Mount Athos, a Male-Only Holy Retreat, Is Ruffled by Tourists and Russia

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Source: The New York Times

MOUNT ATHOS, Greece — The skulls, lined up five deep on wooden shelves, date back hundreds of years, with the names of the more recently deceased scratched onto their foreheads — Monk Theolothelis, 91, 26-6-1986, or Monk Kyprianos, 100, 14-8-87.

They are exhibited in Xenophontos Monastery here on Mount Athos, a peninsula in northern Greece that is the spiritual heart of the Eastern Orthodox Church. One skull carries a more philosophical message: “Brother, Look at the glory of man.”

That invitation to reflect on mortality encapsulates why the dead are exhumed and their bones displayed, explained Father Jerome, 50, who has an untamed salt-and-pepper beard and wore washed-out gray robes.

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