At Mount Athos, an ancient Greek Island jutting into the Aegean Sea, no women visitors have been allowed for more than nine hundred years.
GV Monks walking along road at Mount Athod with mountains in background.
GV Monks walking towards cluster of dome-roofed buildings.
GV Monastery rooftops above trees.
GV PAN AROUND Buildings in village street.
GV Two monks on pavement outside shop (2 SHOTS)
GV Monks walking up steps into administrative building.
GV PAN AROUND Old buildings in village.
GV Residents walking along street.
GV PAN ALONG Monastery rooftops TO bell tower.
SV Young monks walking out of monastery building, and posing for camera. (2 SHOTS)
GV Buildings. (3 SHOTS)
GV Road with mountains in background.
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Background: At Mount Athos, an ancient Greek Island jutting into the Aegean Sea, no women visitors have been allowed for more than nine hundred years. There, monasteries of the Greek Orthodox Church are still thriving -- more than a thousand years after they were founded.
SYNOPSIS: There are about twelve hundred monks living in twenty monasteries on the Greek holy mountain. Once there were forty-thousand. The last of the monasteries on the island was built in 1542.
Monastic life began here in 963 A.D. when Saint Athanasius the Athonite -- with the help of his Byzantine imperial patron Nicephorus 11 -- founded the first monastery. The capital and only town is Kariai.
In 1060, the Byzantine Emperor, Constantine, introduced a law excluding women and female animals from stepping foot on the holy mountain. Byzantium has long gone - but the law remains. The community here is a religious state within the Greek state. It has a twenty-member Protaton, or government which meets at Kariai.
The community's present constitution was formed as part of the Greek constitution of 1927. The Greek government is represented by a perfect, but administration is left to the Protaton.
Eleven of the monasteries are conservative and wine are liberal -- discipline and fasting being stricter in the former. The churches contain some of the most important examples of Byzantine art, icons and treasures. The surviving libraries hold a vast number of classical and medieval manuscripts. Many of the monasteries hug the coast. And most of them can only be reached by sea -- or on foot.