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Last Updated: Friday, 5 March, 2004, 17:13 GMT
Fire hits 12th-Century monastery
Hilandariou monastery on fire
Most of the valuable artworks and relics were saved
A 12th-Century Serbian Orthodox monastery on Mount Athos in north-eastern Greece has been badly damaged in a fire.

The fire at the Hilandariou monastery is thought to have destroyed parts of the monks' living quarters, which date back to 1188.

"Only the outside walls were left standing," a local official said.

The fire, which broke out on Wednesday night, also damaged frescoes from the 16th and 18th Centuries.

Relics saved

The 25 monks who live on the site were able to save all the most valuable books, manuscripts and icons, some of which date back to the 12th Century.

The fire was brought under control on Thursday, but parts of it were still smouldering on Friday afternoon.

It is thought to have been started by a heater.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has pledged to help restore the monastery, and Serbian television appealed for donations, according to Reuters news agency.

Mount Athos is home to about 20 Christian Orthodox monasteries on a rugged peninsula overlooking the northern Aegean.

Women - and even some female domestic animals - have not been allowed on the mountain since 1060.


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