The legendary treasures of Mount Athos have been out of bounds for woman for almost 1000 years.
But an exhibition that has opened in Paris means the fairer sex can finally lay their eyes on the ancient Byzantine artifacts. Almost 200 works of art from the male-only Orthodox enclave in northern Greece are on show at the Petit Palais until July. Most of the works have never left the peninsula, from which women – and some female animals – have been banned since 1045.
The Mount Athos treasures, housed in 20 monasteries, are one of the largest collections of Christian art in the world, according to the Independent. Direct access to the treasures is notoriously hard to obtain for men, and impossible for women. That was until Paris was granted the privilege of hosting this “world premiere”.
Dora Bakoyannis, Greek minister for foreign affairs, described the exhibition as a “cultural event of the first order”.
“The treasures exhibited here are a part of European culture,” Ms Bakoyannis told the paper. “A large number of these relics are going ‘beyond the walls’ of Mount Athos for public viewing for the first time by men and women.”
Previously, only two very small exhibitions have been held of Mount Athos artefacts, both in Greece.
Gilles Chazal, director of the Petit Palais, said the exhibition would be “hugely significant”.
The original ruling banning women, and female animals (except cats, which help control the rat population), from the enclave was issued by the Byzantine emperor Constantine Monomachos in 1045. Under Greek law, a breach of the ban by a woman can still lead to a jail sentence.