THREE PIECES OF NEWS ABOUT MOUNT ATHOS FROM THE FIRST HALF OF 15TH CENTURY
Three travelers, two coming from the Latin world of Western Europe, more precisely from the Iberian Peninsula, the emissary of the Crown of Castile, Ruy González de Clavijo, and the Spanish traveler Pero Tafur, and one representative of the Christian Orthodox world, the Russian clergyman Zosima, carry information about the Mount Athos in the first half of the 15th century. They provide very circumstantial and basic information about the unique republic of the Orthodox monks, which was not the primary destination of their travels, but they do provide very interesting data, valuable for the little-known history of the Holy Mountain in the first decades of the 15th century. Out of the impressions and information that the three travelers provide, there are at least two main observations. The first one relates to the fact that the two of them - both belonging to the Latin world of Western Europe - did not in fact visit the peninsula inhabited by the Orthodox monks. They, thus, do not write from personal experience but rather pass along the information they had heard from the others. Besides, Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo provides data that is almost "anecdotal" in character, and which refer to some unusual peculiarities from the lives of the monks on Mount Athos. They are the kind of data that might seem exceptional to the uninformed newcomers from another world. In contrast to him, Pero Tafur provides a schematized and artificial "three-layered" image of the monastic life on the Holy Mountain, according to which there were three degrees in the monastic virtues, which correspond to the three monasteries on Mount Athos, located, the first at the foot of the mountain, the second in the middle of it, and the third at the very top. Contrary to the two visitors from Spain and their impressions, there was the Russian clergyman Zosima, in a way an epitome of the god-loving monk who was coming from the Christian Orthodox Russia and who actually did visit Mount Athos. In addition to the description of his pilgrimage to the holy relics, he stated the route he used and, more importantly, he listed the names of the total of twenty two monasteries on Mount Athos, which makes his data more concrete and important for the history of Mount Athos in the first half of the 15th century than those provided by Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo and Pero Tafur.
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