Mount Athos for many centuries has been attracting attention from all over the world. Athos always has been and remains a living history of Orthodoxy. Orthodox monastic state Holy Mount Athos is located on the peninsula of Halkidiki and comprises twenty monasteries.
In 1988 Athos was included in the World Heritage List. A few miles from the peninsula there is the largest trench in the Aegean Sea, reaching a depth of 1070 meters.
The exact date of the appearance of Christianity on Athos is unknown. According to a Russian tradition, the Virgin Mary herself contributed to the adoption of Christianity by the local residents when miraculously reached this peninsula. The Virgin Mary with John the Theologian travelled to Cyprus to visit Lazarus and because of the terrible storm they were forced to land on the coast, in the place where the Iberian monastery is located today.
It is believed that Constantine the Great built many temples on Mount Athos, this information, however, was not seen in any written source.
The first written evidences refer to the 4th century. Perhaps they referred to individual hermits living on Mount Athos during the 4th and 5th centuries; in the 10th century the first attempts to organize monastic communities on this land were made.
Some historians stand that the monks from Athos attended the Synod, which was organized in Constantinople and put an end to the period of iconoclasm in 843. In the second half of the 9th century the first monastery was built. At the same time, the borders of Mount Athos were established. Thus, Athos became a place of ascetics and a "holy righteous life."
With the help of the Patriarch of Constantinople, in 1046 Constantine Monomaсhos (1042-1054) regulated the way of governing the monasteries, the management of their property and their commercial activities. According to the Imperial document, women were forbidden to enter the peninsula.
In 1100 there were 800 monks in the Great Lavra, and there were 180 monasteries in Athos. At the same time, the term "Mount Athos" came into use. Alexios Komnenos freed monasteries from the taxes and from the obeying to the Patriarch of Constantinople, placing them under his protection.
Slavs sought to get into new monasteries, and soon the princes founded on the Balkan Peninsula monasteries for Slavic monks. Thus, during the reign of Alexei I (1081-1118) Slavic monasteries Hilandar and Zografu appeared. The Byzantine emperors never ceased to show their interest in a small monastic state and even benefited politically from the appreciation that the brotherhood enjoyed throughout the Christian world.
The distance from the city of Thessaloniki to the peninsula of Athos is about 140 km, while the journey time is 2 hours. Pilgrims wishing to get to the holy mountain, after receiving a special visa, book a transfer to the city of Ouranoupolis, from where the ferry to the monastic state departs.