HAM Radio 101

What are The Monks of Mount Athos?

Mount Athos, or the “Holy Mountain,” is a mountain peninsula located in northeastern Greece that houses 20 monasteries. Completely isolated from modern civilization, Mount Athos has served as a religious mecca for nearly 1,800 years, dating back to approximately 800 A.D. As an autonomous political entity disparate from the European Union, Mount Athos is self-governed with its own guidelines regarding trade and entry—the most dubious being the right to refuse women entry.

However, Mount Athos’ isolation and difficult access make entry and exit challenging for anyone, which is why it currently ranks number 20 on the Clublog DXCC Most Wanted List. With no telephone connections, communication from Mount Athos is problematic at best—especially in emergency situations.

In 1986 a monk on Mount Athos suffered an eye injury and was unable to receive medical aid for two days due to issues contacting the mainland. Ham enthusiast and ophthalmology professor, Mr. Georgiadis, SV2RE, suggested a chosen member of the monastery obtain an Amateur Radio license to remedy communication issues during crisis situations.

The task fell to Monk Apollo, a resident monk at the Monastery of Doceiariou on Mount Athos. Up for the challenge, Apollo obtained his license in 1988 with the call sign SV2ASP, but held off an additional two years to go on air while he waited for approval from the Holy Council. In 1990 he made his radio debut, with the mission to spread joy to the “troubled” world outside during his rare moments of free time from his religious obligations.

While Monk Apollo was not the only monk on Mount Athos to use Amateur Radio, he was the only one working DX. A silent key as of May 2019, Monk Apollo worked the bands for more than 29 years spreading optimism and joy to Hams across the globe. He succumbed to cancer at the age of 64. In his stead, Monk Iakovos, SV2RSG/A, is available for sporadic contact. For updates on Iakovos’ activity and to read more about the challenges he faces with the Holy Community for continued operation, click here.

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