Agion Oros / Mount Athos
Agion Oros has the richest treasures. It is the richest in quality and quantity Greek region with Byzantine and post byzantine art works. Monumental painting, portable pictures, manuscripts with pictures or not, work of miniature art embroideries, art works made of wood, ceramics, but also functional ecclesiastical utensils, tools of laboratories, equipment and furniture, are few of the material testimonies of this cultural heritage. The cultural heritage of Mouth Athos is not limited only in the marvelous art works and unique heirlooms of Temples, Holy Abbeys, and cages but is also extended in the incomparable and also unique natural environment, the landscape that surrounds it. These are some of the innumerable places, which the “religious tourist” can visit.
The self-governed region of the Holy Mountain, according to the Decree passed by the Holy Community on 3 October 1913 and according to the international treaties of London (1913), Bucharest (1913), Neuilly (1919), Sèvres(1920) and Lausanne (1923), is considered part of the Greek state. The Decree, “made in the presence of the Holy Icon of Axion Estin”, stated that the Holy Community recognised the Kings of Greece as the lawful sovereigns and “successors on the Mountain” of the “Emperors who built” the monasteries and declared its territory as belonging to the then Kingdom of Greece.
Political instability in Greece during the mid-20th century that affected Mount Athos included Nazi occupation from the Easter season of 1941 through late 1944, followed immediately by the Greek Civil War in a struggle where Communist efforts failed. The Battle of Greece was reported in Time Magazine, “The Stukas swooped across the Aegean skies like dark, dreadful birds, but they dropped no bombs on the monks of Mount Athos”. After the Nazi takeover of Greece, the Epistassia, Athos’s four-member executive committee, formally asked Hitler to place the Autonomous Monastic State under his personal protection, and Hitler agreed. Mount Athos survived World War II nearly untouched, and for the remainder of the war, the monks of Mount Athos referred to Adolf Hitler as “High Protector of the Holy Mountain” (German: Hoher Protektor des heiligen Berges).
Later a “Special Double Assembly” of the Holy Community in Karyes passed the “Constitutional Charter” of the Holy Mountain, which was ratified by the Greek Parliament. This regime originates from the “self-ruled monastic state”as stated on a chrysobull parchment signed and sealed by the Byzantine Emperor Ioannis Tzimisces in 972. This important document is preserved in the House of the Holy Administration in Karyes. The self-rule of the Holy Mountain was later reaffirmed by the Emperor Alexios I Komnenos in 1095.
According to the constitution of Greece, Mount Athos (the “Monastic State of Agion Oros”) is, “following ancient privilege”, “a self-governed part of the Greek State, whose sovereignty thereon shall remain intact”, and consists of 20 main monasteries which constitute the Holy Community, and the capital town and administrative centre, Karyes, also home to a governor as the representative of the Greek state. The governor is an executive appointee. The status of the Holy Mountain and the jurisdiction of the Agiorite institutions were expressly described and ratified upon admission of Greece to the European Union (then the European Community).