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The Greek Orthodox Monk Who Died Without Ever Seeing a Woman

Greek Orthodox Monk Mount Athos
The monastery of Saint Dionysios is one of several monasteries at Mount Athos. Credit: Fingalo, CC BY-SA 2.0 de/Wikipedia Commons

A Greek Orthodox monk on Mount Athos, the center of Orthodox monasticism, died at the age of 82 without ever seeing a woman. This is the story of Michael Tolotos. Born around 1856, Tolotos faced a tragic start to his life when his mother passed away a mere four hours after his birth.

With no father or other family members coming forward, the young boy found himself abandoned on the steps of a monastery situated atop Mount Athos. Fortunately, the monastery took him in and became his new home.

Here’s a newspaper clipping from the Edinburgh Daily Courier, dated October 29, 1938.

Greek Orthodox Monk

Bred and educated in the walled monastery, Tolotos never even once ventured past the gates of the monastery. Throughout this, a law passed in 1060 banning women and animals from Mount Athos was in force. It is a law that still stands to this day.

He lived his entire life in seclusion, shielded from the external world without ever encountering a woman or laying eyes on one. The monk was even given a special burial by all the monks living at Mount Athos who believed that he was the only man in the world to have died without knowing what a woman looked like.

He apparently had never seen a car or an airplane, and had never even seen a movie.

Greek Orthodox monk lived on the Holy mountain

Mount Athos, referred to in Greek as the “Holy Mountain,” 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.

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. Mount Athos has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988.

Among the countless 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.

To some outsiders, the simple communal life of the monks may seem archaic. However, for the men who have chosen to live there, it is a peaceful and even blissful existence.

Related: Mount Athos: A Monastic Community Where Time Stands Still

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