Author/Artist: Graham Speake
Publisher: Yale University Press; New edition edition (15 Jun 2004)
First published: 2004
Mount Athos, a spectacularly beautiful rocky peninsula jutting out from the coast of northeastern Greece, has been a monastic preserve since the ninth century. Known as the Holy Mountain, it serves as the centre of monasticism for all the Eastern Orthodox churches and remains fundamentally unchanged despite the storms of political and religious conflict that have raged over the centuries. This intriguing book is the first illustrated history of Mount Athos in English. It encompasses the entire story of Athos from the first anchorite monks who lived in caves and simple huts to the establishment of the first monasteries in the tenth century to the monastic renewal that is taking place there today. Richly illustrated with historical and contemporary images, the book considers the influence of outside political events on the men (for only men are allowed) of the Holy Mountain and, more important, the impact of spiritual movements and religious controversy. What emerges is a fascinating account of the centuries-old Athonite way of life as well as an up-to-date portrait of thriving monastic communities at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
In my view, the book puts Graham Speake as a writer on to an extraordinary high level.
As the Holy Mountain has been of interest for me, I have read many books on it. This book is the one that seems to tell all that the others have said, and it is adding dimensions of inside and outside knowledge to those, but at the same time Speake manages to retain and deepen the mystery of the place.
If I would be asked which book on Mount Athos I could recommend, this is the book!
Reijo Oksanen, Switzerland