Mount Athos


The unique and magnificent spectacle that is a natural and architectural ensemble. Its organizers originally not so much care about external comeliness as being focused on its inner significance and accuracy of functional application, has reached unprecedented heights in the ability to create a truly musical harmony between nature, as such, and the nature of human life. So ideal content clothed in the perfect shape.

Sublime soaring

Almost every modern man, even not very experienced in matters of Christian history and traditions of the church, at the mouth of Mount Athos or The Holy Mountain, a number of quite significant associations with certain “monastic kingdom” with their “subjects” – the monks, hermits, devote themselves to God, departed from the madding crowd in search of a solitary life, allowing you to focus on the so-called “spiritual activity”, in other words – strict fasting, prayer and righteous works. We also know that the tradition of the “kingdom”, originated sometime in the early centuries of Christianity, never interrupted, and developing, have survived, forming a true wonder of the world, the Holy Mount Athos. But not everyone, even very knowledgeable in matters of religious history, a sign of another, no less unique and spectacular phenomenon of the Christian world, located in the heart of modern Greece and wearing so colorful and mysterious name – Meteora. The Greek verb nefetstyts, which happened this title, had a fairly wide semantic usage: often he met with such value as to lift something high to the sky or to exalt. Equally, he was often used as a metaphor, and – praise or offer; It was also applicable in the sense with several allegorical and poetic tinge, as the sail on the ship, or to break away from mother earth. What is this “something”, divorced from terra firma, sublime, with his whole being and its being turned to the sky? So, this “something” was the work of human hands, and moreover, the result of his highly spiritual life and moral feat …

Contact Times

Yet what some half a century ago, when between the rocks and cliffs of Meteora did not exist “built” an asphalt road, further progress in the north-west of Greece was largely impossible, at least very dangerous now, requires no special skills, experience, and even risk. Desert was Meteora – monasteries so the monks only, the achievements of civilization were unknown to these places. The high walls of the monastery became almost a natural extension of some natural rocks. The central cathedral cloister, towering its graceful domes of Byzantine strictly calm and strong walls, creating an unforgettable image: a kind of royal crowns or crowns adorning the inexorable “chapters” towering peaks. So many almost pinnacle of Meteora “crowned” monasteries. Currently, the major monasteries have only seven, but once there were more than twenty. Most of them were founded in the XIV century, but the first ascetics came here much earlier; According to some reports, it could happen in the heyday of the Byzantine anahoretstva, ie V – VI centuries, when numerous caves of these cliffs inhabited by monks-hermits. Somewhat later began to appear monasteries and convents coenobite. So, according to legend, in the XII century on the hill where there is a monastery of St. Stephen , came the first skit.

Cenobitic monasteries are usually based on the site of the old monasteries, and sometimes by combining those under a single start. There are numerous examples where the new entity went through the voluntary resettlement of a large and always with a strong tradition of the monastery. So, some elder Gregory with his novice Athanasius and some other monks, ascetics, leaving Athos, Meteora moved in, establishing a new monastery. Often churchwarden, ie organizers of the monasteries, became brothers or relatives, for example, the monks Theophanes and Nectarios, who brought the monastery of St. Varlaam. Since the end of the XIV century, and especially in the XV, became seen some decline of monastic life, explainable only the destruction of the Byzantine Empire and the capture of Thessaly by the Ottoman Turks in 1393. But at the end of the XV century there was a marked tendency for the revival that has shaped a new, “post-Byzantine” architectural and iconographic tradition, clearly manifested in the Greek island, as well as in the south of Italy, where most of the Byzantine emigrated intellectuals. These centers have also occurred on the Greek mainland, however, meeting the huge social and economic difficulties, perhaps not always manifested themselves quite clearly. One of the largest such “post-Byzantine” centers, a kind of bastion of Byzantine culture, remained Meteora. In fairness it should be noted that almost the whole period of “turkokratii” in Thessaly (somewhere in 1393) monasteries evolved quite stable. This continued until the early XIX century, when Meteor experienced the devastation of the strongest forces of Ali Pasha – Ottoman Empire had already been close to falling and is likely thus manifested her agony. After this destruction Meteor and could not recover until the second half of the XX century, when the forces of the international organizations was opened, as they say, “A new page of history” Meteora, which marked the beginning of large-scale reconstruction. And in 1989, the UNESCO tagging Meteora to the monuments of world history and cultural heritage.

