This study examines the impact of a short visit at Mount Athos upon the "stranger" (xenos), that is, a person who makes his first encounter with this particular religious territory, a paramount point of reference for Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Charged with holiness by this culture, Mount Athos opens the field for contesting discourses to develop by visitors of various backgrounds and diverse travelling agendas.
The study draws upon written testimonies of a broad range of visitors to this site over the past 100 years, both Greeks and foreigners, regardless of their religious identity. It probes into the sequence of events around which the experience of each visitor is structured in this new place, either alone or in community with others (i.e., other visitors and/or permanent residents). More specifically, it sees how this experience is founded upon the notions of space and time, occasionally appropriating fragments of the visitor's past, and, in some cases, feeding into a discursive situation which relates the individual with a common place (koinos topos) and a collective memory. The study builds its theoretical framework upon pilgrimage theories (e.g., V. & E. Turner, A. Morinis, J. Eade, M. Sallnow, etc.) which, on the one hand, account for transformations occurring in the pilgrim's consciousness, and on the other hand, expand the definition of the pilgrim to include any "stranger" who undergoes a similar experience upon journeying to a site of special significance.
In conclusion, this study contends that Mount Athos, due to its manner of combining nature, culture, and history in a unique and unprecedented way still preserves its power to engage its visitor -- who is willing to share in some of its so-conceived "sacredness" -- in a life-transforming journey.