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Desert monks January 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.

Mount Athos, a remote peninsula in northern Greece, is home to 20 Orthodox Christian monasteries. The newest was built in the 16th century; the oldest is 1,044 years old.

Now there’s a little bit of Mount Athos in Arizona. A 10-year-old monastery in the desert is already attracting pilgrims from as far away as Greece.

St. Anthony’s in the Sonoran Desert near Florence, Ariz., is one of 17 Greek Orthodox monasteries in North America, according to the Arizona Republic.

Its founder, Father Ephraim, brought six monks from Mount Athos to build the monastery.

A pilgrim from Alaska, John Alan Jones, said it was the best known Orthodox monastery in the United States. “Greece has Mount Athos. America has St. Anthony’s in Florence.”

Women, and even female animals, it is said, are barred from Mount Athos, but not from St. Anthony’s.

St. Anthony the Great, born in Egypt the third century, was a hermit who lived in the desert. Because he gathered hermits into loose-knit communities, Anthony is regarded as the founder of Orthodox Christian monasticism.

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