In response to the nationwide lockdown imposed after the huge spike in coronavirus cases, deaths and intubations around the country, Greece’s monastic community of Mt. Athos, called the “Holy Mountain,” has decided to enter complete isolation from the outside world until November 30.
Always closed to females, the venerable monastic community is normally open to male pilgrims and other visitors year-round. With twenty separate monasteries, the mountain is home to as many as 1,700 monks.
As a precaution, however, Mt. Athos will now be almost completely cut off from the rest of the world for the rest of November. Several cases of the coronavirus in monks living in the monasteries had been detected in previous months, including eight at the Monastery of St. Paul and one each at Helandariou and Lakoskiti Monasteries.
The outbreak, which occurred in September, caused one 85-year-old monk to be transported to a Thessaloniki hospital for treatment, and Greece’s eminent epidemiologist Dr. Sotiris Tsiodras made an emergency trip to the mountain to consult with monastery officials on ways to control the spread of the virus.
At the end of September, Russian President Vladimir Putin also visited Mt. Athos, staying overnight at Filotheos Monastery there, and later donating a large quantity of items to combat the virus, including masks, disinfectant, and other supplies.
A special council tasked with the governance of the group of monasteries on Mt. Athos made the announcement on Thursday to all the monks who live on the Holy Mountain, called Agio Oros in Greek.
Tthe council stated that a certain number of staff and their associates may still be allowed to enter and leave the monasteries. This must only occur by invitation, however, and it is understood that this will be a rarity.
In normal times, large groups of pilgrims may be found wandering the hillsides and paths between the monasteries on the strikingly beautiful peninsula and attending liturgies and retreats held there.
The Holy Mountain is an autonomous polity within the nation of Greece.