An Orthodox spiritual centre since 1054, Mount Athos has enjoyed an autonomous statute since Byzantine times. The 'Holy Mountain', which is forbidden to women and children, is also a recognized artistic site. The layout of the monasteries (about 20 of which are presently inhabited by some 1,400 monks) had an influence as far afield as Russia, and its school of painting influenced the history of Orthodox art.
Foyer spirituel orthodoxe depuis 1054, la « Sainte Montagne », interdite aux femmes et aux enfants, dotée d'un statut autonome depuis Byzance, est aussi un haut lieu artistique. Le plan type de ses monastères (dont une vingtaine abritent actuellement 1 400 moines) a eu une influence jusqu'en Russie, et son école de peinture a marqué l'histoire de l'art orthodoxe.
إنّ "الجبل المقدس"، آثوث، الذي يشكّل مزارا روحياً أرثوذكسياً منذ العام 1054 يُحرّم على النساء والأولاد زيارته. يتمتع الجبل بإدارة مستقلّة منذ العهد البيزنطي، كما هو أيضاً مكان مروموق بالمستوى الرفيع الذي تتحلى به محتوياته الفنية المختلفة. وكان للتصميم الهندسي النموذجي لهذه الأديرة، التي تضمّ عشرون منها 1400 ناسك حتى اليوم، تأثير بلغ روسيا، وقد طبعت مدرسةُ الرسم الموجودة فيه تاريخَ الفن الأرثوذكسي.
Духовный центр православия Гора Афон («Святая Гора»)
Гора Афон – духовный центр христианского православия после раскола церкви в 1054 г., имеет независимый статус со времен Византии. «Святая гора», доступ к которой для женщин и детей запрещен, имеет также огромное художественное значение. Влияние здешних монастырей (в 20 из которых ныне проживает порядка 1,4 тыс. монахов) распространялось на многие страны, включая далекую Россию, а афонская школа живописи повлияла на развитие православного искусства.
Centro espiritual ortodoxo desde el año 1054, este “Monte Santo”, prohibido a las mujeres y los niños, posee un estatuto de autonomía desde los tiempos de Bizancio. El Monte Atos tuvo también una importancia considerable en el plano de las artes. En efecto, el trazado de sus monasterios –de los que una veintena albergan todavía hoy a 1.400 monjes– inspiró las construcciones religiosas en regiones tan distantes como Rusia, mientras que su escuela de pintura ejerció una gran influencia en la historia del arte ortodoxo.
De berg Athos is sinds 1054 een orthodox spiritueel centrum en heeft een autonoom statuut sinds de Byzantijnse tijd. De ‘Heilige Berg’, die verboden is voor vrouwen en kinderen, is ook een erkend artistiek gebied. De kloosters van Athos zijn gebouwd volgens het typische ontwerp van orthodoxe kloosters: een vierkante, rechthoekige of trapezoïde muur geflankeerd door torens, die de ruimte van een heilige plaats markeert, met in het centrum een vrijstaande kerk. Het ontwerp van de kloosters (waarvan er nu ongeveer 20 worden bewoond door ongeveer 1.400 monniken) had invloed tot in Rusland. De schilderschool had invloed op de geschiedenis van de orthodoxe kunst.
Outstanding Universal Value
Cloaked by beautiful chestnut and other types of Mediterranean forest, the steep slopes of Mount Athos are punctuated by twenty imposing monasteries and their subsidiary establishments. Covering an area of just over 33,000 hectares, the property includes the entire narrow rocky strip of the easternmost of the three peninsulas of Chalcidice which jut into the Aegean Sea in northern Greece. The subsidiary establishments include sketae (daughter houses of the monasteries), kellia and kathismata (living units operated by the monks), where farming constitutes an important part of the monks’ everyday life. An Orthodox spiritual centre since the 10th century, Mount Athos has enjoyed a self-administered status since Byzantine times. Its first constitution was signed in 972 by the emperor John I Tzimiskes. The 'Holy Mountain', which is forbidden to women and children, is also a recognized artistic site. The layout of the monasteries (which are presently inhabited by some 1,400 monks) had an influence as far afield as Russia, and its school of painting influenced the history of Orthodox art. The landscape reflects traditional monastic farming practices, which maintain populations of plant species that have now become rare in the region.
