Mount Athos is one of the most important centres of the Orthodox Christian world, consisting of 20 monasteries and approximately 2,000 monks. Located on a Greek peninsula, it is home to the oldest surviving monastic community on Earth. The way of life for the monks is practically unchanged since the first monks arrived in the ninth century. Most of the monks live within the walls of their chosen monastery, but others choose to live in complete isolation, away from any distractions.
Women are not allowed within 500 metres of the shore, and even female animals are prohibited from walking on Mount Athos. This is because the Virgin Mary is said to have visited the peninsula and prayed to have it as her own. It is believed that the presence of women might distract the monks, tempting them away from true celibacy and lead them to sin.