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­­­­­Mount Athos is a self-governing part of the Greek state, located on the peninsula of Mount Athos in Halkidiki and is the center of Orthodox monasticism.

The first ascetics settled there before the 9th century AD, and lived in huts and caves. In 963, the first and largest Monastery of Lavra was established, which became the model for the rest of the Monasteries. It is estimated that in the 14th century more than 50,000 monks lived in Mount Athos, including many Russians, Bulgarians, Serbs and Romanians.

Today it is estimated that the monks housed in the 20 monasteries and hundreds of huts, seats and retreats are 3000.

All monasteries are communes with common Divine Liturgy, pray, shelter, dining and labor among the monks. Each monastery is headed by the Abbot who is elected by the monks of the monastery for life. The Abbots constitute the Holy Assembly, exercise command and have legislative power

The works of the exhibition are the result of a five-year photo trip with successive missions to Mount Athos from 2008 to 2013. During this time, the artist attempted to outline the  innermost face of the unseen and the sacred, prismatic aspects of the Christian and Byzantine tradition that still radiates, behind ascetic figures and tested human beings, monasteries and sketes, rough  landscapes and harsh scrubs.

With boats, mules and exhausting hikes in monasteries, cells, caves and small retreats, Kalafatis entered in the background of a thousand-year routine and participated in the sacraments of an indestructible and living tradition. His pictures penetrate the obvious, glide behind the frontal portraits, beyond the wide-angle shots and the night landscapes and touch the presence and the essence of the Supreme Being.

Kalafatis seeks the unseen essence, deep in the core of persons and things under the surface of the saturated color in an almost renaissance chiaroscuro, revealing the richness of colors to the strict black of the monks. The rupture of veracity through a particular pop language is consistent with the composition of opposites that marks the Athonite State: sensitivity and ethical rigor, spiritual wealth and material deprivation, love and law, parts of a patristic teaching ultimately leading the faithful in gaining the lion’s share, the minimum.


Michael Moustakas