Mount Athos: The Ark of Orthodoxy

September 7, 2022
Chris Mellen

The Mount Athos Foundation of America and the Mount Athos Center of Thessaloniki are pleased to announce an exhibition presenting a reflection of a day on Mount Athos. This Exhibition, Mount Athos: The Ark of Orthodoxy is currently on display at the Maliotis Center in Brookline, Massachusetts through November, featuring one panel for each of the twenty Athonite monasteries. Additional panels reflecting life on the Holy Mountain include narratives on its history and institutions, art, architecture, natural environment, and spiritual life.

The Exhibition will open with a celebratory event beginning at 2 PM on Tuesday, September 13. The program includes speeches by Archbishop Elpidophoros, a visiting Athonite monk, the mother of an Athonite monk, and various scholars. A banquet will be accompanied by an exclusive showing of a recently discovered 1929 Athos documentary film, followed by a discussion on this pictorial record of life and architecture of the ancient Athonite monasteries.

Pantokratoros monastery ranks seventh in the hierarchy of the Athonite monasteries. Photo: Courtesy of Mount Athos Center

The exhibition’s panels and accompanying book feature dramatic photography taken of each of the monasteries, and narratives explaining their vast and impressive histories. Monasteries such as Great Lavra, Vatopedi, Iveron, Zographou, Xenophontos, and Esphigmenou have histories dating back over 1,000 years to the 900s. The first information regarding the presence of Athos of ascetics is datable to the end of the 8th or the beginning of the 9th century. Mosaics from the latter part of the Byzantine era (10th to 15th centuries), wall paintings, portable icons, and artifacts made of precious and semi-precious metals, gems, wood, ivories, and steatite, have been preserved throughout this long history in all the monasteries.

The holy monastery of Saint Gregory, also known as, Gregoriou monastery. Photo: Courtesy of Mount Athos Center

Spiritually, Mount Athos is a community of persons dedicated to the uninterrupted worship of God through ascetical practice, where the daily spiritual and material life of the monks unfolds with the liturgical life at its epicenter. Writers from Byzantine times to today have praised both the natural beauty of the place and the virtuous life of the ascetics, viewing it as the ideal place for asceticism, as an ideal realm of God on Earth.

Xenophontos monastery in the monastic state of Mount Athos in Greece. Photo: Courtesy of Mount Athos Center

Mount Athos Foundation of America (MAFA), co-sponsor of the exhibition, is a United States non-profit public benefit corporation formed in 2018 to provide a way for Americans to make tax-deductible donations to support the monastic community of Mount Athos. MAFA’s mission is to advance an understanding of, and provide benefit to, the monastic community of Mount Athos through restoration and preservation of historic monuments and artifacts, fostering knowledge and understanding of the monastic communities, and supporting the operations of the 20 monasteries and their dependencies in times of need.

Mount Athos Center is also a co-sponsor, an urban-non-profit organization, founded in 2000 by the Municipality of Thessaloniki in collaboration with the Holy Community of Mount Athos. The Center organizes exhibits displaying the long monastic tradition of Mount Athos, publishes and runs a library of related books, and organizes conferences and symposia.


Mount Athos Foundation of America logo. Photo: Courtesy of Mount Athos Center
Mount Athos Center logo. Photo: Courtesy of Mount Athos Center

The Exhibition is designed to be a travelling exhibit, the panels and stand being easily packed and shipped to other venues across the country.  Readers are encouraged to contact the Mount Athos Foundation ([email protected]) to schedule the exhibit at local venues in 2023.


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