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Mount Athos
16-02-2007, 07:55 PM,
Mount Athos
Hello this is my First ever posting on this Forum. I joined the fellowship last year, after having discussions via e-mail with Peter who has been so helpful to me and my journey towards Orthodoxy.

Does anyone know if there are or ever have been any Coptic Monasteries on the Holy Mountain? Most of the monasteries seem to be Eastern European and Greek. If there are none, is it because the Oriental Orthodox Church were never made welcome?

I have read widely about the Holy Mountain, but never have come across a Coptic presence there.

Many Thanks for this Forum.

16-02-2007, 08:11 PM,
Hi Robin

There are no Oriental Orthodox monasteries on Mount Athos. I guess it is true to say that this is partly because Oriental Orthodox are not very welcome there. But it is mostly because the communities did not develop there until after 860 AD when the first small groups were formed. By that time the Oriental Orthodox were under the Muslim Yoke and there was a wide division between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox.

There are of course ancient monastic communities among the Syrian and Coptic Orthodox, many of which go back to the earliest monastic period. If you are able to accompany Abba Seraphim to Egypt then you will be able to visit some of these monasteries whose names will be well known to us all from the writings of the Desert Fathers.

The Desert Monasteries are our own Athos, much older, and over the last generation entering into a new and vibrant period of growth.

I can recommend the book:

Monks and Monasteries of the Egyptian Deserts.

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Which is a very interesting and readable description and history of the Egyptian monasteries.

Sorry, that plug is not about Athos. Smile But I believe that it would be hard for an Oriental Orthodox to visit Athos at the moment. And since there are so many Coptic and Syrian monasteries which would make you entirely welcome I am sure that you will find many wonderful places to visit if you have the opportunity.

Best wishes

17-02-2007, 03:32 PM,
Many thanks Peter for the reply. I have a copy of Monks and Monasteries of the Egyptian Deserts, which I bought in Cairo last year. I will look forward to visiting some of the places mentioned, when I visit again May. Indeed it will mean more to me then, especially now that I have found Coptic Orthodoxy through the BOC.

Indeed you are correct in mentioning that we have our own 'Athos' among the Deserts of Egypt.

I will be re-reading this paperback very shortly.

Many Thanks,

17-02-2007, 05:42 PM,
Hi Robin

I didn't know you had already visited Egypt? What did you see?

I went out in 2002 I think with Abba Seraphim and visited some of the monasteries, and the old churches in Cairo, and ascended Mount Sinai on a camel. The good thing about visiting Egypt as a British Orthodox group is that you get to visit so many places which are rather off the tourist trail, and I found it very encouraging to see some of the social ministries which are being vigorously developed.

19-02-2007, 10:37 PM,
Hi Peter,

Yes, I have been to Egypt four times in the past, mainly to the Luxor area, Mount Sinai, (St. Catherines Monastery), which was a joy. Also did the usual sites in Cairo, the Museum, Pyramids.

I am looking forward to visiting this May as part of the Group, which will be very meaningful to me, as I journey down the road of Othodoxy, and especially the Coptic tradition. I look forward to visiting the monasteries, churches, and experiencing the liturgies with the Coptic faithful.

Did you receive my e-mail over the weekend regarding the setting up of groups?

God Bless,

19-02-2007, 11:31 PM,
Dear Robin

I've been without my email for the last 12 hours or so, and had been planning to reply this evening. Hopefully my email will be back in the morning when I will reply.

Best wishes

22-03-2007, 11:26 AM,
Mount Athos
'Mount Athos - The Call From Sleep' by Erhart Kaestner (translated by Barry Sullivan) 1961, Faber and Faber.

This book was first published in Germany in 1956 by Insel-Verlag under the title 'Die Stundentrommel vom Heiligen Berg Athos'.

The German title refers to the 'simantron' which roused [and maybe still rouses] the monks to their devotions.

This is a wonderful book by one of the most distinguished German prose writers. It is the product of two journeys he made to Mount Athos, which turned out to be pilgrimages. He describes vividly the different monasteries perched on crags or nestling in the rocky landscape, the cliff hermitages, the glittering opal sea, and the priceless treasures of Byzantine art. But most af all he gives a gallery of remarkable and colourful characters: scholars, simple monks, eccentrics, ikon painters.

It is an exposition of, and a witness to, what the Holy Mountain meant to him. A lovely read. Highly recommended.

For all I know, it may have changed in some respects since he wrote. But it is still an admirable and evocative book which touches one deeply.

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