Participating in the Exhibit is the Protaton
of the Holy Community of Mount Athos,
as well as the Holy Monasteries of:

the Sketes:

  • St. Anne,
    Megistis Lavras
  • St. John the Baptist,
    Megistis Lavras
  • St Andrew,
  • St. John the Baptist,
  • Prophet Elijah,
  • New Skete,
    St. Paul
    Bogoroditsa, St. Panteleimon-Russian
Once again the paths of Thessaloniki and the Holy Mount of Athos meet, this time on the occasion of the city's celebration of its year as Cultural Capital of Europe. The exhibition of "Treasures from Mount Athos", the exceptionally ambitious project now being prepared by the Thessaloniki '97 Cultural Capital of Europe Organization, will be inaugurated in June 1997 and remain on view in the Museum of Byzantine Culture for six months. For the first time in the more than millennial history of the Athonite Theocracy, the priceless spiritual and artistic treasures preserved for centuries in the "Ark of Orthodoxy" will journey beyond the boundaries of the Holy Mount and be displayed to the public in what is probably the most important spiritual, artistic and scholarly in the entire Cultural Capital programme.
This exhibition has been designed to present to the Greek and international public the multiple facets of the historical, spiritual and artistic importance of Mount Athos across the centuries. It will lay especial weight on demonstrating its uniqueness and its profound significance, not only for Greece and the Orthodox world but for all mankind. A fabled universe for the Western visitor, a place of veneration for the Orthodox faithful. And a supreme opportunity for the female public, barred from setting foot on the "forbidden territory", to make a 'pilgrimage' to Mount Ethos and its monasteries.

The heart of the exhibition is the selection on the "Treasures of the Monasteries", not merely because of the Mount Athos has the largest and finest collection of Byzantine and post-Byzantine art anywhere in Greece, but more importantly because in an atmosphere of profound reverence the history, the intellectual and spiritual life, the art, and of course the objects themselves, expressive of the liturgical life of the monks, give shape and vitality to the profound meaning of the Holy Mountain.

The central focus is on the spirituality inherent in every manifestation of the life of the Athonite community. Monumental painting, portable icons, manuscripts illuminated and plain, ivories and silvercraft, embroidery, wood-carving, ceramics, ecclesiastical vessels, furniture and furnishings and craftsmen's tolls: these are but a few of the material testaments to this cultural heritage. Immanent in each and every one of these are Byzantine and post-Byzantine art, history, impact and influence - dogmatic and aesthetic - on the Orthodox peoples, contribution to the education of the Greek nation, participation in spiritual movements.

The section on the "Daily Life and Worship" will present the everyday routine of monastic life, which is lived within the confines of Monastery - Skete - Cloister and which is centred on the Church (respectively, katholikon - kyriakon - parekklesi, or chapel). But the monk's day also includes both private player and study in his own refuge as well as handcrafts, labour for the sustenance of the hospitality towards the visiting pilgrim. The community of the Fathers has not lost its religious and social traditions: the underlying intend of the submission of the novice to the elder is to permit the undisturbed transmission of the familiar rules and customs from one generation to the next.

But the cultural heritage of Mount Athos is not limited to the marvels of its architecture and the artistic treasures of its churches, monasteries, sketes and cloisters: it extends to its unmatched and equally unique natural environment, the landscape which provides their physical setting. Characterised above all by the untouched naturalness of its ecosystem, at least in the quality of their fascinating variety of plant and animal species in an aboriginal natural habitat, unaffected by grazing and by unwarranted human intervention, the natural environment refreshes the visitor and causes the reclusive soul to soar.

The fundamental purport of the section on "Architecture" is to display the extraordinary variety and cohesiveness of the architectural forms on Mount Athos, their dense historical stratification and their significance for the Orthodox world. The central axes of this section are the meeting of liturgical requirements, the satisfying structural solutions and the impressive aesthetic results. The anonymous craftsmen who built these monasteries were exceptionally successful in adapting them to their natural settings, providing a secure place for the requisite of daily worship. Perimeters and surfaces expanded with growing needs, creating what amount to entire cities where nothing is ponderous, discordant, hasty or alien.

21 JUNE 1997 - 30 APRIL 1998

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