On April 9, 2018 a group of ten members of the local SaddleBrooke Photography Club visited the Holy Grounds of Saint Anthony’s Monastery in the Sonoran Desert near Florence, AZ. This was the day after the Orthodox Easter Weekend which is considered to be one of the most important holidays on the Greek calendar.
Before visiting the center of the Holy Grounds, the photographers stopped at the nearby Prophet Elijah Chapel that was erected on a hill overlooking the surrounding desert and the Monastery nearby to the west. This was a first opportunity to photograph the decorative stairways leading to the chapel, the brilliant white stucco bell tower and of course, the chapel, all with typical Greek-style architecture. A huge cross towering next to the chapel was a focal point as it can be seen from miles away.
After entering the nearby Monastery through a large main gate, the group was greeted by church attendees and was given a warm welcome, instructions to the grounds and blessings by a local monk. All guests visiting the chapels and the grounds must be appropriately and modestly dressed with arms and legs covered and women must wear head scarves and long skirts.
The photography group spread out afterwards and was amazed at the well-appointed landscaped park with many fountains and blooms. Their assignment was taking pictures not only in vivid colors but also create images in black and white.
The construction of the monastery was begun by several monks in 1995, first with a main church, living quarters for the monks, dining hall and guest quarters for attending worshippers.
As the monastery expanded, several more chapels were built and vegetable gardens and fruit orchards were added to the Holy Grounds. The elaborate gardens, pathways, gazebos and Spanish fountains truly represent a monastery with a European background, but this monastery is just as well fitted as an oasis in the Sonoran Desert.
The monastery is named after Saint Anthony the Great (ca, 251-356 AD). Other chapels on the grounds are dedicated to Saints John the Baptist, Nicolas, George, Seraphim and Demetrios.
At the present time, the brotherhood of 50 monks and novices hold all things in common and follow strict daily schedule of prayers, spiritual readings and work the grounds during part of the day.
Visitors can visit the monastery at no charge during the day time and our SaddleBrooke photographers were able to get wonderful pictures including interior shots from the chapels. One of the strict rules for visitors is that no monks or guests of the monastery are to be photographed.
The SaddleBrooke Photography club is open to SaddleBrooke residents of all levels of photography and has open studio hours Wednesday and Friday mornings 9:00 a.m.-noon in the Agate Room at SaddleBrooke TWO. There are planned photo outings throughout the year plus monthly general meetings with presentations. For more information visit one of the open studios or check out the website www.SaddlebrookePhotographyClub.com.