As Vladimir Putin winds down his visit to Mount Athos with a speech in business casual, it is surprising just how powerful leaders visit the semi autonomous republic where they are guaranteed total secrecy in their wheelings and dealings.
Prince Charles, a Patron of the Friends of Mount Athos association, makes frequent off the radar trips to Athos, reports The Guardian.
“On Monday night a resplendent yacht docked at the watery entrance to the world’s only monastic republic. A middle-aged man, followed by two bodyguards, stepped on to the jetty of the peninsula in northern Greece and into the “state” known variously as Mount Athos, Aghio Oros and the Holy Mount.
A few monks in black robes and pillar-box hats stood waiting, but, under orders to keep the identity of this particular pilgrim secret, it was a reception without fanfare. Their guest – clean-shaven in contrast to the bearded clerics – was Prince Charles, on his third clandestine retreat to Athos in the past 12 months.
According to friends and associates of the prince, the future head of the Church of England has become enamoured of the Orthodox faith to the point that he has adorned a section of his home at Highgrove with prized Byzantine icons. Many are believed to originate from the Mount, the Orthodox world’s holiest site.
“There is no question that the British royal is Orthodox in his heart,” confided one Athonite monk, making a rare trip outside the remote republic. “Sadly, he is very constrained by his position.”