Thursday, February 29, 2024

A Film of Mt Athos More Than A Century Ago

Just a few days ago, a YouTube channel posted this video, containing footage taken on the Holy Mountain of Mt Athos, the famous “monastic republic” on the peninsula of Thessaloniki in northern Greece, more than a century ago. The opening title is in French, and just says “Mt Athos, 1918. Hermitages and Monasteries.” At 8:40, a second title appears, also in French, “Easter procession, Iviron and Vatopedi”. (Iviron is the monastery of the Georgians, founded in the 980s; Vatopedi was founded slightly earlier, by disciples of the founder of monastic life on the peninsula, St Athanasius the Athonite.) The soundtrack, which is liturgical singing in Church Slavonic, is clearly not original, since pictures with sound were not invented until 9 years later. 

We have previously shared a few films which show what life is like in modern times on Mt Athos, to whatever small degree the words “modern times” can be applied to it. One of these was originally broadcast on the CBS program 60 Minutes in 2011, but the post by which we shared it is now functionally useless, since the videos were embedded with the now-defunct Adobe Flash player. Happily, 60 Minutes reposted the piece to their YouTube channel just a couple of months ago, along with others covering Lourdes, the Ethiopian monastic complex at Lalibela, as well as the Vatican Library. Where the 1918 film shows nothing inside the churches of Mt Athos, (which I suspect the makers were formally prohibited from doing), 60 Minutes were allowed to bring their cameras inside and film the liturgy, giving us a very rare close look at the whole monastic life of the Orthodox Church, the liturgy, the buildings, the artistic treasures, and the tremendous natural beauty of the Athos peninsula.

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