This past Thursday, a few of us visited St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery, located in Florence, AZ. It is hard to believe that a mere 15 years ago this same area was just barren land, for now it is an oasis. In 1995, six monks arrived from Greece and were involved in the construction of the main church, living quarters for the monks, a dining hall, and guest facilities. Later the monastery expanded to include several chapels, a garden, vineyard, citrus orchard, and an olive grove. There is a beautiful stone-laid path throughout the area that connects all the buildings.
One of the rules of visiting the monastery is that the guests have to be dressed appropriately. This means that the men have to wear long sleeve shirts and long pants. Women have to wear either dresses (nothing low cut) or skirts (no slits, please), no open-toed shoes, no nylons (socks instead), and scarves on their heads. They did have a box full of clothes you could dig through in case you didn't come prepared and a box of scarves. So here's the picture of us women. We look like a bunch of studabubbas. Don't laugh.
St. Anthony's Church
This is inside St. Anthony's Church. This picture doesn't really do the church justice. The size of that candelabra is HUGE hanging from the ceiling.
You may notice that there are no pews in this church. The monks sit or stand in these elaborate chairs along the sides of the church. The seats fold up so you could either sit high up or stand, or they pull down and you can sit lower on a full seat.(See the first and third chair from right to left.)
Here is a small alcove in the church with the chairs tucked in around the curve.
We left this church, walked down the path
and came upon the Main Courtyard where this beautiful gazebo with a fountain in the middle was located.
This next building is the St. Nicholas Chapel, dedicated to the patron saint of sailors.
Although this candelabra wasn't as large as the one in St. Anthony's Chapel, it is just as elaborate.
Behind the chapel, was this gorgeous patio.
Even though the monks' living quarters were off limits to the public, we got a glimpse of it as we walked to the next chapel.
This is part of the walkway leading to the next chapel. In the distance are the olive groves. I don't know how much land the monks actually own, but it's quite a bit.
This impressive building is the Chapel of St. George.
This is looking at the door from the inside. The light from the stained glass colored the floor and walls of the church.
As did these three stained glass windows, high up on the wall.
It is the light from those windows that is shining down on these chairs.
The inside was spectacular looking with all the wooden cross beams and inlaid wood in the ceiling.
To show you exactly how large one of these candelabra's are, it dwarfs Jim in the background, and he is 6'2"!
This is the Fountain of the Cross. This is a traditional Orthodox cross, also known as the Russian cross. You may wonder why it has three bars across it - the small bar has the inscription "Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews", the second bar is for the hands, and the bottom bar is the footrest. The bars are slanted because the thief crucified to the right of Christ was saved; therefore he went to Heaven. Thus the right side of the bar points to heaven. The left end points down to Hell because the other thief went to Hell.
One thing that is immediately noticeable throughout the monastery is the peacefulness and quiet. The only sounds we heard were the tinkling of the water fountains and the birds singing from the trees. It was very relaxing to walk the stone path, sit in the shade if we wanted to, and take our time gazing at the beautiful chapels. We were not allowed to speak to any monks or take any pictures of them. The only monks available for conversation were those working the book store. I did come across an elderly monk and he quickly averted his eyes. I was relieved because I wasn't sure how to address him.
St. Seraphim's Chapel is an outdoor Russian style chapel. It was set apart from the other chapels amid plants and trees.
"Inside" St. Seraphim's Chapel
The tour was basically over. We spoke to a young monk in the bookstore who told us that there were 43 monks currently living in the monastery, but people come from all over the world and stay with them.
This last chapel is still in the process of being built and is not open to the public just yet. But we could go up there and walk around. It is called St. Elijah Chapel. Here it is from a distance. Isn't it beautiful?
We drove our car over to the chapel and walked up the steep walkway to the top. Here is the chapel up close.
The bell tower
A view of some snow-capped mountains off in the distance, with saguaros in the foreground.
Here is what St. George's Chapel looks like from up on that hill.
Finally, when we were walking down the steps from the chapel, I glanced over the side and said, "Hey, look at that snake over there!"
Jim said, "That's a rattlesnake!"
It was about 5 feet long!
Here's a photo of that bad boy!
I am so glad we took this trip to the monastery. I'm always interested in learning about other religions, and this was such a beautiful place to visit.