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Mount Athos: Renewal in Paradise Hardcover – October 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


"This beautifully produced book contains everything the layman could wish to know about Athos. It is more, much more, than a mere travel book, though it would be a useful addition to the Orthodox pilgrim's knapsack."—The Tablet

"Superb photographs, fascinating. Travelers and pilgrims alike, as well as those who prefer to stay at home, will relish this tour of Athos's history, its relics and treasures, and, in part, its consciousness.”—Literary Review
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Graham Speake is by training a classicist and by profession an academic publisher. He is founder and honorary secretary of the Friends of Mount Athos and a frequent visitor to the Mountain.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First edition (October 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300093535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300093537
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,229,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read several books on Mt Athos, a subject that has fascinated me for many years. This is the best English language book on the topic and one that I think would be difficult to be surpassed. It is scholarly without being "stuffy"; it is eminently readable without the simplistic approach of a tourist guide; it is almost encyclopedic but not fragmentary. And most importantly, coming from a person who apprently went through a spiritual journey, it is permeated by the deeper understanding that such experience brings.
I recommend it to anyone who plans to visit Athos or, for that matter, to everyone who already made the customary brief visit to the Holy Mountain as he will discover many things he probably missed, often the larger perspective of the place that is sadly lost in the brevity of an overnight stay.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Moses Alexander on March 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a history not only of the Holy Mountain Athos, but also of the monks that inhabited it and those that dwell there to this very day. Speake has done a wonderfl job covering the world's influence on Athos as well as Athos' influence on the world.
It is incredibly refreshing to see a book about a monastic community published by a secular university press (Yale University) be free of the condescension and skepticism that one would expect to find. As a matter of fact, there's a general tone of reverence for the monks' traditions. It is, however, fair and balanced in the fact that he hasn't glossed over the rough patches of Athonite history.
Speake has produced a work of scholarship that is accessible to the academic and the average joe as well as to Orthodox and non-Orthodox. That is no small accomplishment.
Many people outside of Eastern Europe and the Middle East are embracing Orthodoxy today. This is happening in Asia, Africa, Western Europe, Oceania and the Americas. An intelligent, well written and accessible history (both political and spiritual) of Mount Athos in English is essential and Speake has provided us with what will surely be the standard for years to come. Athos is the center of world Orthodox monasticism and could be called "The Conscience of Orthodoxy." This book is essential for those wishing to understand Orthodoxy and particularly Orthodox monasticism.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on February 8, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a first class publication (slick paper/good photographs/excellent documentation) on the history of the monastic communities on Mt. Athos. This information includes both the physical history along with the spiritual history (a sort of metahistory, so to speak). The author includes information on the various spiritual movements (hesychasts, etc) that have originated on this peninsula that, while located in northern modern Greece, is actually a sort of autonomous republic. Especially interesting is the information on the unexpected, amazing renewal that is taking place there. 30 years ago, the end of Mt. Athos was in sight. Now, new monks come and the monasteries are again flourishing. Amazing. Also interesting is the information on Mt. Athos's place in the EU, and what that membership may mean to the monks. At any rate, this is a first rate book of interest to anyone who is interested in christian spirituality in general, and orthodox spirituality in particular.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Culver TOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
MOUNT ATHOS: Renewal in Paradise is a history of this land of monasteries written by Graham Speake, a frequent visitor to the Holy Mountain and ultimately a convert to Orthodox Christianity. The first thing you will notice about the book is that it is lavishly illustrated, containing dozens of full-colour pictures that vividly portray the Athos' beauty. I certainly found myself enthralled by these pictures, and read the book with pleasure.

Before recounting the traditional founding of the monastery in the 10th century, Speake gives the various legends for early monastic settlement on the peninsula, doubtful though some may be. The political workings that regulated the monastery in its early days are clearly spelt out, Byzantine though they may be. The influence of non-Greek peoples on Athos, such as the Vlachs, Kyivan Rusians, and Serbs gets a large amount of space, and Speake dispassionately reports the ethnic conflicts that have led to Slavs and Romanians sometimes finding it difficult to visit the mountain today. Finally, as the subtitle of the book indicates, Speake gives readers an idea of how miraculous the Athos' contemporary flourishing is in comparison to the moribund state of monasticism there for much of the 20th century.

Beyond the history, though, Speake's guide is also a vivid portrayal of the timeless way of life on the Holy Mountain: the existing monasteries and their ways of functioning, the relation to the church calendar, initiation procedures, the preparation of meals, and so forth. Speake even describes the baptism of his godson, an adult convert, who profited from the Holy Mountain's remarkably rigorous and spiritually constructive cathechesis.
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