The Hermits of Karoulia of Mount Athos

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Mount Athos, located on a Greek peninsula in the Aegean Sea, is home to one of the oldest surviving monastic community on Earth. The mountain has been inhabited since ancient times and is known for its nearly 1,800-year continuous Christian presence and its long historical monastic traditions, which date back to at least the 9th century. Today, there are twenty Eastern Orthodox monasteries in this region, where over two thousand monks live an ascetic life, isolated from the rest of the world.

Most of the monks live together in a monastery doing various chores such as growing vegetables, making wine, fishing, wood carving, tailoring and so on. Others choose to live in small cells called skete, where they live in complete isolation.
Some of the most isolated sketes are located on the southern side of Mount Athos, in a region known as Karoulia. One the steep mountainside, a handful of monks have built small cabins that hang precariously on the cliff-edge with waves crashing hundreds of feet below. These cells are so inaccessible that supplies such as firewood and food need to be brought over in baskets suspended from ropes.

In the old days, hermits would haul themselves up the mountain in ropes and chains passed over makeshift pulleys. Today there are steep wooden ladders nailed to the cliffs, which the hermits use to climb up and down the mountain. Some of these monks, especially those who are week and feeble, haven’t left their cabins for decades.











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