The Hermits of Karoulia of Mount Athos

Feb 8, 2017 5 comments

Mount Athos, located on a Greek peninsula in the Aegean Sea, is home to one of the oldest surviving monastic community on Earth. The mountain has been inhabited since ancient times and is known for its nearly 1,800-year continuous Christian presence and its long historical monastic traditions, which date back to at least the 9th century. Today, there are twenty Eastern Orthodox monasteries in this region, where over two thousand monks live an ascetic life, isolated from the rest of the world.

Most of the monks live together in a monastery doing various chores such as growing vegetables, making wine, fishing, wood carving, tailoring and so on. Others choose to live in small cells called skete, where they live in complete isolation.


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Some of the most isolated sketes are located on the southern side of Mount Athos, in a region known as Karoulia. One the steep mountainside, a handful of monks have built small cabins that hang precariously on the cliff-edge with waves crashing hundreds of feet below. These cells are so inaccessible that supplies such as firewood and food need to be brought over in baskets suspended from ropes.

In the old days, hermits would haul themselves up the mountain in ropes and chains passed over makeshift pulleys. Today there are steep wooden ladders nailed to the cliffs, which the hermits use to climb up and down the mountain. Some of these monks, especially those who are week and feeble, haven’t left their cabins for decades.


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Photo credit: Rick Findler/The Guardian


Photo credit: Rick Findler/The Guardian


Father Iusif inside his bedroom at his cell in Karoulia. He has not left the mountain for 64 years as he is too frail now to climb the surrounding cliffs. Photo credit: Rick Findler/The Guardian


Photo credit: Rick Findler/The Guardian


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Sources: The Guardian / Wikipedia /


  1. I look forward to my Amusing Planet email each day. It is great to learn something new about our amusing planet. Thanks!

  2. They look like hobos in squatter shacks to me

  3. How nice it would be to live a life of seclusion and dedication to spirit. PS, PLease send potatoes!!


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