Mount Athos or Agion Oros (Holly Mountain) is a mountain in the peninsula of Atho, the third and eastern peninsula of Chalkidiki in Greece. Mount Athos is a self-governed part of the Greek state, subject to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its political aspect and to the Constantinople’s Patriarch in its religious aspect.
According the tradition, it was Virgin Mary that came to this area with Saint John the Evangelist in their route to Cyprus to find shelter from a terrible tempest. While Virgin Mary was admiring the natural beauty of the area, a voice has been heard from the sky saying that this place would be her garden and her paradise, and the garden and a haven for all those seeking to be saved. Due to this, the mountain was consecrated to Virgin Mary and called as well "Garden of Virgin Mary", although access to women is forbidden.
There is evidence that from 4th century on, there were Christians- possibly hermits- among pagans on the mountain of Athos. It was officially established n 963, when the monk Athanasios the Athonite built the Monastery of Great Lavra and after that we see the first attempts to organize the numerous monks in organized monastic communities.
From 1988 on it has been included in the World Heritage Sites.
Mount Athos is the centre of the Christian Orthodox Monasticism, divided into twenty self-governed territories, each one comprising a cardinal monastery and other smaller monastic establishments that surround each monastery, such as cloisters, cells, cottages, hermitages.
The superior of each monastery is elected by the monastery's monks for life and is responsible for the monastery's affairs. The twenty superiors of the monasteries form the Holly Assembly and have legislative authority. The administrative authority is assigned to the Holly Community, consisting of one elected representative of each monastery. The Holly Supervision consists of four members, elected by five monasteries and exercises executive authority. The administrative center of Mount Athos is the village of Karyes.
Nowadays, many visitors-pilgrims, visit and reside for a usual period of 4 days (or more if granted a renewal of the specific document) in Mount Athos.