A fire has broken out on the holy site of Mt Athos in Greece on Saturday, but the monasteries the region is famous for are not at risk.
The fire has been raging in a forested area of Mt Athos, referred to in Greek as the “Holy Mountain”, since late Friday night.
The site is one of the most important centers of the Christian Orthodox world.
Home to twenty monasteries under the direct jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, it is governed as an autonomous state within the Greek Republic.
Mount Athos fire does not threaten monasteries
The holy area, where women are not allowed to enter, is located on the third “foot” of the Chalkidiki region of northern Greece.
Since the fire began, over a hundred firefighters have been dispatched at the scene along with special planes and helicopters equipped with firefighting tools.
The fire is centered around the forested area near St. Andreas, which is located on the northeastern area of the peninsula.
While the fires do not pose a threat to inhabited areas or monasteries, they are impacting essential natural habitats. Firefighters are working strenuously to extinguish the flames, but their efforts are hampered as the region is heavily forested.
Despite this, it seems that the fire will soon be contained, as the once strong winds have died down.
Holy site an important center of Orthodoxy
The first monks arrived on Mt Athos in the ninth century. Today, over two thousand monks from Greece and many other countries, including Romania, Moldova, Georgia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Russia, and the United States, live an ascetic life on Athos, isolated from the rest of the world.
The monasteries house priceless collections of well-preserved artifacts, including rare books, ancient documents, and artworks of immense historical value. Mt Athos has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988.
Among the innumerable treasures and holy relics, the most precious and invaluable to Greek Orthodoxy are the Holy Gifts that are believed to have been offered by the three Magi of the East to the newborn Jesus.