The Friends of Mount Athos


Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia

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All Women's Pilgrimage to Solan Convent, Provence,
2 – 5 May 2008

The Coenobium of the Holy Protection, a daughter house of Simonopetra near Avignon, is pleased to invite a small group of FOMA women pilgrims to the convent for a post-Paschal retreat over the Bank Holiday weekend, 2 – 5 May 2008. This will be a period of quietude, peace and reflection, but at the same time full of Resurrection joy, it being the first weekend after Orthodox Easter. The programme will consist of (shortened) Athonite-style monastic services in the chapel (morning and evening: Byzantine chant set to French liturgical texts), common meals in the refectory, and tours through the monastery's extensive land holdings including the farm, orchard, forest and winery. On Saturday 3 May a visit will be paid to the neighbouring medieval town of Uzès, with its superb buildings and colourful market. There will also be opportunities to converse with Abbess Hypantia and the sisters, most of whom know a number of languages.

This multi-national community, now numbering around twenty Orthodox nuns, purchased the site in 1991 when it was nothing more than an abandoned farm complex having neither water nor electricity. Shortly thereafter the sisters discovered to their delight that in the 13th century the farm belonged to the Carthusian monastery at Pont St Esprit. The buildings came with 60 hectares of agricultural land and forest. Following Orthodox principles for care of the creation, the nuns cultivate organic fruit, vegetables and wine.

Assisted by ‘The Friends of Solan’, an association that gathers people of different backgrounds and religious traditions who are interested in what is being achieved at the monastery, the sisters produce jams, cheeses, olive oil, vegetables, and prize-winning wines. Numerous important ecological conferences have also been held on the site. Today the Solan monastery is classified by WWF International as a ΚCentre of Excellence&rsq] first because of its successful environmental initiatives and secondly because its practices have had a substantial and positive impact on local growers.

The maximum number of participants will be eight (or twelve if one of the ladies is willing to drive the monastery's car)

A full report of FoMA's first all-women's pilgrimage was published in the FoMA Annual Report:
Valerie Greenhalgh,"Pilgrimage to Solan Monastery, Provence: 2-5 May 2008. The Cenobium of the Holy Protection, a daughter house of Simonopetra" (Annual Report 2008, pp. 61-65)