2026 – How to preserve and keep the ancient paths of Mount Athos?

Greece has a long tradition in preserving ancient heritage. Even old roads, such as this one,  leading to Thessaloniki are kept in good condition for the future. This road is in the Museum of Modern Art in Thessaloniki. This nicely restored road or path is located in the archaeological site of the ancient village of Akanthos, nowadays Ierissos close to the Athos border. 
Alongside the old walls of Thessaloniki workers are building a road in ancient style.On Mount Athos there are many old roads and paths (monopati or kalderimi) such as this one, close to Karakallou.Or this beautiful path in the Profitou Elias region. But the Mount Athos paths are vulnerable. This path is partly destroyed by water erosion.There are other natural causes that can damage the paths. Here an old tree avalanche, now overgrown by vegetation,  between Prodromou and Lavra has destroyed the path over a length of 15 meter. But the worst problem is that the paths are threatened by human intervention. Such as the use of metal walking sticks without plastic caps or rubber tips. The scratches on the photo are made by metal tips and are damaging the stones of the paths. In the trekking paradise Machu Picchu, Peru the use of walking sticks without rubber tips is not allowed!But what really has to stop is the bulldozing of the old paths. This is what is left of a path in the centre of the peninsula. Some stones are still there but most of the path is gone forever. The path has become a dirt road.
So stop making new roads and preserve the old paths for the future.

Herman Voogd

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2025 – The official point of view of the Russian Orthodox Church about Mount Athos

Russian pilgrims panteleimonos.pngThis is what Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations of the Russian Orthodox Church has to say about Mount Athos in an interview with the BBC on the 17th of October 2018:

  After the decision made by the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, a hot discussion began on such a question as prospects for pilgrimage to Holy Mountain Athos. There are different opinions. Some say that it is not recommended to anybody to pray on Mount Athos, others say it is permissible to pray on Athos but not for the clergy and the clergy will be punished for that. So, who can go to Athos; will any sanctions follow with regard to the clergy?

– Anyone can go to the Holy Mountain who has a Greek visa and permission to enter Athos. We can pray to God in any place on the Earth.

There is such notion as the Eucharistic communion. It is an opportunity for a believer of one Church to take communion and to make confession in churches of another Church. We have broken off the Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which exercises jurisdiction over Athos. For us, the rupture of communion means that we cannot celebrate divine offices in Athonite monasteries, nor can we take communion in them; however, we have an opportunity to visit these monasteries as believers and as tourists. That is, there is no rupture in human relations whatsoever.

–  And can the clergy visit monasteries on Athos?

–  The clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church can visit them.

–    They will not be punished if they come to the Holy Mountain, will they?

–    If a priest takes part in divine services at Athonite monasteries, then this matter will become a subject for discussion with his ruling bishop. There are various forms of canonical suspensions in such cases.

–  For instance?

–  One of the existing means is suspension in ministry.

–  And this straight away after only one trip?

–  This is up to the bishop. There are various means. It may be a reprimand.

–  Russian benefactors and patrons have donated over 200 million dollars. These are private donations. Do you know about it?

–  Yes.

–  Then what is to be done by those who have invested funds in the adornment of Athonite monasteries? And another question: Is some response expected from Athonite starets to the recent events; is it possible that they will protest against Constantinople’s decisions?

–  We have warmest and most respectful feelings for Athos. We do not want to prompt to Athonite starets what to do.

History shows that when Athos is concerned over something, the monasteries on the Holy Mountain do find ways to inform the Patriarch of Constantinople about it. For instance, when Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople met with the Pope of Rome, Athonite monasteries expressed their protest against it; some even stopped to mention the name of the Patriarch of Constantinople during the liturgy. But, I repeat, it is an internal affair of Athos.

As for the Russian businessmen who donate to Athos, I would advise them to switch their attention to the monasteries of our Church and invest in their restoration and adornment. We have our own saints, our own Athos – the Solovki and Valamo Monasteries, the St. Sergius Monastery of the Trinity; in Ukraine, there is the Kiev Monastery of the Caves. If there is a wish to donate one’s funds to a God-pleasing cause, then we have no less but perhaps even more holy places than the Holy Mountain has.

–  What will happen to the Russian monks on Athos? For instance, in the St. Panteleimon Monastery which is considered Russian from of old? As is known, the president of Russia is received in it according to a special protocol. Where are the monks to run to now?

–  They do not have to run anywhere but should continue their existence and their work there. I do not think that anything will change in the monastery status.

–  But in the St. Panteleimon monastery, the name of the Ecumenical Patriarch is mentioned during the liturgy. At the same time, the monastery lives at the expense of Russian donators; it is visited by eminent pilgrims beginning from Igor Sechin to Irog Shuvalov. Where to will they travel now?

–  I think it is also an internal affair of the monastery. They have a council of starets and I think they, in this situation, will make an appropriate decision. I would not like to prompt them, especially through the mass media, nor to predict their decisions. I think they themselves will understand how it will be done better.

Read here the whole interview. Thanks to our reader Joseph Skinner.

Herman Voogd

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2024 – Russian Orthodox Church: Mount Athos closed to Russian pilgrims?

Breaking news today: the Russian Orthodox Church has broken ties with Orthodoxy’s leader Bartholomew and says Mount Athos is now closed to Russian Orthodox Christians from RussiaBartholomew October 7th 2011 on the pier in Ouranopolis – foto Wim Voogd

Ukraine secured approval on Thursday to establish an independent church in what Kiev says is a vital step against Russian meddling in its affairs, but the Russian clergy fiercely opposes the biggest split in Christianity for a thousand years.

