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Indepth Arts News:

"ATHOS Monastic life on the Holy Mountain"
2006-08-18 until 2007-01-21
Helsinki City Art Museum
Helsinki, , FI

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 presents 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 dates 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 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.

'ATHOS Monastic life on the Holy Mountain' 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. A varied programme of events will offer 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 organised by the Helsinki City Art Museum, and curated by Museum Director Berndt Arell and co-ordinated by Curator Mikko Oranen. The exhibition was designed by scenographer Ralf Forsström.

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