Ayion Oros

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Ayion Oros


(also Agion Oros—holy mountain—and Athos), a peninsula in eastern Greece, eastern promontory of the Chalcidice Peninsula, on the Aegean Sea. It is 50 km long and 10 km wide. Mount Athos (2,033 m) rises in the southeastern part of the peninsula. Ayion Oros is a self-governing province of Greece and is ruled by an association of Orthodox monks comprising 20 fortified monasteries (Greek, Bulgarian, Russian, and others) built in the rocks. Administration is exercised by representatives of the monasteries—the so-called sacred community. The patriarch of Constantinople has the highest ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

The first major monastery (Lavra) was founded in 963 by the Byzantine monk Athanasius. From the 11th century on, close relations developed between the monasteries and Russia; these relations had a great influence on the Russian Orthodox Church. The Russian monastery (Ksilurgu) was founded before 1016; in 1169 it acquired the abandoned cloister of Panteleimon, which later became a center for the Russian monks on Athos. In the architecture of the religious buildings on Athos, a dome-shaped triapsidal temple—usually with a double vestibule—predominates. Many temples are decorated with frescoes and mosaics, the earliest ones dating from the 11th century. The monasteries have been rebuilt and remodeled many times. More than 10,000 Greek and Slavic (including Russian) manuscripts and vast collections of icons and articles of decorative and applied art are preserved in these monasteries.


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