AGION OROS - Land of Virgin Mary
Agion Oros, 630 87, GreeceGet Directions
Agion Oros, 630 87, GreeceGet Directions
According to mythology the name Athos belongs to a Thracian giant. During the conflict between the Gods and the Giants, Athos threw a huge rock against Poseidon (the God), but the rock slipped through his fingers and fell to the sea creating a huge block of land which is now Mount Athos. In a different version it was Poseidon who threw the rock against Athos. The rock crushed Athos and burried him underneath. This rock was called Mount Athos.
Up to the 3rd century BC, there where quite a few small greek towns in the peninsula. Later, for unknown reasons, these towns fell into decay or were destroyed, resulting in a deserted area for many centuries. Herodotus tells us that Pelasgians from the island of Lemnos populated the peninsula, then called Acte or Akte. (Herodotus, VII: 22) Strabo reports of five cities on the peninsula: Dion (Dium), Cleonae (Kleonai), Thyssos (Thyssus), Olophyxos (Olophyxis), Acrothoï (Akrothoön), of which the last is near the crest. (Strabo, Geography, VII: 33:1) Eretria also established colonies on Acte. Two other cities were established in the Classical period: Acanthus (Akanthos) and Sane. Some of these cities minted their own coins. The peninsula was on the invasion route of Xerxes I, who spent three years excavating a channel across the isthmus to allow the passage of his invasion fleet in 483 BC. After the death of Alexander the Great, the architect Dinocrates (Deinokrates), proposed to carve the entire mountain into a statue of Alexander. The history of the peninsula during latter ages is shrouded by the lack of historical accounts. Archaeologists have not been able to determine the exact location of the cities reported by Strabo. It is believed that they must have been deserted when Athos' new inhabitants, the monks, started arriving at some time before the 7th century AD.
ΣAccording to tradition, the Virgin Mary with John the Evangelist, on 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 Ivira. 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". In the 5th century AD, the first monks came to Mount Athos, who disappointed from the boredom of everyday communal life, found this beautiful and uninhabited place ideal for worship their God.
The self-governed region of the Holy Mountain, according to the Decree passed by the Holy Community on the 3rd October 1913 and according to the international treaties of London (1913), Bucharest (1913), Neuilly (1919), Sèvres (1920) and Lausanne (1923), is considered part of the greek state. The Decree, "made in the presence of the Holy Icon of Axion Estin", stated that the Holy Community recognized the Kings of Greece as the lawful sovereigns and "successors on the Mountain" of the "Emperors who built" the monasteries and declared its territory as belonging to the Kingdom of Greece. Later a "Special Double Assembly" of the Holy Community in Karyes passed the "Constitutional Charter" of the Holy Mountain, which was ratified by the Greek Parliament. This regime originates from the "self-ruled monastic state" as stated on a chrysobull parchment signed and sealed by the Byzantine Emperor Ioannis Tzimisces in 972. This important document is preserved in the House of the Holy Administration in Karyes. The self-rule of the Holy Mountain was later reaffirmed by the Emperor Alexios I Komnenos in 1095. According to the constitution of Greece, Mount Athos is, "following ancient privilege", politically self-governed and consists of 20 main monasteries which constitute the Holy Community, and the capital town and administrative centre, Karyes, also home to a governor as the representative of the greek state. The governor is an executive appointee. The status of the Holy Mountain and the jurisdiction of the Hagiorite institutions were expressly described and ratified upon admission of Greece to the European Union.
According to the old customs and the bill of rights, Mount Athos is a self-governed territory of the Greek state (regarding its religious aspect it is subject to the Ecumenical Patriarch). The executive authority is exercised by the four members of Holy Supervision, whereas the legislative authority is exercised by the twenty members of the Holy Assembly, to which all monasteries are subject. The Superior of the Holy Supervision represents the first monastery in hierarchical order and is called Protos (First) or Protoepistatis (Fist Supervisor). All members are elected by absolute democratic procedures by the monks. The political leader of Mount Athos is elected by the Greek State and is subject to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Karyes is the administrative of Mount Athos.
Today in Mount Athos there are 20 monasteries and 12 skites. The twenty monasteries in hierarchical order are as follows:
The 12 skites are:
Besides these, there are also cells, hovels and the so-called “askitiria”, tranquil places where the “askites” (hermit monks) live in complete solitude. Famous “askitiria” are Karoulia, which are hanging caves in the southern cliffs of Athos, close to the sea. There, live the most discipline hermit monks (askites) of the mountain.
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