Russian or Serbian.

The Armenian and Coptic Orthodox (the "Oriental Orthodox"), while quite close to Orthodox Christianity, are not officially "in Communion" with the Eastern Orthodox (Greeks, Russians, Serbians, Romanians, Orthodox Christian Arabs, et. al.) for various theological reasons dating back to the 5th century, so they have no presence on Mt. Athos.
posted by deanc at 12:55 PM on November 20, 2002

Thanks for clearing that up, wasn't sure what they meant exactly and who was invited to the party.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:58 PM on November 20, 2002

taz: wow, another thessalonian on MeFi? I am impressed :-)
posted by costas at 4:53 PM on November 20, 2002

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