Mount Athos: Renewal in Paradise

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Mount Athos, a spectacularly beautiful rocky peninsula on the coast of Greece, has been a monastic preserve since the ninth century. This richly illustrated book tells the entire story of Athos, the Holy Mountain, from the first anchorite monks who lived in caves and huts through centuries of political and religious controversy to the thriving monastic communities of today.
“Superb photographs, fascinating. Travelers and pilgrims alike, as well as those who prefer to stay at home, will relish this tour of Athos’s history, its relics and treasures, and, in part, its consciousness.”—Literary Review
“An all-embracing panorama of the nature and detailed history of Athos.”—Anglo-Hellenic Review
“This beautifully produced book contains everything the layman could wish to know about Athos. It is more, much more, than a mere travel book, though it would be a useful addition to the Orthodox pilgrim’s knapsack.”—The Tablet

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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
Ancient and isolated, the twenty Orthodox monasteries on the Greek peninsula of Mount Athos do not make the headlines often, but the current standoff between the conservative monks of Esphigmenou (motto: "Orthodoxy or Death") and other orders shines a light on this enclave, famous for its total exclusion of females (including livestock) and its extreme notion of solitude: some hermits still live for decades in caves with only the skulls of their predecessors for company. Graham Speake's history Mount Athos suggests that the monks have always been a querulous bunch. As early as 972 A.D., the number of monks allowed to attend annual meetings was limited to "avoid the disorders and disputes which have occurred very frequently at these gatherings."

Few people nowadays are attracted to the cloistered life, but in some periods of history joining sacred orders was almost the norm. In Renaissance Europe, the high cost of marriage in aristocratic families sometimes sent the majority of a family's daughters to convents. In A Convent Tale, P. Renée Baernstein focusses on the life of the sixteenth-century Milanese noblewoman Agata Sfondrati. Such was the dearth of marriage opportunities that Agata's sister Anna was the only woman in three generations of the Sfondrati to get married. Unsurprisingly, many women felt trapped by this life. Mary Laven's Virgins of Venice looks at the many ways in which this frustration was vented -- amateur dramatics, hospitality to outside women, and love affairs. A nun who, in 1614, knocked a hole in a wall to admit her lover pointed out that she had been at the convent since she was six or seven and that, when she took her vows, "I spoke with my mouth, and not with my heart."

(Leo Carey)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300103236
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 9/27/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 308
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Graham Speake is by training a classicist and by profession an academic publisher. He is founder and honorary secretary of the Friends of Mount Athos and a frequent visitor to the Mountain.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Athos BC 9
2 The Garden of the Mother of God 17
3 Byzantine Athos 37
4 Palaiologan Athos 71
5 Ottoman Athos 113
6 Twentieth-Century Athos 157
7 Athos Today: For the Monk 195
8 Athos Today: For the Pilgrim 233
Epilogue 265
Notes 268
Select Bibliography 279
Glossary 283
Index 285
Photographic Acknowledgements 295
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