Tuesday, February 5, 2019

A Desert Hidden Gem

Florence, Arizona, an Old West desert town, is an unlikely location for Greek monks, but there it is, a little oasis among the sagebrush and cactus about halfway between Tucson and Phoenix, just off Route 79 that connects the two cities.

Six Greek monks from the Holy Mountain, Athos, in Greece came to this Sonoran desert location in 1995 and began work on a monastery consisting of chapels, gardens, gazebos, walkways, fountains, citrus orchards, olive gardens and even guest quarters.

The community consists of men living the monastic tradition of a Christ-centered prayer life for the monastic members. About 50 some monks and novices populate the grounds, praying, tending the orchards and vineyards and doing tasks, such as woodworking, construction, publishing and kitchen work. 

Greek Orthodoxy is a Christian religion, tracing its history back thousands of years, and the monastery is named after St. Anthony the Great, an Egyptian ascetic who is known as "the father of monasticism."
Even though I read about this monastery online I was not prepared for such lush vegetation and Greek inspired architecture right in the middle of the desert. The rain stopped (yes, you read that correctly) just in time for our visit. As a sign of reverence they have a strict dress code visitors must adhere to. Women and girls need to be covered head to toe, skirt over slacks or jeans and head covered and men and boys long pants and long sleeve shirts. 

Many chapels are filled with Orthodox crosses and icons. All of these icons have a story about the saint it depicts. 

Even the tiled walkways around the property were stunning. 

St. George icon
Pictured below citrus groves of oranges, lemons and grapefruits. Not only is the monastery  well worth visiting, because of its beauty, but because it reminds us how important contemplative traditions have been to the development of cultures and cuisines of desert oases all around the world. The monks not only grow most of what they eat, but also contribute extraordinarily fine food products to other communities through their relationship with Dan and Diego Rosado, the founders of the Local Natural Foods distribution network. In the gift shop olive oil, honey, citrus marmalade, mango chutney, dried herbs and some Greek pastries can be purchased.  
Pictured below the Abbott's home overlooking the Greek Monastery. 

A visit here to a hidden gem nestled in the middle of the desert should be on your list when visiting the area.  And no I am not working for TripAdvisor :) just loved the beauty and serenity of the monastery and surrounding grounds. 

UP NEXT Field Trip Part Two: Casa Grande Ruins from Bella's perspective. Since the monastery is not pet friendly Bella had to sit out that visit.  


  1. Beautiful. There's a place in Wisconsin, too, that requires a dress code, of women wearing skirts.

  2. What a beautiful oasis discovery. Am sorry to have missed visiting this monastery oasis on my trips to the Tucson area. Thanks for posting these great photographs.


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