ABSTRACT

In this chapter, René Gothóni elucidates how missionary work, pilgrimage and the becoming of Athonite Monasticism are interrelated. He argues that the Holy Mountain of Athos became multinational and pan-Orthodox due to successful missionary work among the Slavs in Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia in the 9th and 10th century. Apart from this historical approach, he reconsiders the concept of “pilgrimage” in the Athonite context.

The spiritual revival on Mount Athos is the result of creative theologians and spiritual fathers, namely St Symeon the New Theologian in the 11th century, St George of Sinai around 1300, St Gregory of Palamas in the mid-14th century, and the unexpected Renaissance during the final centuries of Byzantium. This spiritual tradition was revitalized by the publication of the anthology of spiritual writings called the Philokalia, first published in Greek and already a decade later in the Slavonic language. The Russian monks St Seraphim of Sarov, St Silouan, and Archimandrite Sophrony became well-known starets both in Russia and on Athos, as did the Greek Elder Joseph the Hesychast, who settled in New Skete. His pupils later became spiritual fathers (pneumatikos) in the monasteries of Philotheou, Gregoriou, Dionysiou, Stavronikita, Iviron, and Vatopedi.