Mount Athos, UNESCO World Heritage Centre (with Map & Photos)

The Greek name for Mount Athos (Άγιο Όρος) - Agio Oros - means that monks live on it. For more than 1000 years, Orthodox Christians have been leaving here as hermits. They lead the closed life of hermits in 20 large monasteries that have retained their independence from the secular authorities.

Mount Athos UNESCO
Mount Athos UNESCO

Athos is the Holy Mountain, which rises 2033 m above sea level on the Halkidiki Peninsula. According to legend, once there was a battle between the gods from Olympus and the ancient giants. One of them, named Athos, threw a huge stone at his opponent, Poseidon. He missed, and the stone fell into the sea - and this mountainous peninsula was formed.

Basic Moments


Mount Athos is a place of concentration of Orthodox monasteries founded in the 10th century. Most of them are Greek, but some are under the auspices of the Russian, Serbian and Bulgarian communities. It is home to about 1,500 monks. The rules differ from monastery to monastery, and some monks, as in the old days, even live as hermits, settling in caves and kalivs. The rules on the Holy Mountain are very strict. The number of visitors (non-Orthodox) is limited (twelve people a day). Most tourists are limited to a boat excursion that approaches the shore. Women are forbidden to step on the holy land of Athos. If you are lucky, you will see dolphins during your boat trip, which are not uncommon in these waters.

Mount Athos UNESCO
Mount Athos UNESCO

Byzantine monks erected the oldest monastery, the Great Lavra, in 963. Already in 972 a unique agreement was reached with Byzantium, according to which Mount Athos was recognized as a spiritual state, independent of the Byzantine Empire, with full sovereignty guaranteed to Athos personally by the emperor. This made Athos a political and religious center for Greek, Balkan and Russian Orthodox Christians. In the XIV century, the golden age of Athos, about 40,000 monks lived in 20 large monasteries and small "sketes" - the same monasteries that resembled a small village.

Although the inhabitants of Mount Athos are nominally citizens of Greece, its autonomous status has been preserved to this day: the last agreement confirming the sovereignty of the spiritual state was signed in 1912. According to the Charter, the highest legislative and judicial body of the monastery administration of the Holy Mountain is the Extraordinary Twenty-member Assembly, drawn up abbots of all 20 large monasteries and sitting in the capital of Athos, Kars. The executive power on the Holy Mountain is exercised by the Sacred Cathedral (Kinot), consisting of 20 members, each of whom represents their own monastery. The administrative power is a separate committee of 4 "observers", the composition of which changes every year on the first of June. Also in Kares is the residence of the head of government, Protus (in Greek - the first)... The Greek state on Mount Athos is represented by a governor who is subordinate to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has a small staff of administrative officers and police officers. Its main responsibility is to oversee the observance of civil law.

Mount Athos UNESCO
Mount Athos UNESCO

The way of life of monks in this "Lot of the Mother of God" has remained practically unchanged since the time of the Byzantine Empire, when the state first officially defined their status. To this day, neither women nor most pets have access to this holy land. The monks claim that this rule was established according to the biblical tradition, according to which the Virgin Mary herself chose Mount Athos as a resting place, where she would not be disturbed by other female representatives. Today, 1,700 monks live outside the walls of the main monasteries.

The peninsula itself is notable for its rare natural beauty. The slopes of the mountain are covered with ancient evergreen forests almost to the very top, the height of which is 2033 m. According to legend, the Mother of God made a trip to Cyprus with St. John, and when the storm forced her to seek refuge, she stopped at the place where the Iversky Monastery is now located. The beauty of these places made such an impression on her that the Lord gave the Mother of God this mountain, saying: "Let this place be yours, become your garden and your paradise, as well as salvation and shelter for those who seek salvation."

Mount Athos UNESCO
Mount Athos UNESCO

In short, only Orthodox monks can live in this place. Some of the monasteries date back to the 13th century, such marvelous temples that they have earned the title of world heritage site by UNESCO in 1988. Fortress-shaped monasteries (especially those near the coast), which helped them to resist invasions from different peoples, especially the Turks.

Mount Athos Map