Helandari Monastery 50 pct gutted by fire

On the morrow of the fire that ravaged an 800-year-old monastery on Mount Athos, it emerged yesterday that the damage was considerably worse than initially estimated. About half of the Helandari Monastery walled complex – including sections dating to the 14th, 16th and 18th centuries – was destroyed by the blaze, which broke out early on Thursday and was apparently caused by an electric heater. Nobody was hurt. Occupied by 25 Serb monks, Helandari, the northernmost of the 20 Mount Athos monasteries, is one of the holiest Serbian orthodox sites. Officials on Mt Athos yesterday said reconstruction should start as soon as possible in order to prevent further destabilization of the building. It is unclear, however, whether this time the monks will accept aid from the European Union – which they had rejected in the past as tainted by ostensible Catholic connections.

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