Mount Athos - Settlements



Large, fortified monasteries with defensive towers (against piracy) dating from as early as the tenth century dot the Athonite coasts. The oldest monasteries (the Lavra, Iveron, Vatopedi) were built facing toward Byzantium (modern Istanbul), the major source of their patronage, from the northeastern coast, as did the main port of Athos during the Turkocrateia. Most of the monasteries, however, were founded on the southwestern coast because of its more favorable climate, while some (smaller monasteries) were built on arable highland plateaus. In addition to those monks living in the twenty ruling monasteries, many monks live individually in small houses near the monasteries ( kathismata ), taking their meals and attending services in the monastery proper; others live in groups of three or more in farms with chapels ( kellia , "cells"); others reside in houses or small settlements with chapels ( kalyvia ), where they support themselves in specialties such as icon painting; still others live in subordinate monasteries ( skites ). Hermit monks live in remote places on the peninsula, the most austere in caves overlooking the sea from the cliffs on the southwestern point of the peninsula (Karoulia). In addition, there are three Hagiorite villages, Saint Anne and New Skiti, both skites, and the capital, Karyes. Located centrally on the ridge, Karyes is occupied mostly by monks serving in the central government or tending the small houses or apartments maintained by most ruling monasteries for their members while on business at the Capital. Shops run by monks cater to pilgrims and provide supplies and services needed in the village. The port, Daphni, on the southwest coast, is Athos's main link with the world, consisting mainly of postal, police, and rescue services, a customs inspection station, and dock facilities.


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