Mount Athos is an Orthodox spiritual centre since 1054, Mount Athos has enjoyed an autonomous statute since Byzantine times. The 'Holy Mountain', which is forbidden to women.
Mount Athos is situated in the entire third, eastern and most beautiful peninsula of Halkidiki, called the peninsula of Athos. It is the only place in Greece that is completely dedicated to prayer and worship of God.
For this reason, it is called the Holy Mount. The Holy Mount is about 50 Km in length, 8 to 12 Km in width and it covers an area of about 350 square kilometres.Cloaked by beautiful chestnut and other types of Mediterranean forest, the steep slopes of Mount Athos are punctuated by twenty imposing monasteries and their subsidiary establishments. Covering an area of just over 33,000 hectares, the property includes the entire narrow rocky strip of the easternmost of the three peninsulas of Chalcidice which jut into the Aegean Sea in northern Greece. The subsidiary establishments include sketae (daughter houses of the monasteries), kellia and kathismata (living units operated by the monks), where farming constitutes an important part of the monks’ everyday life. An Orthodox spiritual centre since the 10th century, Mount Athos has enjoyed a self-administered status since Byzantine times. Its first constitution was signed in 972 by the emperor John I Tzimiskes. The 'Holy Mountain', which is forbidden to women and children, is also a recognized artistic site. The layout of the monasteries (which are presently inhabited by some 1,400 monks) had an influence as far afield as Russia, and its school of painting influenced the history of Orthodox art. The landscape reflects traditional monastic farming practices, which maintain populations of plant species that have now become rare in the region.
The transformation of a mountain into a sacred place made Mount Athos a unique artistic creation combining the natural beauty of the site with the expanded forms of architectural creation. Moreover, the monasteries of Athos are a veritable conservatory of masterpieces ranging from wall paintings (such as the works by Manuel Panselinos at Protaton Church ca. 1290 and by Frangos Catellanos at the Great Lavra in 1560) to portable icons, gold objects, embroideries and illuminated manuscripts which each monastery jealously preserves.
Mount Athos exerted lasting influence in the Orthodox world, of which it is the spiritual centre, on the development of religious architecture and monumental painting. The typical layout of Athonite monasteries was used as far away as Russia. Iconographic themes, codified by the school of painting at Mount Athos and laid down in minute detail in the Guide to Painting (discovered and published by Didron in 1845), were used and elaborated on from Crete to the Balkans from the 16th century onwards.
The monasteries of Athos present the typical layout of Orthodox monastic establishments: a square, rectangular or trapezoidal fortification flanked by towers, which constitutes the peribolos of a consecrated place, in the centre of which the community's church, or the catholicon, stands alone. Strictly organised according to principles dating from the 10th century are the areas reserved for communal activities (refectory, cells, hospital, library), those reserved solely for liturgical purposes (chapels, fountains), and the defence structures (arsenal, fortified towers). The organization of agricultural lands in the idiorrythmic sketae (daughter houses of the monasteries), the kellia and kathismata (living units operated by the monks) is also very characteristic of the medieval period.
Monks in Mount Athos are persons with deep belief in God and are devoted to asceticism. There are a lot of monks who have become Saints in Mount Athos such as Saint Paisios, a Saint of 21 century.