The Monastic Community of Mount Athos (Hagion Oros) is geographically defined by the boundaries of the Athos peninsula, the easternmost leg of the larger Chalkidiki peninsula, being a self-governing community within the Greek territory.
Mount Athos is a living worshiping and hesychastic community with continuous and uninterrupted presence that spans over a millennium. It consists of twenty sovereign Monasteries, skētes (smaller communities of Christian hermits with a common area of worship), cells and kathismata (units with a small church operated by the monks living under the spiritual and administrative supervision of a monastery) scattered throughout the peninsula. For more than a thousand years successively, the Holy Mountain operates as one of the most important cultural conservatories for both the Orthodox Christian and the Greek civilization. Directly and tangibly associated with the Byzantine world in all of its religious and cultural manifestations, the twelve century years old monastic community constitutes a living record of human activities, preserving an enormous wealth of historic, artistic and cultural elements that includes manuscripts, incunabula and post-incunabula.
The Holy Mountain is a monumental complex of an outstanding universal value, listed in the Unesco World Heritage List (WHL 454) since:
a) It constitutes a unique artistic creation that combines the physical environment of the location with the expanded forms of architectural creation.
b) Being an Orthodox spiritual center since the 10th century, the Holy Mountain still retains its prominent role within the Orthodox world by its presence and its spiritual impact in the Balkan peninsula and Russia, as well as in the United States of America, England, Finland and Africa.
c) The structured human habitation, from the 10th century onwards, has fashioned establishments intended for both communal and liturgical activities, such as the Catholicon (the central Church of the monastery), the refectory, the monks’ cells, hospital, libraries, chapels etc. There are also defensive structures, such as fortified towers and harbors, while the skētes, the cells and the kathismata have become a model for Orthodox monastic institutions.
d) The Fathers at the Holy Mountain have developed and preserved a traditional mode of living and a unique management practice, where sustainability finds its true meaning in our post-modern society.
Karies is the capital of Mount Athos. It is a small village that has some houses, shops and few temples. Here is situated the building of Holy Community, where the representatives of the twenty Monasteries meet. In front of this building stands the temple of Protaton, the cathedral of Karies. There is kept the miraculous icon AXION ESTI. Opposite the Protato, lies an ancient tower. Inside the tower is the library where is kept the first document of Mount Athos, written on goat skin and called “Tragos”.