424 – Article on women on Athos

Icon, Iviron 1535
But what is it like never to look at a woman? Hector gazes across some olive groves at the sapphire Aegean: “Well, actually, once every few years, one or two monks may indeed see a woman. Sometimes, you understand, women come to the beach here, for an adventure. It is illegal, but they come swimming. They wear bikinis, and then… then is difficult for us.” He looks wistful for a while. Then he smiles again. “But most monks will never see a woman. And after a time… you know… is not so difficult.”

Another clue to the monks’ attitude to women is provided by the writings of Robert Curzon, an English traveller who visited Athos in the 1840s. On his wanderings around the monasteries, Curzon came across a man who had been left as a foundling on the peninsula, and thereafter been brought up by the monks. This experience meant the man had spent all his life in Athos, and therefore had no idea what women looked like. The only idea of the female body that the man possessed was derived from icons of the Blessed Virgin. Perhaps that is why the man asked Curzon if all women had haloes.

Article by Sean Thomas in the Guardian 2007. If you want to read the book of Curzon it is available on line.

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8 Responses to 424 – Article on women on Athos

  1. José says:

    The correct links are:
    book of Curzon
    Article of Guardian

  2. evlogeite!


    Our holy fathers, holy monks (et cetera) of all times, carefully guarded themselves from acquaintance with the opposite sex. Women were forbidden to enter men’s monasteries. This good and holy custom is maintained even now on the whole of Mount Athos. Monks who lived a especially attentive life guarded themselves with special care against acquaintance and meetings with women. This may be seen from the lives of Saints such as Arsenios the Great, Sisoes the Great, John the Silent and other fathers of the most sublime holiness. They acted ill this way not merely from self-will or personal choice, but because they discovered it was essential according to the guidance, which they read clearly as in a mirror in their attentive life. ( James 1: 22-27.)

    Some monks (et cetera) say that, though they are often in the company of women, they feel no harm. We should not believe those monks (et cetera). Either they are not speaking the truth and are hiding their spiritual disorder, or they are leading a most inattentive and listless life and so cannot see their own state; or else the devil is robbing them by dulling their understanding and sense of harm, so as to make their monastic life fruitless and prepare them for eternal perdition.

    read whole text here: https://diakrisislogismon.wordpress.com/2008/09/19/avoiding-acquaintance/

  3. Patrick O'Connor says:

    Have just come across your interesting site. I visited Athos for four days in 1946 as a British officer, Graves Registration, and walked from Daphni to Karyes to Panteleimonos and return. I am sure that the monks who were so kind to me are now dead. Patrick O’Connor, patrkjill@comcast.net

  4. Jan Kant says:

    Euhm I am a bit shocked.
    I also read this book and
    was happy I could read a
    Dutch book about Athos.

    What happend to him?

  5. Wim says:

    Beste Jan, ik zag een overlijdensadvertentie in de krant, meer weet ik niet te vertellen.
    groet, Wim
    PS je foto’s heb ik nog in portefeuille en wil ze graag plaatsen. Hoor ik nog van je ?

  6. Maartje says:

    Hallo allen,

    Toevallig kom ik op jullie site, nu ja toevallig, ik googlede mijn vader, Koert ter Veen. Omdat jullie je afvragen wat er met hem gebeurd is schrijf ik.
    Koert was al eerder ziek geweest in 2003 en zijn ziekte kwam in januari 2007 terug. Hij was een jaar lang in strijd, maar is uiteindelijk overleden.
    Ik moest heel erg glimlachen om de reactie op zijn boek, de kritiek past prachtig bij de man die hij was.

    Met vriendelijke groeten,

  7. Wim says:

    Beste Maartje, bedankt je reactie. Ik was – net als Jan uit Belgie – geschrokken en ontdaan toen ik het bericht van het overlijden las. Alhoewel ik je vader niet persoonlijk kende heb ik toch een zekere verwantschap gevoeld na het lezen van zijn boek. Het is bijzonder spijtig dat hij er niet meer is. Ongetwijfeld had hij een bijdrage kunnen leveren aan onze gezamenlijke passie voor de Heilige Berg en het was interresant geweest om hem eens de spreken. Helaas is dat niet meer mogelijk. Nogmaals bedankt en gecondoleerd met het verlies.
    Met vr groet,
    Wim Voogd

  8. Sesso says:

    Great site.

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