Religious Tourism in Halkidiki: The Holy Mountain

Religious Tourism in Halkidiki: The Holy Mountain

Pilgrims of the world know of the few places that can provide lifetime experiences.
Halkidiki is one of the ideal destinations for an authentic, timeless religious trip. The easternmost peninsula boasts ancient monasteries, some hanging off of cliffs over gorges, fortified to look like castles, while others stand further below, near the sea. Here you can admire ecclesiastic architecture and art, fine mosaics, wonderful paintings and icons, all testifying to the Christian faith and tradition.
Thousands of travelers visit Halkidiki every year not only to visit the numerous historic churches scattered across the pensinsulas, but to also make a pilgrimage to the majestic monastic state of Mt Athos or ‘’Agio Oros’’ (Holy Mountain), as the locals call it. Its existence counts since 1054 and it has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary but unfortunately for women, only men can explore this outstanding holy place, as the ecclesiastic law of “avaton” prohibits women from entering the state. Nowadays, there are 20 impressive monasteries standing on Mt Athos, occupied by 1600 monks. The first mention of Mt Athos was in historical manuscripts is in 843 A.D, referring to the participation of the monks in the Council for the restoration of the Holy icons, convened by the Byzantine Empress, Theodora. And later on, in 885 A.D, Emperor Vasilios I, stated in his first imperial decree that “the monks should be left to lead a quiet and calm life”; in this way officially recognizing Athos as a special territory.

Monasteries to visit.

In the monastic state of Mt. Athos:
Holy Monastery of Megisti (Great) Lavra – the leading monastery at Mt Athos, founded in 963 A.D by the reformer of Athonite monasticism, St. Athanasios. It is dedicated to the Annunciation and the Saint’s tomb lies in the Forty Martyrs’ chapel. Here you can see the marvelous wall-paintings by Theophanes the Cretan and Frangos Catelanos, dating back to 1535 and 1560 respectively.

Monastery of Saint Panteleimon (Russian) – founded and inhabited for the past 2,000 years by Russian monks, nowadays it houses Greek monks as well. It has 15 chapels and among its treasures are a variety of remarkable crosses, chalices and Gospels. Its library consists of 20,000 books in Greek, as well as in various Slavic languages.

Monastery of Gregoriou – dedicated to Saint Nicholas, founded in the 14th century. The monastery features a library of 4,500 books and also holds a fragment of the True Cross and relics of saints as well.

The Monastery of Simonos Petras –  built by Saint Simon in the beginning of the 14th century on a sheer cliff rising 230 meters above the sea. The monastery houses rare treasure such as “chryssovoula” (imperial documents that bear a golden stamp) and other sigils of great importance, relating to foreign policy issues, used by Byzantine diplomats.

The Monastery of Pantocrator – dedicated to the Transfiguration of Our Lord and founded by Alexios the Stratopedarch and John the Primikerios. It features amazing wall-paintings from artists of the Macedonian School. It houses 8 chapels with the most impressive one being dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin. One of the most significant treasures of the monastery is a fragment of the True Cross.

Monastery of Xenofontos – It has 14 chapels and two Catholica, one of which is dedicated to the memory of Saint George - built in the 16th century, featuring frescoes of the Cretan School. Pay a visit in the monastery’s library, which houses over 300 manuscripts and 4,000 printed books.

The Monastery of Dionysiou – dedicated to St. John the Baptist, it was founded in the 14th century by Saint Dionysios of Korseos. The monastery’s treasury houses many “chryssovoula” and sigils and relics, the most important being the bones of St. Niphon, Patriarch of Constantinople, displayed in a special crypt.

The Monastery of Iveron – founded in the 10th century by John Tornikipos, it is dedicated to the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary and features and impressive wood-carved iconostasis dating back to the 18th century. It also houses the richest library of all the monasteries of Mt Athos, with 2,000 codices, 100 manuscripts and 15,000 printed books, as well as imperial and patriarchal documents of great importance. 

Other Monasteries worth visiting:
The Monastery of Zografou - ancient monastery in Kassandra, dedicated to Saint George, dating to the late 9th century.
Athonite Monastery of Dochiariou - founded by the Monk Daniel the Dochiarios, the church inside the monastery is devoted to Archangels Michael and Gabriel. It dates back to the 10th century.

If you seek the majesty in the divine, we invite you to stay at Athos Palace Hotel (the namesake of the monastic state) and plan your trip around the area.
Follow in the footsteps of Apostle Paul and experience awe and wonder. Go to our official site for more.