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Mount Athos Holy Mountain
Mount Athos (Agion Oros) is the last end and the most beautiful of all. Civilization has not intruded into the Holly Mountain, which is inhabited solely by monks. Rising majestically from the sea to a height of 2033m, Athos is covered with virgin forests; its natural beauty is almost overwhelming. This magnificent peninsula has been the sole province of men dedicated to the worship of God and Virgin Mary for more than a thousand years.
In 885, the Byzantine emperor Basil I proclaimed it the exclusive domain of monks and hermits. In 963, the first organized monastery was founded. A century later, it was decreed that “no female person” would be permitted to violate its sanctity. This prohibition is still in force, and no woman can set foot on Mt. Athos. Centuries of isolation and devotion to the Orthodox religion have endowed the Holy Mountain with a unique mystical atmosphere.
In its prime, in the 15th century, Athos had 40 monasteries and about 40000 monks. Nowadays the number of active monasteries has been reduced to 20 with a population of approximately 1700 monks. Surrounded by an incalculable wealth of ecclesiastical treasures, rare icons and libraries stocked with precious manuscripts, they live simply, according to the strict orders of prayer and labour, untouched by modern frivolities. Men who wish to visit the Holy Mountain are admitted only by special permission. The rest must be content to end their journey in Ouranoupolis, the City of the Sky, where they can be consoled with a cruise around the extraordinary peninsula. Ouranoupolis, known for its crystal waters and unique beaches, can be considered as the paradise on earth.