At a three-day synod presided over by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul, seat of the global spiritual leader of roughly 300 million Orthodox Christians, endorsed Ukraine’s request of Patriarch Filaret for an “autocephalous” (independent) church.

The Russian Orthodox Church says Mount Athos is also now closed to Russian Orthodox Christians from Russia. Patriarch Kirill’s press secretary, priest Alexander Volkov, has pointed out that Mount Athos is in the Moscow Patriarchate’s jurisdiction “with all the same consequences.”

Does this also mean that Russian and Ukrainian monks (or pilgrims) can no longer attend services together? It will be exciting to see how this works out on Mount Athos, I hope without any struggle.

Wim Voogd, 16/10

Update 19/10

 

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2023 – A walk along the border

This September I spent the holidays with my wife in the beautiful Skites Resort between Ouranoupolis and the Athos border. No plans to visit Athos but after some  time I felt the urge to make a long walk and see a glimpse of the Holy Mountain. So I decided to walk along the border going from coast to coast and back. I took the dirt road next to our appartment going north. Dirt road, in the top right corner of the photo.After a few hundred meters I saw a restored post-Byzantine aqueduct where I learned that this part of the border area used to be the property of the Vatopedi monastery. Looking to the west, in the shade of the trees, a chapel is located called Ag. Triadas where the locals of Ouranoupolis meet. But I followed the road to the north. When I looked back I saw the windmill and a dome of the church of Chromitsa, the Mount Athos based dependency of the Russian monastery, Panteleimonos. Not visible but somewhere in the distance lay the border fence.The actual border is, again invisible, somewhere on the 100 meter line. The communication tower on the highest point is at 510 meter. In 2012 this area was damaged by a large wildfire.Map by Peter Howorth with the border and some of the locations which I passed during the hike.
When I almost reached the other coast, after 3 hours walking in the hot sun,  a car picked me up and I had the following conversation with a friendly Greek who spoke a little bit of English: “I am from Holland  ‘, I said. The man said: “me, uncle, Walweek, Walweek, Walweek”. Finally I understood that he meant that his uncle lived in the village of Waalwijk in The Netherlands. ” Does he work in Greek restaurant?” I asked.
“No” the man said ” work as father from Jesus”. When we both stopped laughing we arrived at the beach. I thanked him for the lift and walked to the beach club.
At the beach club Giorgos & Amanda in the Komitsa area I ate bread with Feta cheese and watched some German customers who gave the impression that they had never left this place since the 1960ties. Still with long hear wearing their India robes and bandanas.  From the beach club it was another 200 meters to the border.The border wall, with the Arapis peninsula behind it. The ” no entry for women”  text of this Mount Athos sign is completely faded by the sun. These signs were all over the Mount Athos coastline and border mainly to prevent that women would enter the peninsula.
With fresh water in my backpack I started to hike back the same route as I came. The area is very deserted and also protected nature. Further up the road a jackal was fleeing rapidly when I came in sight. I heard jackals on Mount Athos but never saw one there.I was rather glad when I saw Sidney Lochs tower and Drenia and Amouliani Island again. It took me 6 hours and almost 20 km to get from one coast to the other and back. I was pretty tired and somewhat overheated  but had a wonderful day.

Herman Voogd

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2022 – Jan Paul ten Bruggencate dies at age of 87


Last Friday, 21th of September, on our last day of our 2018 pilgrimage to Athos, my good friend Jean Paul ten Bruggencate died at the blessed age of 87. He visited Athos many times and usually stayed at Maroudá or Karakallou. His first visit to the Holy Mountain was as early as 1967. Here is the announcement in NRC newspaper this morning (in Dutch). Maybe other pilgrims can inform father Makarios of Maroudá  and father Pachomios of Karakallou ? Many thanks.

May he rest in peace.

Wim Voogd

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2021 – Simonospetras in moonlight

Two exceptional pictures of Simonospetras in moonlight, made last week by Jitze Bakker. Silence, tranquility and serenity are the appropriate words for these pictures (thanks to monk T.)

Wim Voogd, 25/9

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2020 – a sneak preview of the 2018 pilgrimage and news from Athos

From the monastery of Simonospetras, where we could sleep for two nights thanks to monk T., I will show a few images that I shot the last three days:

On the boat to Athos: an unexpected meeting with mr Hadrian Liem from Holland

Konstamonitou: the Katholicon

A dome of a chapel with its typical Greek blue color, near Docheiariou

Xenofontos: the Katholicon

On the road with father T.  from Simonospetras: somewhere high above Dafni, the West coast, Rema Dontá

Simonospetras

Father Maximos, shop owner in Karyes

Iviron: the aqueduct

Me in the Landrover of father T. (photo Jitze Bakker – JB)

Just before Lavra: the old bridge of Velás

The small road, just wide enough for one (4-wheel drive!) car, leading to arsanas Prodromou

Wild seas at arsanas Prodromou

The cave/old boat house from 1853 at arsanas Prodromou

Time for a drink and a meal at Karyes with father T. (photo JB)

News item:

Yesterday we heard the news here that the fire brigade and special forces had to rescue an 67 year old Swiss man, who was hiking on his own an got lost in the Athonite wilderness, because he chose to leave the path and in doing so, fell and broke his foot. The rescuers had to carry him from the bushes back to Simonospetras, from where he was transported by boat and than by helicopter to a hospital.

From Greek newspapers we understand that he spend the night alone on a monopati, before he was rescued. This proves again the golden rule on the Holy Mountain, never ever leave the path, especially when you hike alone!

I do not hope it was the Swiss man who we met on the boat two days earlier!

Wim, 20/9

Posted in 13 Simonos Petras, 16 Xenofontos, 20 Konstamonitou, arsanas, events, news, Prodromou, Trip 2018 | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments