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Abbeys - Monasteries
Agion Oros (Mount Athos)
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Agion Oros (Holly Mountain), also known as Mount Athos is an autonomous region of Macedonia, which is famous for its monasteries. The area possesses a special administrative status that is officially recognized and controlled by Greece. The area is characterized as Autonomous Monastic State.

The Autonomous Monastic State is located on the Athos peninsula of the prefecture of Halkidiki. It is the easternmost of the three peninsulas of the region and it is surrounded by Siggitikos bay and the Aegean Sea. The highest peak of Mount Athos reaches 2,033 meters.

The Mount Athos is an area with many steep mountains and dense forests. Among the rocky outcrops, fertile valleys are formed where monks cultivate vines and fruits. The monastic state produces olive oil, wine and nuts. The surrounding sea feeds the monks with fresh fish.

According to Greek mythology, Mount Athos was created during the Battle of the Giants with the Olympian gods. Giant Athos in his attempt to hit Neptune with a rock, he missed and the rock landed to the sea and formed mount Athos.

In historical times various cities were developed in the peninsula. Herodotus mentions that near mount Athos the army of Mardonius was destroyed at sea due to bad weather. During the reign of Philip II, the peninsula became part of the Macedonian state.

Monasticism in the peninsula of Athos begins in the ninth century.  In 985 the Byzantine emperor Basil II gave the monks their independence and the area began to flourish. The crusaders, after the fall of Constantinople in 1204 moved to Mount Athos where they looted and destroyed many monasteries. The disaster was repeated 100 years after, from the Catalans soldiers.
At the end of the Byzantine period, the financial support to the monks from the last emperors  increased significantly the fortune of the monastic state.
In the early Ottoman period the monasteries maintained their privileges. From the 16th century onwards, the unbearable taxation deserted the monasteries.
The 18th century was marked by the establishment of the Athonite Academy that attracted a large number of students.
In the early 20th century the area was  liberated by the Greek Navy during the First Balkan War and finally in 1927 "Agion Oros" was recognized as an Autonomous Monastic State.

Autonomous Monastic State
Agion Oros occupies  an area larger than 335 square kilometers  and it hosts 2,262 residents. Karies is the capital of the State.
There are 20 monasteries, built between 10th and 15th century. The total number of the monasteries is not allowed to be different than 20.
Seventeen (17) of them are Greek, one Serbian, one Bulgarian and one Russian. All the monasteries are characterized as spiritually religious institutions and they preserve hierarchical structures.
The first monastery in the hierarchy is the Holy Monastery of Agia Lavra. In addition, there are 12 hermitages, 204 cells and huts that represent spiritual places of  lower hierarchical levels.

Characteristic of the State is that no woman is allowed to enter to Mount Athos since 1030.

Although the Autonomous Monastic State belongs to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Greek government is in charge to appoint the governor of Mount Athos.