Criterion (i): The transformation of a mountain into a sacred place made Mount Athos a unique artistic creation combining the natural beauty of the site with the expanded forms of architectural creation. Moreover, the monasteries of Athos are a veritable conservatory of masterpieces ranging from wall paintings (such as the works by Manuel Panselinos at Protaton Church ca. 1290 and by Frangos Catellanos at the Great Lavra in 1560) to portable icons, gold objects, embroideries and illuminated manuscripts which each monastery jealously preserves.
Criterion (ii): Mount Athos exerted lasting influence in the Orthodox world, of which it is the spiritual centre, on the development of religious architecture and monumental painting. The typical layout of Athonite monasteries was used as far away as Russia. Iconographic themes, codified by the school of painting at Mount Athos and laid down in minute detail in the Guide to Painting (discovered and published by Didron in 1845), were used and elaborated on from Crete to the Balkans from the 16th century onwards.
Criterion (iv): The monasteries of Athos present the typical layout of Orthodox monastic establishments: a square, rectangular or trapezoidal fortification flanked by towers, which constitutes the peribolos of a consecrated place, in the centre of which the community's church, or the catholicon, stands alone. Strictly organised according to principles dating from the 10th century are the areas reserved for communal activities (refectory, cells, hospital, library), those reserved solely for liturgical purposes (chapels, fountains), and the defence structures (arsenal, fortified towers). The organization of agricultural lands in the idiorrythmic sketae (daughter houses of the monasteries), the kellia and kathismata (living units operated by the monks) is also very characteristic of the medieval period.
Criterion (v): The monastic ideal at Mount Athos has preserved traditional human habitations, which are representative of the agrarian cultures of the Mediterranean and have become vulnerable through the impact of change within contemporary society. Mount Athos is also a conservatory of vernacular architecture as well as agricultural and craft traditions.
Criterion (vi): An Orthodox spiritual centre since the 10th century, the sacred mountain of Athos became the principal spiritual home of the Orthodox Church in 1054. It retained this prominent role even after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the establishment of the autocephalous patriarchy of Moscow in 1589. Mount Athos is directly and tangibly associated with the history of Orthodox Christianity which, in varying degrees, is present in more than 20 nations in the 20th century. It is no exaggeration to say that this thousand-year-old site, where the weight of history is palpable in the countryside, the monuments and the precious collections have been built up over time, has retained even today its universal and exceptional significance.
Criterion (vii): The harmonious interaction of traditional farming practices and forestry is linked to the stringent observance of monastic rules over the course of centuries, which has led to the excellent preservation of the Mediterranean forests and associated flora of Mount Athos.
Closely associated with the history of Orthodox Christianity, Mount Athos retains its Outstanding Universal Value through its monastic establishments and artistic collections. All the monasteries are well-preserved due to on-going restoration projects carried out according to approved plans. The materials used for restoration are traditional and environmentally friendly.
Mount Athos encompasses an entire peninsula of 33,042 ha, an area of sufficient size to maintain a rich flora and fauna that has been well conserved by careful management of the forests and traditional agricultural practices. Although the natural environment is maintained, it is also vulnerable to forest fire, infrastructure development (mainly roads), and seismic activity. Monastic activities have kept their traditional character due to rules which have remained relatively unchanged throughout the centuries, and the evolution of monastic life should not harm the environment.
The property reflects adequately the cultural values recognized in the inscription criteria through the setting of the monasteries and their dependencies, together with the form, design and materials of the buildings and farms, their use and function, and the spirit and feeling of the place.
Mount Athos has an enormous wealth of historic, artistic and cultural elements preserved by a monastic community that has existed for the last twelve centuries and constitutes a living record of human activities.
Protection and management requirements
Mount Athos has a peculiar self-administered system under Hellenic Constitutional Law. While the sovereignty of the Hellenic State remains intact (article 105), management is exercised by representatives of the Holy Monasteries, who comprise the Holy Community (article 105). The Hellenic State has placed the responsibility for the protection and conservation of the natural and cultural property into public agencies, namely the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports, General Secretariat of Culture, through the responsible 10th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities, the Centre for the Preservation of the Athonite Heritage, the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Directorate for Churches – Mount Athos Administration). The monuments are protected by the provisions of the Archaeological Law 3028/2002 “On the Protection of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage in general”, and by separate ministerial decrees published in the Official Government Gazette.
