[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 9 September 2005, 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK
Putin on Mount Athos pilgrimage
Vladimir Putin makes the sign of the cross beside Meliton of Philadelphia at the Mount Athos monastic community
Vladimir Putin openly observes Orthodox Christian traditions
Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited the monastic community of Mount Athos in Greece, one of Orthodox Christianity's holiest sites.

He was the first Russian leader to visit the male-only community, on a narrow, rocky peninsula east of Thessaloniki, Russian TV reported.

The trip was part of Mr Putin's two-day visit to Greece.

He has openly embraced the Orthodox faith, despite having served the atheist Soviet regime as a KGB officer.

Multi-national community

Mr Putin arrived at the monastic harbour of Dafni on board a private yacht amid heavy security.

He visited the Russian Orthodox Saint Panteleimon monastery - one of 20 at the site.

The Helandariou Orthodox Christian monastery on Mount Athos
Mount Athos is a pilgrimage site for Orthodox Christians

Mr Putin had had to call off two earlier attempts to visit Mount Athos, regarded as the European cradle of Orthodox Christianity, the main religion in Russia.

His plan to visit last year had to be cancelled following the Beslan school siege. A previous attempt in 2001 was scrapped because of bad weather.

"This is a very special place for Orthodox Christians and the whole Christian world. In Russia, we always held the monks who lived here in great admiration and respect," he was quoted as saying.

Some 1,500 monks live in the semi-autonomous monastic community, which is also known as Holy Mountain.

It houses Serbian, Bulgarian, Romanian, as well as Russian, monasteries and monks are entitled to Greek and European citizenship regardless of their country of origin.

Women - even many female domestic animals - have not been allowed on the mountain since a decree banning women was issued by Byzantine Emperor Constantine Monomachos in 1060.


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific