ATHOS Zbigniew Kosc

Athos: Abandoned taylor workshop in Monastery Zografu - Photography by Zbigniew Kosc © 1985

Athos: Exit, Simonos Petra - Photography by Zbigniew Kosc © 1983

The monks' republic on Mount Athos is regarded as the center of Eastern Orthodox spirituality.
The first monastery on the holy mountain (Aghio Oros) was established by Constantinople just before the year 1000,
and the small community of servants of God survived the second thousand years of Christianity better than the Orthodox metropolis on the Bosporus.
This is not merely a result of its relative seclusion and inaccessibility; the primary reason is the monks' unshakable belief in their mission:
to create a center for the Christian faith far removed from the noise and bustle of the world.
Today, 20 monasteries are represented in the Assembly at Karyai, 17 of them being Greek, and one each Bulgarian, Serbian, and Russian.
Together with the non-voting monastic communities - the so-called Sketes, the smaller monastic communities or Kellia,
and the hermits, they form a state dedicated to the service of God: a state loose in organization but strong in faith.
For us today Athos is still synonymous with Eastern Orthodox art: icons, illuminated books, frescoes, and churches.
In photographs of Zbigniew Kosc the other aspect of Athos is presented, that aspect which is of overriding importance to the monks and hermits: religion and spirituality.
The black and white photographs - taken in 1983, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1989 - in themselves suggest this inward-looking life.

by Ernst Halter
Athos, An old monk, Kerasia, 1988, photography by Zbigniew Kosc©

Monastic life is called the art of arts and the science of sciences;
for it does not bring perishable blessings akin to the things
of this world, which drive the mind from what is best and engulf it;
but monk hood promises us wonderful and unspeakable treasures
which the ' Eye that not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered
into the heart of man' (1 Cor. ii. 9). Hence, ' we wrestle not
against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers,
against the rulers of the darkness of this world' (Ephes. vi. 12).
If therefore present existence is but darkness. let us flee from it,
let us flee by returning our mind and our heart. Let us have nothing
in common with the enemy of God, for 'whosoever will be a friend
of the world is the enemy of God' ( James iv. 4). And who can
help the enemy of God ? Therefore let us imitate our fathers and,
like them, let us seek the treasure existing within our hearts and,
having found it, let us hold fast to it in doing and guarding -
for which task we were destined from the beginning.

Nicephorus the Solitary

The divine Arsenius strictly preserved the rule - never to write to anyone and never to receive letters,
and in general to say practically nothing - not because he could not (...)
but through the habit of much silence and in order to avoid vanity,
that is, display. And in church gatherings, for the same reason, he made every effort to stand
where he could not see others nor be seen by anyone; he never mixed with the crowd of brethren
but hid away somewhere. Such was the care he took to keep attention within himself
and to hold his mind collected inwardly in order to raise himself with less hindrance to God.
Such is the example left to us by that divine man and earthly angel.

Nicephorus the Solitary

Silence of lips is better and more wonderful than any edifying conversation.
Strive to acquire humility and submissiveness.
Never insist that anything should be according to your will, for this gives birth to anger.
Do not judge or humiliate anyone, for this gives birth to anger.
Do not judge or humiliate anyone, for this exhausts the heart and blinds the mind,
and thereon leads to negligence and makes the heart unfeeling.

St.Barsanuphius and St.John

Athos: Solitary Greek monk father Kirilos in his kelia, Kavsokalivia - photography by Zbigniew Kosc © 1988 

Athos, After night prayer, Romanian Skiti Prodromu - photography by Zbigniew Kosc © 1988

Sobriety is the steadfast setting up of the thought of the mind and posting it at the door of the heart,
so that it sees alien thoughts as they come, those thieves and robbers, and hears what these destroyers say and do;
and sees what is the image inscribed and figured in them by the demons, who are trying thus to seduce the mind by fantasy.
For this work, when it is done with loving effort, reveals to us very fundamentally and clearly, by experience, the art of mental war and brings skill in it.

Hesychius of Jerusalem

Zbigniew Kosc , born 1951 (Poland), Ph.D. in social psychology.
He was active in research both at the universities of Warsaw and Amsterdam.
He has published several scientific papers as well as book reviews.
Zbigniew Kosc absolved secondary studies in photography and graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam.
His work can be found in private homes as well as in public collections on both sides of the Atlantic.

Athos pages



monasteries and inhabitatnts

black and white gallery

some color panoramic

Athos references




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photography Zbigniew Kosc
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Amsterdam 2009

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