Simonopetra Monastery, Mount Athos, Greece

The Mount Athos Foundation of America has granted $10,000 to the Monastery of Simonos Petras (Simon Peter) on Mount Athos to conduct a planning project for restoring and rehabilitating the old stone-paved footpaths serving the monastery and its pilgrims.

European Union regulations require ecological studies and environmental impact assessments, surveying, and engineering study to design attractive and sustainable crossings with the vehicular road.

Pilgrims disembarking at the dock of the monastery of Simonopetra face an arduous and daunting trek up from the sea to arrive at the monastery. In recent decades, the old stone-paved footpaths that have served Mount Athos and its pilgrims from the tenth century to the modern era, have begun to disintegrate from crossings by modern vehicular roads and storms of increasing ferocity driven by modern climate changes.

Restoring these old footpaths to withstand modern stresses and meet the needs of modern pilgrims is no simple task. Mount Athos is a World Heritage site, whose long history of isolation from the outside world has made it a preserve for rare species of plants and animals, some unique to this peninsula.

Path to Simonopetra Monastery, Mount Athos
Simonopetra Monastery, Greece

The steep uphill trek to the monastery requires resting stations with water, shade, informational signage, and strategically situated benches for arriving pilgrims. Hiking these ancient paths is an important part of the pilgrimage experience, providing a transition from life in the high-speed, high-tech world to the spiritual life in this “Garden of the Panagia” (the garden of the All-Holy Mother of God).

Funded by this MAFA grant, the Monastery has contracted with the Homeotech Environmental Management Company of Thessaloniki, Greece to conduct the planning project. Homeotech will conduct research and develop a plan to meet all these needs. It will coordinate with the Centre for the Preservation of the Athonite Heritage – KEDAK; as well as the Natura 2000 Network of European breeding and resting sites for rare and endangered species and with the Footpaths Team of the Society of Friends of Mount Athos, organized under the patronage of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, which conducts annual expeditions assessing the condition of these ancient footpaths and clearing and maintaining them.

Photos© by Graham Speake, The Friends of Mount Athos. All rights reserved.