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Holy Mountain of Athos

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 Theologian. 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.

Karen Rae Keck

See also: Hilandar;

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