The world-famous monastic community of Mount Athos in northern Greece is reopening its doors to pilgrims and visitors after a months-long lockdown, according to an announcement on Tuesday.
Mount Athos, referred to in Greek as the “Holy Mountain”, is one of the most important centers of the Christian Orthodox world.
Visitors of Mount Athos in the 1970s and 80s had many doubts about the survival of this UNESCO World Heritage that German and Dutch television recently called “the last secret of Europe.” Churches and buildings in ruins gave a bleak picture of the most ancient functioning republic in the world, the autonomous monastic polity of the 20 monasteries of Mount Athos.
Since then, however, teams of young educated monks started establishing progressively in the Imperial Monasteries and started the backbreaking work of restoration. They attracted young monks from around the world.
Centuries ago, the Russian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Georgian, and Serbian languages were first recorded and cultivated behind the walls of Athonite monasteries. Still today, Mount Athos portrays the most vibrant force of Greek culture. Monks from all over the world learn Greek in order to study the Greek Orthodox spirituality.
Whether they’re naturally formed or manmade, intricately detailed or strikingly simple, spiritual centers around the world offer a therapeutic place to reflect. Each has a fascinating past — some with roots in prehistoric times and many that have earned UNESCO World Heritage status. From an ashram in an Indian forest to a Buddhist temple on the island of Java to an incredible monolith in the desert plains of central Australia, we’ve rounded up eight spiritual centers that stand out from the multitude of others across the globe.
1. Angkor Wat
The architectural stand-in for Mount Meru — home of the gods in Hindu mythology — is considered the biggest religious monument in the world. Constructed between 1112 and 1152, the temple is part of Angkor, a UNESCO-protected archaeological park in Siem Reap, Cambodia.