1450 – “There is something delightful and deeply moving about Kerasia”

Schermafbeelding 2013-09-18 om 15.23.51Above Kerasia with the Profiti Illiou rock

Kerasia is situated at the south slope of the mountain and is an ideal startingpoint if you want to climb to the summit of Mount Athos (2026m) because Kerasia lies on a altitude of 600/700 meters. If you, for instance, start at Sk. Anna you have to climb app. 500 meters more. But I was not aware that you could stay the night at Kerasia. But apparently Kerasia has a guesthouse as you can read below in this text by W. Mackesy:

A steady walk through lovely woodland, changing subtly as, presumably, we pass through different microclimates, gets us somewhere above Kerasia. We take a path downhill and reach the main church and monastery buildings at 4pm, after wandering through the dispersed houses and terraces of the skete’s upper reaches and beginning what would have been a disastrous descent down a gorge toward the skete’s quay nearly 2,000ft below, fortunately brought to a halt by Reggie, may eternal blessings be upon him, before we have gone too far.

 There is something delightful and deeply moving about Kerasia. The contrast with the thousand-year grandeur of the Lavra could not be greater. A simple grey stone church is sheltered from the profane world by a jumble of very unprepossessing buildings, with a scruffy but charming terrace by the entrance. There are no classical columns or ancient wall paintings here.

There is little sign of life, so Charlie and I poke cautious noses round the front door. Through a window to the left are two ancient, grey-headed monks preparing vegetables. We tap, timidly at first, but then increasingly hard: they are very deaf. At last one sees us and raises a hand. We retreat to our rightful place, outside this private space.

 Father Ephthemios, the guestmaster, emerges shortly afterwards. A wealth of grey hair and beard and a deeply weathered face frame a pair of remarkable pale blue-grey eyes. He has a direct, honest but shrewd manner and radiates goodness. He is utterly charming in the plainest of ways. It is love at first sight. His English is excellent – he did a course through the British Council. He lived in Colorado at some point, and one suspects he lived pretty fully before withdrawing to the Holy Mountain.

 They live very simply here and take us in kindly, although Ephthemios deflects us when we ask to join a service. We feel guilty, in a way, being here, given the disturbance to the monks’ rhythms that we cause – yet hospitality to pilgrims has been an essential part of Athonite life from the beginning, and they treat it as normal and right. Here, as elsewhere, they express surprise at our being British; they have few visitors from our godless, or at least heretical, land.

Ephthemios shows us to the guesthouse, a large room of the utmost simplicity: hard beds with blankets but no sheets; bare, splintery floorboards, thin curtains and, no doubt, a freezing draught in winter. An ascetic room, fitting for this ascetic community.

 We sit in the sun on the terrace and absorb the peace, beauty and emanations of the place. If there is a God, he is here. Kerasia perches among tiny fields that tumble to a cleft that drops, close to sheer at times, some 600m to the often turbulent waters of the south coast, where Darius’ great Persian invasion fleet was lost in 492BC, the first of Greece’s great escapes from their powerful “barbarian” neighbours. On each side are huge limestone cliffs. The terraces are dotted with small monastic households; this is an idiorrhythmic skete, so these groups live by their independent systems, gathering for ocasional services and functions.

Schermafbeelding 2013-09-18 om 16.03.21Kerasia

More about this 3 days trip in 2009 to Athos by William Mackesy here: very interesting and very well written account. More photos of this trip that started in Kavsokaliva, then Lavra, staying the night at Kerasia, climbing the top and back to Sk. Anna.

hv

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