Consider being lost in a desert and had run out of water some time ago, you were very hot, tired and dispirited. You kept putting one foot in front of the other even though the desert looked endless. You dragged yourself over a small rise and before you stood an oasis of tall Palm trees. As you got closer, you could see water running in beautiful fountains surrounded by flowers along cool, shaded paths. In the middle rose a beautiful church with a magnificent bell tower. You might think you were either hallucinating or maybe witnessing a miracle.
In reality, what you would be seeing is the St. Antony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery located several miles from the small town of Florence, Arizona.
Connie and I took a ride to visit this Monastery and it was a wonderful experience. As we drove up, the fruit trees at the side of the road were lined up like soldiers, their bark precisely painted white to the ground. As we entered we were greeted by a lovely water feature introducing the Monastery.
We parked in the guest parking lot and obeyed the sign to report to the bookstore. We were greeted by a monk in long black clothes wearing a kind of black fez hat. Connie had been here before so we had dressed accordingly. We were asked to wear only long skirts and cover our hair. No sandals allowed or nylon stockings. In spite of my large shawl, a bit of my bare back showed and I was asked to cover it as well. There were clothes provided for those who were unaware of the tradition. We were given a glass of water and a sweet along with a self-guiding map of the area.
We set off to stroll through grounds at our leisure. We learned that this monastery was founded in the summer of 1995 by six monks who carried with them the sacred, thousand-year heritage of the Holy Mountain, Athos, Greece. This Holy Mountain consists of 20 independent monasteries, housing a few thousand Christian monks from all over the world
When this site was chosen there was a small well on the property, rare for the desert. When it was excavated a large, deep artesian well was discovered. This well made it possible for the beautiful, lush grounds of today’s site.
It was very restful and quiet as we explored and took pictures (we are encouraged to take photos of anything except the monks). There were a number of cats on the grounds basking in the sunny spots. The churches were magnificent with their huge chandeliers and painted icons.
We spent a couple of hours wandering around among the amazing brickwork paths and buildings. Connie has been here several times and I can understand why she continues to come back with each new guest. The photos below are from both me and Connie. I hope you enjoy them.
More soon …