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THE LEGEND OF THE HOLY MOUNTAIN
The Royal College of Art

History and theory studies research essay

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Preface

This essay seeks to enquire whether life in a city founded on a long-standing tradition of precise religious rituals that manifest within the urban domain at different scales and temporalities, can still be preserved within an increasingly capitalist and secularised western society. The case study for this research is the isolated peninsular of Mount Athos, located in Macedonia, Northern Greece. The island expands over 390km2 and houses a population of 1,700, the majority of which are monks who live in the monasteries and their dependencies - sketae (collections of small cells within a central chapel), kellia (farmhouses) and kathismata (individual cells), with the addition of a small community who prefer to dwell in hermitages. Non-clerical members of the population include employees and workers and the island also welcomes numerous male pilgrims who visit for the purpose of meditation, prayer and study. With life on Mount Athos dictated by a well-preserved tradition of early Byzantine monasticism and orthodox Christian principals it is expected that all residents and guests to the island conform to its specific mode of living whilst present within its threshold.

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