FLORENCE — While the St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery is home to about 50 Greek Orthodox monks, the facility opens its gates to outsiders every day welcoming those who wish to stroll the grounds and see its beautiful landscaping, chapels and artworks.
Thousands visit every year.
On a recent visit to the monastery, which is tucked away on a large and sprawling estate, dozens of visitors roamed the grounds on self-guided tours, artists sketched various buildings and children ran along the paved pathways that lead to the various chapels and other must-see sights within the gates.
After a 45-minute drive from Casa Grande, a visit to the monastery begins by passing through the gates. There are seven chapels on the monastery grounds, most of which are open to the public.
Each chapel is dedicated to a different saint or religious figure — St. Nicholas, St. George, St. Demetrios, St. Seraphim, St. Panteleimon, St. John the Baptist and the Holy Prophet Elias.
Some of the chapels are examples of Byzantine-style architecture, but others are typical of Romanian, Spanish, Russian and other building styles.
The interior of the chapels feature various icons and artwork, many which were brought from Greece.
The main church — a traditional domed basilica with arched doorways and windows — is one of the first visitors see upon walking through the gate. It’s dedicated to St. Anthony and St. Nektarios and is one of several Byzantine-style buildings on the monastery grounds.
Visitors may enter most of the chapels and most will immediately notice that there are no pews or seating filling the inside of each chapel and that’s because the monks normally stand during services.
A few tall seats are found along the walls of each chapel so monks who tire during services can sit.
Monastery visitors may enter the main church, St. Nicholas’s Chapel, St. George’s Chapel, St. Demetrios’ Chapel, the St. Seraphim Chapel and the bookstore.
They may also visit the courtyard, stone gazebo and various other spots, including the Fountain of the Cross — a towering, stone three-bar cross found along the pathway and nestled among green trees and landscaping.
The three-bar cross is a traditional Orthodox cross and each bar on the cross has special significance.
While walking the paved pathway on a self-guided tour, visitors pass the monastery orchards, where the monks grow citrus fruit and olives. Visitors can buy olive oil made on the estate in the bookstore along with home-grown herbs, baked goods made onsite and various religious books and items.
There is no cost to visit the monastery grounds, but there are some rules when visiting. The monastery has a strict dress code, which visitors must adhere to.
Women must wear long-sleeved, loose-fitting shirts that cover the chest up to the neck along with long skirts or dresses without deep slits. Scarves must be worn and must cover the head and wrap under the chin and around the neck, so that the neck is also covered.
Men must wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Baseball caps and clothing with inappropriate words or slogans are not allowed. When inside a chapel, men must keep their head uncovered.
Upon entering the gates of the monastery, visitors are greeted by a volunteer who offers information about the visit and ensures everyone is dressed appropriately.
Those who are not in appropriate clothing will be given clothing to wear during the visit.
While visitors may take photos of the grounds, chapels and each other, they are not allowed to photograph the monks or other guests without permission.
Those who visit are also asked not to bother the monks, whose daily routine begins two hours before midnight with prayer, spiritual reading and the divine liturgy.
Throughout the day, they work on various jobs throughout the facility — construction, woodworking, food prep, agriculture and other tasks. Their day ends with evening vespers and dinner.
The monks support themselves by translating and publishing books, selling agricultural products and through donations.
Each tour is self-guided. Visitors wander at their own pace and may take time to marvel at the landscaping, architecture and artwork.
What to know if you go
Where it is: 4784 N. St. Joseph’s Way, near Florence
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., seven days a week
Entrance fee: There is no cost to visit the monastery but donations are accepted.
Dress code: Those who don’t adhere to the dress code will be given monastery-approved clothing to borrow during their visit.
Food: There is no food to purchase inside the gate, but a small food truck outside the gate sells pita bread and hummus, bagels and other snacks as well as juice and smoothies.
More information is available online at stanthonysmonastery.org or call 520-868-3088.