1131 – Bruce Chatwins desicive moment

In weblog 1079 we cited an article in the Telegraph about Bruce Chatwin´s visit to Athos.

Chatwin´s descive moment came when he walked from Vatopediou to Stavronikita, when he saw this cross.DSC_0207
He wrote: `The most beautiful sight of all was an iron cross on a rock by the sea,  he wrote. From where he stood “ just below the monastery “ the black cross appeared to be striving up against the white foam.`

Then these words: There must be a god.

Here in a wider perspective with the monastery of Pantocratoros in the background.

Chatwin was uncharacteristically silent. Derek Hill, his fellow traveller told: He didnt talk about it, but I knew by his whole bearing that it had affected him,. Hill who had known Chatwin for 20 years had no doubt that as Bruce gazed down on that iron cross he was ambushed by a spiritual experience that unfroze something in him. I think it hit him like a bomb.

His wife Elizabeth stated: When he came back, he said to me, ˜I had no idea it could be like that.It wasnt like his other voyages of discovery. It was completely internal.

After this powerful experience Bruce wanted to become Orthodox. He wanted to be baptised on the Holy Mountain.

But before that could take place he died of aids in Nice, january 19, 1989.

The painter Derek Hill made this picture of one of his travels to Athos. Derek Hill was an English painter who lived most of his life in Donegal). Hill was good with Prince Charles. Their friendship began after Hill did a portrait of the young Prince for Trinity College Cambridge following his graduation. ‘He helped the Prince with his own paintings and introduced the Prince to the painters who he then invited to go on royal trips. So there was a good friendship,’ according to Bruce Arnold´s biography.

‘Derek kept up with the Prince right to the end of this life and one of the last people to see him alive was Prince Charles,’ said Arnold, who lived from 1916 till 2000.

The friends had a yearly ritual of holidaying in France and they also went on a number of artistic excursions to Mount Athos.

He was quoted in Naim Attallah´s book Singular Encounters : `Certainly there are periods in the year when I want to be alone, as when I go to Tory Island or do one of my pilgrimages to Mount Athos. Essentially I am a loner, which is why I’m so seldom in London, but I am also gregarious in the sense that when I do come to London I like meeting my many friends to whom I am devoted.`

Bas Kamps

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5 Responses to 1131 – Bruce Chatwins desicive moment

  1. Dimitris says:

    “Here in a wider perspective with the monastary of Vatopedi in the background”

    You made a small mistake there, I am sure you meant Pantokratoros Monastery.

  2. Romanós says:

    Bruce Chatwin wanted to become an Orthodox Christian. No matter his death of AIDS in Nice. When we awake on the Last Day, he will be there with us.

  3. bas kamps says:

    Thank you Romanos for your comment. You are right that Bruce Chatwin wanted to become Orthodox. He had a memorial service in the Greek Orthodox Church in Bayswater. Kallistos Ware, Orthodox Bishop, relayed Chatwin´s wishes to a frankly astonished congregation: “Bruce was always a traveler and he died before all his journeys could be completed and his journey into Orthodoxy was one of his unfinished voyages.”

    Thank you Dimitris. Chatwin walked from Vatopedi to Stavronikita. But the cross, which changed his life, is near Pantokratoros.

  4. Pierre says:

    Hello Sir,

    I plan to go to Mount Athos in March with 2 friends. I wish we could stay for 1 night at Mylopotamos. How long is it to walk there from Karyes ? Do you know the fax number of Mylopotamos monks ?

    Many thanks in advance,


  5. Wim Voogd says:

    Hi Pierre,
    you have to contact Father Epifanios/Ioachim through this site mywines.gr. You can find these telephone and faxnumbers:
    Please contact Mylopotamos at:

    TEL: +30 23770 23774
    Thessaloniki Office:
    V???????? 14
    TEL: +30 2310 522211
    FAX: +30 2310 522211
    EMAIL: info@mywines.gr
    I just send an e-mail and made all nessesary arrangements.
    The walk from Karyes would take 2 or 3 hours.

    Wim Voogd

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