Athos - Monastic life on the Holy Mountain


Finland has the unique opportunity to present treasures from the legendary Mount Athos for the first time outside of Greece. A major exhibition of Byzantine art at Art Museum Tennis Palace, Athos - Monastic Life on the Holy Mountain contains Orthodox sacral objects and art from a period spanning more than a thousand years. A monastic community with a long and fascinating history, Mount Athos is still a vibrant community today.

Mount Athos is an orthodox monastic republic in Macedonia in northern Greece, with a population of 2000 monks living in 20 monasteries. The oldest monastery was founded in 963, but the history of Mount Athos goes back much further. It has played an unequalled role in fostering and preserving Byzantine culture. Only male pilgrims are allowed to travel to Athos and even they must obtain a special visa.

In recent years, the monastic community of Mount Athos has attracted increasing international interest. Museums want to exhibit its art treasures and more and more men want to go on pilgrimages or become monks.

The exhibition will present past and present life on Mount Athos. It will contain more than 600 items, including centuries-old precious icons, rare manuscripts, unique sacral objects, magnificent textiles, wood engravings and other works of art such as jewellery, crosses, maps, photographs and paintings. A third of the objects are from nine Athonite monasteries, and in addition, there are loans from 15 European museums.

The exhibition has been designed to create a monastery-like space where visitors can experience Orthodox spirituality. They can also learn about the 1000 years of history and present of Mount Athos, its daily life and festivities, and the role of the monastic community as a guardian of Byzantine culture.

The exhibition will be of special interest to Finns. While just over 1 per cent of Finns are Orthodox Christians, the Orthodox Church has had a strong influence in Finnish history and culture. The Orthodox Church has official status in Finland, the only EU Member State in addition to Greece and Cyprus.

The exhibition will have a varied programme of events offering memorable experiences and information to visitors of all ages. It will include icon-painting courses, demonstrations, workshops, concerts and lectures. A comprehensive book on life on Mount Athos and its art treasures will be published in conjunction with the exhibition.

The exhibition was arranged by the Helsinki City Art Museum, and curated by Museum Director Berndt Arell. Coordination was managed by Curator Mikko Oranen. The exhibition was designed by scenographer Ralf Forsström.

Works have been lent by: Greece, nine monasteries on Mount Athos: Iviron, Dionisiou, Pantokrator, Simonopetra, St Paul´s, Stavronikita, Xenophontos, Grigoriou and Esphigmenou. Greece: the Ministry of Culture, the Benaki Museum and the Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki. Russia: the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Historical Museum, the Andrey Rublev Museum, the Sergiev Posad Museum, the Russian State Archives, the Hermitage Museum and the State Russian Museum. Cyprus: the Archbishop Makarios III Foundation. Serbia: the National Museum, the Museum of Applied Art. Germany: the Ikonen-Museum Recklinghausen, the Museum for Prehistoric and Early History, Munich.

We want to thank the following for their collaboration and support: Greece: the Holy Community of Mount Athos, the Ministry of Culture, Kedak, the Athonite Centre and the Embassy of Finland in Greece. Finland: the Ministry of Education, the Embassy of Greece in Finland, the Orthodox Church of Finland, Pyhän Athosvuoren Ystävät ry (Friends of the Holy Mount Athos), and the Department of Comparative Religion of the University of Helsinki. And: the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation and the A.G.Leventis Foundation, the J.F Costopoulos Foundation.

Further information: Museum Director Berndt Arell tel. +358 (0)9 310 87008, mobile +358 (0)50 341 6522 Curator Mikko Oranen tel. +358 (0)9 310 87011, mobile +358 (0)50 345 8537 Educational Curator Arja Miller tel. +358 (0)9 310 87007, mobile +358 (0)50 336 1980 Press Officer Karri Buchert tel. +358 (0)9 310 87004, mobile +358 (0)50 304 6707

Guided tours: Guided tours free of charge in Finnish on Wednesdays at 18.00, and on Saturdays and Sundays at 14.00, in Swedish on the first and third Sunday of every month at 15.00, in English on the second Sunday of every month at 15.00, and in Russian on the first Sunday of every month at 15.00. To book a private tour, please call +358 (0)9 310 87003.

Art Museum Tennis Palace Salomonkatu 15, 00100 Helsinki Open: Tue-Sun 11–20.30 Tel. +358 (0)9 310 87001 Admission: 7/5 euros, under 18 years free of charge Free admission on Fridays