St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery is an almost miraculous oasis in an otherwise flat piece of Arizona desert near Florence. In less than two decades, the monks who live there have built churches, chapels, housing units, maintenance facilities, rotundas, fountains and sandstone walkways and converted an otherwise arid piece of ground into a lush, almost tropical, garden where greenery covers almost every square foot of the once-barren landscape.
Construction began in 1995; the first church was completed within a year. It is one of 10 monasteries started in North America by Father Ephriam, a spiritual leader from the Greek Orthodox homeland on Mount Athos in Greece. Surrounded by foliage and spires, visitors easily envision themselves in a foreign country. The roofs and columns on the places of worship vary from copper domes to lofty bell towers, and the building materials range from brick to stone to lumber.
The monastery is open to the public but visitors are asked to first check in at the bookstore directly inside the entryway. They may roam through the grounds, take photos and even attend services, but may not speak with the resident monks. Also, guests are asked to be properly attired. Men must wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Women must wear skirts below the knees, long-sleeved shirts or blouses, and have their heads covered with a veil or scarf. Everyone is asked to wear socks, particularly those in sandals. A limited supply of proper attire is available in the bookstore for improperly clad guests.
To reach the monastery, take Paisano Road east off State Route 76 about 12 miles south of Florence, and follow the paved road to the entrance.