Your works are wonderful …

Currently, all the major monasteries of Meteora became available for the pilgrimage. Some of them are on the way is paved over the precipice pedestrian bridge connecting the mountain together. The other can be passed only by a very steep staircase hewn into the rock or built and equipped for the safety of high curb and railing. Previously, up to the monastery of their own it was almost impossible. Most often, the people, provisions, water and building materials raised winches in special baskets or in strong grid, which lowered down on a rope. The grid was seated person when lifting it dragged under its own weight; top of the monastery two or three burly monk, “tie the” wheel in a wooden winch, pulled precious cargo up and unraveled a network, freeing arrived. Now in the same way, but by means of automatic lifts, modern convents support themselves and provisions, and building materials, the more that other, equally friendly and efficient, there is virtually no way. Fearless artisans, of which today is very much due to ongoing restoration works, and the most curious tourists, but only with special permission, raised here in the grids, the old way. In the rocks of Meteora great variety of natural caves and small depressions that can provide shelter to anyone who “tsarstviya Bozhiya for vozzhada zhitiya venerable.” For a long time, even before the construction of the first hermitages and monasteries, hermits pioneers mastered Meteora alone, inhabiting these natural natural formations and building up initial experience solitary life. According to legend, first settled by “lower tiers”, later the new monks settled higher and higher, until some of them did not reach the summit, where he formed the first cenobitic monasteries. Traces of resettlement have been preserved in the form of primitive benches similar to stairs carved into the rock. They randomly connect to one another numerous narrow cave entrances and climbing. Sometimes, for reasons of “security”, attached to the rock wood or rope ladders. Usually they did not do too long: it was preferable to deal with many small, thus achieving both reliability and flexibility when lifting. Such a ladder as a rarity preserved in our time. At first they seem to be feeling so shaky that not everyone, even an experienced climber and courageous, dare to use them to climb to the top of a steep wall of several hundred meters. Rumor has it that some of the caves are not empty and its inhabitants have that living already for many years in the gate, almost do not go to the people. Said monks novices occasionally visit those elders, providing them with the necessities.

Living tradition within the statute

In the tradition of anahoretstva (from the Greek bobshtstts ie depart or move away) was considered a great virtue of the ability of the monk patiently and obediently stay in one place, in other words, every monk was generally preferred not to go beyond the monastery. So the journey remains an exceptional phenomenon in the monastic life (we are talking about the Eastern or Byzantine tradition anahoretstva). In ancient times, as a rule, men visited monasteries are closed, not only for pilgrims, women and men, without rank or monastic vows of obedience. Not always, however, for fellow monks entrance to another monastery could be free. So, usually to visit there a specific time of the day or the liturgical year, involves some relief in the post and “rule of prayer.” Well, so during Lent every monastery was closed and became completely inaccessible to outsiders. Some monks have experienced in the course of post is often left in a long shutter, and in those days they could for a long time without food or even water. Moreover, under fasting always understood not only food restrictions, and a kind of spiritual “possession of the mind” of frivolous fun, such a characteristic of human nature. Previously, as a rule, almost all people know about it and tried not to disturb the usual flow of life to the monasteries. Now all has changed: the monasteries, especially large and have a rich historical tradition, no longer perceived “impregnable home” ascetic monk, becoming a place of pilgrimage, and even tourism, open to the public. Modern monastic regulations, quite naturally, began to adapt to such a change unwritten tradition, finding in it a spiritual benefit, and even a kind of new perspective for improving human nature. In ancient times, when outsiders visit the monastery was still a rare phenomenon existed and its special rules, not only does not contradict the essence of the tradition anahoretstva, but even emphasize the idea of ​​Christian brotherly love. After all, the Gospel dictum, not man created for the post, and the post is the perfection of man, and no “spiritual division” can not be put above the Christian brotherly love – the hospitality or strannopriimnichestvo considered no less a virtue than a hermit with the strict fasting. At present, these rules are no longer the exception. That is why most modern monastery welcomes the pilgrims, dedicating them to the details of everyday monastic life, sanctifying and inspiring his selfless love everyday simple layman. Thus, the living tradition, sometimes ignoring the letter and the charter ceremony, changing its shape and improving, adapting to the needs of modern man, faithful to the main principle – the truth of Christ’s love.

