Sunday, 22 July 2018

Mount Athos

The world is full of countries, territories, colonies and other entities. Sometimes there is one that is not only unique, but has survived throughout the centuries, like the autonomous theocratic state of Mount Athos (Agion Oros). The state lies on a Greek peninsula, but is formally no part of the Greek state.

Mount Athos has been inhabited since ancient times and is known for its nearly 1800-year continuous Christian presence and its long historical monastic traditions, which date back to at least 800 A.D. and the Byzantine era. Today, over 2.000 monks from Greece and many other countries, including Eastern Orthodox countries such as Romania, Moldova, Georgia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia, live an ascetic life in Athos, isolated from the rest of the world. The Athonite monasteries feature a rich collection of well-preserved artifacts, rare books, ancient documents, and artworks of immense historical value, and Mount Athos has been listed as a World Heritage site since 1988.

Although Mount Athos is technically part of the European Union like the rest of Greece, the status of the Monastic State of the Holy Mountain, and the jurisdiction of the Athonite institutions, were expressly described and ratified upon admission of Greece to the European Community (precursor to the EU). The free movement of people and goods in its territory is prohibited, unless formal permission is granted by the Monastic State's authorities, and only males are allowed to enter.

The first stamps for Mount Athos were issued by Russia in 1910. The Russians operated a post office in the capital Karyes since the late 19th century. During the First World War both the Allies and the Greek government prepared stamp issues, but they were never put into circulation. In 2008 the Greek Post (ELTA) started issuing special Mount Athos stamps with mainly religious motives. Each year a theme is chosen and four series of stamps are issued within that theme. These stamps are only valid for use at the post offices in Karyes and Dafni.

I sent a letter with an envelope and an International Reply Coupon to the Karyes post office and just over a month later I received my envelope back with a nice stamp and postmark on it. Inside the envelope was my IRC with a note by the post office worker telling me that the stamp costs 90 eurocents. Apparently Mount Athos is not completely part of the UPU. Not much later I sent back a letter with a 1 euro coin. I guess it arrived because I have not heard from the post office since.

The stamp was issued on 10 November 2016 as part of a series of five stamps depicting marble sculptures in various monasteries. This sculpture is from Esfigmenou.

Date sent: 17 April 2017
Date postmark: 17 May 2017
Date received: 23 May 2017
Number of days: 36
Envelope in collection: 104




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