Two weeks ago I made the short, seventy mile trip southeast of the Phoenix area to visit St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery, a place I had only recently learned existed. After driving an hour and a half across the very dry, moisture deprived desert, I was surprised to see quite a lot of green looming ahead as I passed a row of trees neatly planted along the road.
Between those trees, I caught sight of what looked like a Greek chapel sitting at the very top of a small hillside. This I learned was St. Elijah chapel looking as pristine on it's desert mound as if it was perched on a cliff over looking the Mediterranean on a remote Greek isle.
I arrived at the parking area already attired in the required conservative dress. All I needed to add was the head scarf and I was ready to enter the gates.
The monastery was quite busy with guests who were going to stay a few days and a few others like me who were there for a day visit.
I was greeted by a bearded and black-clad monk who gave me a map indicating the path to take and the buildings that were open to the public and those that were not. He wished me well and sent me off to explore on my own.
The path starts at St. Anthony's Church, a Byzantine style, domed basilica that serves as the main church on the property.
The inside is adorned with icons of saints and brass trim and chandelier. Almost everything inside the church was brought to this desert location from Greece.
Upon exiting the church, the path leads on to the main courtyard with it's beautiful and quiet gazebo constructed of brick with a domed roof and a fountain in the center.
A little further down the path is St. Nicholas chapel, another example of Byzantine architecture this time produced in stone and tile. The details on the dome were particularly attractive to me.
A short walk through the orange grove and then the olive grove brought me to the chapel of St. George. This Romanian style chapel faces a beautiful plaza complete with a fountain and palm trees.
The inside was a beautiful space with gorgeous wood trim and another brass chandelier.
The Fountain of the Cross dominates a garden area near the chapel of St. George with pathways the radiate out to various locations on this section of the property. Two more small chapels are at the ends of two those paths, St. Seraphim's Chapel and St. Demetrios' Chapel.
Another path leads to a shake-roofed gazebo with benches inside. Once again, another quiet spot to contemplate or read.
The front of the gazebo had two statues of the Lion and Lamb on either side of the entrance.
The residents of this monastery have created a little piece of heaven in the middle of the harsh Arizona desert and the contrast makes it a fascinating place to visit no matter your spiritual persuasion.
If you plan to visit, please check their web site
for information about dress and the hours they are open to the public.