An Orthodox spiritual centre since 1054, Mount Athos has enjoyed an autonomous statute since Byzantine times. The 'Holy Mountain', which is forbidden to women and children, is also a recognized artistic site. The layout of the monasteries (about 20 of which are presently inhabited by some 1,400 monks) had an influence as far afield as Russia, and its school of painting influenced the history of Orthodox art.

Mount Athos has been inhabited since ancient times and is known for its nearly 1,800-year continuous Christian presence and its long historical monastic traditions, which date back to at least 800 A.D. and the Byzantine era. Today, over 2,000 monks from Greece and many other countries, including Eastern Orthodox countries such as Romania, Moldova, Georgia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia, live an ascetic life in Athos, isolated from the rest of the world.

Cloaked by beautiful chestnut and other types of Mediterranean forest, the steep slopes of Mount Athos are punctuated by twenty imposing monasteries and their subsidiary establishments. Covering an area of just over 33,000 hectares, the property includes the entire narrow rocky strip of the easternmost of the three peninsulas of Chalcidice which jut into the Aegean Sea in northern Greece. The subsidiary establishments include sketae (daughter houses of the monasteries), kellia and kathismata (living units operated by the monks), where farming constitutes an important part of the monks’ everyday life.

An Orthodox spiritual centre since the 10th century, Mount Athos has enjoyed a self-administered status since Byzantine times. Its first constitution was signed in 972 by the emperor John I Tzimiskes. The landscape reflects traditional monastic farming practices, which maintain populations of plant species that have now become rare in the region.

The Athonite monasteries feature a rich collection of well-preserved artifacts, rare books, ancient documents, and artworks of immense historical value, and Mount Athos has been listed as a World Heritage Sitesince 1988.

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Mount Athos, Greece
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Founded: 800 AD
Category: Religious sites in Greece

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