Women to See Christian Art for the First Time

Are you a woman? Do you enjoy Christian iconography? Are you in, or will you be traveling to France sometime in the next few months? If you answered yes, you are in luck. The legendary art treasures of Mount Athos are on display until July 5 at the Petit Palais in Paris, and it's the first time women have had a chance to see them for 1,000 years.Mount Athos, if you don't know, is a mountainous peninsula in northern Greece that is home to several ancient monasteries. By order of the Byzantine Emperor in 1045 A.D., no women-not even female animals-are allowed to enter the precinct of Mount Athos. It's a rule that's still rigorously enforced by the Greek government (though at least one woman has snuck in pretending to be a man). Even for men, gaining entrance to Athos is quite difficult, involving permits and other very old bureaucratic processes.Mount Athos's isolation, combined with the importance of its monasteries to the ancient Christian world, has made it a true treasure trove of early Christian art, and this is only the third time any of it has left the monastery for exhibition, and the first time it has left Greece. So, should you be in Paris, man or woman, try to check it out, as it may your last chance in a while, unless you are a man and interested in spending weeks in a monastery in silence, eating bread and water, just to see the art.