Mount Athos: Monasteries of Mount Athos

In Greek mythology, Athos was a giant that fought Poseidon and he threw a massive rock at the god and that turned into Mount Athos. In 492 BC a massive Persian flotilla got wrecked near Mount Athos caught by violent storms and thrown onto rocks with 900 ships destroyed and 20,000 people dead. Xerxes came back later with another army and spent three years carving a canal through Athos to assure successful invasion (that was before 300). There is little historical documents about the next millennium but early Christianity came here and several very isolated churches were built. The monasteries came during the Byzantine timеs, with Serbian and Russian monks establishing many monastic abodes here. Serbia assumed direct control of Mount Athos and huge sums of money – Serbian and Russian – ended up in construction of over 300 monasteries. Then came the Ottoman era and while the Ottomans respected and protected all the places of worship, they levied very heavy taxes and most monasteries went belly up. The remaining monasteries somewhat unionized against the taxation and appealed to the Russian tzars who threw more money to protect the monasteries which by then were mostly Russian. By 1903, there were 7000 monks here, mostly Russian, and Russia tried to take control, unsuccessfully, of Mount Athos away from Greece. During WWII, Hitler put the entire Mount Athos under his personal vow of protection and no fighting happened here. Today, 20 monasteries remain – 17 Greek, and 1 each Russian, Serbian, and Bulgarian. As the ship cruises along the southern side of the peninsula, you get to see the procession of 8 monasteries – Dochiariou, Xenophontos, Panteleimon (green one, it’s the Russian one and most lavish), Xeropotamou, Simonopetra, Osiou Grigoriou, Dionysiou, and Pavlou. Most are close to the water but some are perched high in the mountains – and all look massive and totally like medieval fortresses. Some monks come onboard to sell trinkets to mostly Russian women – and that’s your Mount Athos experience in a nutshell.