In a remarkable tale from the annals of history, we learn about Mihailo Tolotos, a monk who lived for 82 years without ever witnessing the presence of a woman or the advancements of the modern world. Tolotos’ journey began in 1856 in Halkidiki, Greece. Tragically losing his mother at birth, he was adopted by monks at the Mount Athos monastery, a place steeped in strict traditions and a steadfast commitment to celibacy.
The unique rule of Άβατον (avaton), established in the 10th century, prohibited women from entering the region to ensure the monks could devote themselves fully to spiritual enlightenment. This long-standing rule, aimed at maintaining the monks’ celibate lifestyle, has also shielded them from the rapid transformations of the outside world. As such, Tolotos grew up without ever encountering a woman, seeing a car, an airplane, or even a movie — experiences common to most people.
In 1938, at the age of 82, Tolotos passed away, having never ventured beyond the confines of his monastic sanctuary. His life, a remarkable testament to solitude and spiritual pursuit, was memorialied with a special burial ceremony conducted by the monks of Mount Athos. They believed him to be the only man to have lived and died without ever laying eyes on a woman. This extraordinary life story even found a place in the columns of the Edinburgh Daily Courier, which chronicled the monk’s secluded existence on October 29, 1938.
Today, Mount Athos stands as a living testament to spiritual resilience and tradition. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it attracts thousands of visitors each year, keen to witness its rich history and spiritual traditions. However, the avaton rule, which continues to forbid women from entering the area, has become a controversial topic, criticised for being discriminatory and outdated in the modern age of gender equality.
Mihailo Tolotos’ life story offers a glimpse into a world untouched by modern advancements, a stark contrast to the experiences of the contemporary population. His life, marked by solitude and devotion, invites us to ponder the depth of human experience within the boundaries of tradition and spiritual pursuit.