Restoration and conservation works, co-funded by the European Union, are performed by the Hellenic State (10th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities and Centre for the Preservation of the Athonite Heritage). There is on-going collaboration between the responsible services of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports; the General Secretariat of Culture; and other Ministries with the monastic community. However, it should be stressed that the scheduling and execution of all work concerning individual Holy Monasteries requires their consent as well as that of the Holy Community.
Sustaining the Outstanding Universal Value of the property requires ongoing conservation of the buildings including their finishes and mural paintings, as well as of manuscripts and artworks. Studies concerning the installation of infrastructure in the monastery buildings, including fire protection, have been undertaken.
Protection and management of the forests, including provision of major infrastructure, is the subject of specialized programs planned by the monasteries, in cooperation with the Holy Community and relevant scientists.
Promotion of Mount Athos’ cultural heritage includes conferences, publications and more recently the internet. Mount Athos is well-known to the Orthodox Christian world and attracts many thousands of visitors, scholars and pilgrims every year.
Once finalised and agreed upon, the Management Plan prepared by the Holy Community will address forest management in terms of ecological sustainability; road and port (arsana) construction and maintenance; waste management; the need for a consistent approach to conservation for all monasteries; and a risk preparedness plan for all the monasteries and their dependencies.
The transformation of a mountain into a sacred place made Mount Athos a unique artistic creation combining the natural beauty of the site with the expanded forms of architectural creation. Moreover, the monasteries of Athos are a veritable conservatory of masterpieces, ranging from wall paintings by Frangos Castellanos at the Great Lavra to portable icons, gold objects, embroideries, or illuminated manuscripts which each monastery jealously preserves. Mount Athos exerted a lasting influence in the Orthodox world, of which it is the spiritual centre, and on the development of religious architecture and monumental painting.
The monasteries of Athos display the typical layout of orthodox monastic establishments (to be found as far away as Russia): a square, rectangular, or trapezoidal wall flanked by towers, which constitutes the periobolus of a consecrated place, in the centre of which the community's church (catholicon) stands alone. Strictly organized according to principles dating from the 10th century are the areas reserved for communal activities (refectory, cells, hospital, library), those reserved solely for liturgical purposes (chapels, fountains), and the defensive structures (arsenal, fortified tower). The organization of agricultural lands in the idiorrythmic skites (daughter houses of the main monasteries), and the kellia and kathismata (farms operated by monks) is also very characteristic of the medieval period.
The monastic ideal has at Mount Athos preserved traditional human habitations, which are representative of the agrarian cultures of the Mediterranean world and have become vulnerable through the impact of change within contemporary society. Mount Athos is also a conservatory of vernacular architecture and agricultural and craft traditions.
The northernmost of the three peninsulas jutting into the Aegean Sea from Chalkidi is a narrow rocky strip approximately 50 km long and 10 km wide, rising to 2,033 m. In ancient Greek mythology the peninsula was said to be the stone thrown at Poseidon by the giant Athos. For Christians it was the Garden of the Virgin, the priceless gift that Christ gave his mother. The precise date of the first Christian establishments on Mount Athos is unknown. However, the monastic movement began to intensify in 963, when the future St Athanasius the Athonite, having left the Theme of Rithynia, founded Great Lavra on the tip of the peninsula. In 972 the first Typikon (agreement) was concluded at Karyes between the Emperor Jean Tsimitzes and the monks of Mount Athos. It provided the basis of the exceptional status still enjoyed by the 'Holy Mount' today.
In 1926, the Greek Government ratified a charter based on the long tradition of the Typika. In 1977, when Greece became a member of the European Common Market, the signatory states recognized the specificity of the self-governing region of Athos and its special status. The 360 km2 of Athos are exclusively inhabited by men, the majority of them monks living in coenobitic or idiorrythmic establishments, anchorites, or wandering brothers. The Typikon granted by the Emperor Constantine IX Monomachus in 1046 and signed by more than 100 heads of religious communities, banned women and more generally all 'smooth-faced persons' from entering the mountainous region. Power in this monastic republic is strictly divided between three assemblies: the Synaxe, or the Holy Assembly, which meets twice a year, holds the legislative power; the Holy Community holds the administrative power, and the Holy Epistasie holds the executive power. At Karyes, a civil governor of Athos, under the Greek Foreign Affairs Ministry, ensures that the Charter of 1926 is respected.
Today Athos includes 20 monasteries, 12 skites, and about 700 houses, cells, or hermitages. Over 1,000 monks live there in communities or alone, as well as in the 'desert' of Karoulia where cells cling to the cliff face rising steeply above the sea.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC