2007 Archive Edition - See the Archive Notice on the Project Homepage for more information.
The end of a peninsula that stretches from Macedonia into the Ægean, Mount Athos is the home of an autonomous theocracy of 20 monasteries, all of which are independent of one another. The mountain is under the protection of the Theotokos, who, according to legend, was blown off course there with St. John the Apostle. When she arrived, the idols fell. Since the XI Century, no female of any species has been allowed on the Holy Mountain.
Hermits and Vlach shepherds are said to have lived on Athos before Athanasius the Athonite established the Great Lavra c. 963. By 1400, nineteen monasteries had been founded; these are built near the coast and tend to be cenobitic. Many follow the rule of St. Basil or that of the Studion. Hermits, usually idiorrythmic, live in the interior wilderness of Athos.
The mountain was originally under the temporal protection of the Byzantine emperor, but when the eastern empire fell, Athos came under western governance. The Franks ruled it from 1204-1224, and western domination continued until 1313. The secular rulers were often so cruel to the monks that they appealed to the pope for protection. In the XIV Century, Athos was the center of the controversy over the practice of Heyschasm. The Holy Mountain remains the center of Eastern Orthodox monasticism.
Karen Rae Keck
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