Where did you go and where we are heading?

The key issue of Christianity is always an existential problem of life and death. In this case, it is not surprising, the man has always remained true to himself. “Memento Mori, for dust you are and to dust you will return.” This, it would seem, depressingly pessimistic idea expressed in the book of Genesis, which appeared long before the rise of Christianity, has become almost a hymn of the Christian worldview and one of the moral principles of his sotiriologii (doctrine of man’s salvation). Now, having got an optimistic color, it sounds different – zhizneutverzhdayusche. To live the last day, so do not miss any opportunities to good deeds – so you can briefly express the ontology of the Christian consciousness. A vivid illustration of this idea can serve quite rare iconography of the cathedral church of St. Varlaam over the entrance to the main limit. It depicts Abba Sisoi bent over the remains of Alexander the Great, their mourning and contrition ask: “… what all this fame, wealth, splendor, which irrevocably deprives a person with death, and immortal, but the soul is torn by imperfection, as if encased in a prison of his mortal body and not acquire for themselves the rest, because they do not Radel people about education it is not exercised in prayer, contemplation of God, is not tempered in deprivation and sorrow. O death, who may escape you! ” Very unexpected and unusual for the layman, the stranger, although it is natural for the Byzantine Empire and natural history, was resolved the question of burial traditions of the monks with the establishment of fraternal original temples, tombs. The stony soil, small space, lack of available land created and create considerable difficulties to the burial of the dead. The few plains or high mountains, a little more fertile, normally takes for crops or pasture, because historically assigned to the burial ground with a much poorer properties. It should be noted that such a situation is typical for the whole of mainland Greece. So, at the burial in stone is cut shallow grave where the deceased lay, asleep specially brought for this land. In large monasteries, usually there are several “general” fraternal tomb in which the body buried to stay as long as “perishable flesh” does not rot or otherwise, will not be accepted ground. According to ancient legend, the local word of mouth, “the imperishable relics’ should not be there – the earth is sacred Meteors and body of an ascetic monk can not be rejected by it. Typically, the temple-tomb is a relatively small room with a small altar and, as a rule, low Greek iconostasis. Along the walls of the room, around the perimeter, arranged special racks or, if the design of the building, lined with deep niches and placed where bone remains, or, as is usually called, relics of the deceased brethren. These relics dug up from the grave after three or four years after the burial of a monk, inscribe the name he had received in making the schema, as well as the date of death and referred to the church-shrine to the “cathedral” other “in Bose deceased brother.” So it is always saved in the names of monks who labored at the monastery since its foundation. Solemnly unusually strict and meaningful funeral is the Eucharist, to make “on the relics of” the temple-tomb … In particular Meteor air – clean and tight, it is not a transparent or colorless, it is tangible, his penetrating heat or cold filled everything: the mirror-smooth road, the mountains, the trees, the monastery walls, domes, birds and people. Sometimes it seems that he is motionless and stately calm: he ancient monasteries, ancient rocks themselves and all their diversity. This air-fed the story itself Meteora, this air breathing all live here …

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