2151 – Umberto Eco on Athos

In the year 1988 Umberto Eco (1932-2016), the famous Italian novelist, and professor in semiotics visited the Holy Mountain.

Umberto Eco in 1988

Here we see the author in front of Simonos Petras.

It is said that his famous novel “The Name of the Rose” was inspired by his trip to Athos. The mysterious atmosphere of that book reflects the atmosphere on the Holy Mountain. The mediaeval architecture, the monks in black robes, candlelit corridors, labyrinths, whispering monks, and secret books and knowledge to be found in age-old libraries. The detective is set in the 14th century.

I remember that I was quite impressed on our first pilgrimage to Athos in 2009 when we got the opportunity to visit the library of Mylopotamos. To get there you have to get into the mediaeval tower. Behind an otherwise closed door we were admitted to the secret room and admired the old books.

Here we are watching a Ptolemy copy at the library. We easily found mount Athos.

Writing monk

Eco’s novel was published in 1980, so eight years before his visit to Simonos Petras.

I started looking for an earlier visit. I found only one blog with the information that Eco had visited Vatopediou before writing “In the name of the Rose”. Eco saw in the library a copy of the famous “Geography” of Ptolemy, as we did many years later in Mylopotamos.

I hoped to find more information about that first visit to Vatopediou. Maybe one of our readers knows more?

Eco’s meeting with abbot Elissaios

In his 1988 travel Eco went first to Simonos Petras, then to Iviron on the other site of the peninsula and then back to Karyes. In the building of Simonos Petras in Karyes he met the abbot of Simonos Petras, Elissaios. They had a long discussion. Source.

Eco saw the Greek culture as the roots of the Western civilisation. He wrote an article about the antique period, published in may 2012.

Eco in front of Simonos Petras , 1988

Bas Kamps

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