Orthodox Monastic Church of the Holy Mountain

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  • The first monastery on Mt. Athos was built in 963. From then until 1394, monasteries were built and either flourished or were abandoned. At one time there were over 300 monasteries and sketes on the peninsula.
  • In 980, the first non-Greek monastery was founded by the Bulgarians. This foundation was followed by others founded by Georgians, Russians, Armenians, and Serbians.
  • In 1194, in an unprecedented move, Cambrian monks were invited to occupy an abandoned monastery. This was followed in 1370 when Maronite Catholic monks, fleeing from Turkish oppression were permitted to occupy an abandoned monastery.
  • The monasteries suffered, sometimes severely, at the hands of the Crusaders and the Turks.
  • At the conclusion of the First Balkan War, the Monastic Republic was given its independence in 1870 as a permanently neutral nation as the result of the treaty with the defeated Ottoman Empire.
  • By the time of independence only 19 were occupied.
  • In 1878 the Holy Synod, the governing body of the Republic, unilaterally severed its ties to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, going the way of the other national Orthodox patriarchates.
  • In 1889 the Patriarch acceded and consecrated the archimandrite as bishop. The archimandrite has executive power over the twenty monasteries.
  • Finally, in 1994, the Assyrian Church, an Oriental Orthodox Church, was permitted to establish a monastery on the Holy Mountain bringing the number of monasteries to the current total of twenty.
  • Although now an autocephalous church, the OMCHM is in communion with the other Orthodox autocephalous churches united in the same faith and tradition of worship. They share common principles of church policy and organization and have a common liturgical tradition. Greek remains the language of the OMCHM liturgy. These autocephalous churches acknowledge the primacy of honor of the Ecumenical Patriarch and accept the doctrines of the first seven ecumenical councils.
  • Because he remains first a monk, the senior bishop goes by the title of archimandrite and not patriarch or metropolitan archbishop.
  • As spiritual leader of the OMCHM (as distinct from his role as head of the civil government of the Serene Monastic Republic of the Holy Mountain), the archimandrite presides over the Holy Council, the highest authority in matters of doctrine and administration in the OMCHM.
  • As the most recently independent of the autocephalous churches, the OMCHM occupies the last place in the Orthodox hierarchical order.
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