This article is taken from Sam Lowe, Arizona Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff, Rowman & Littlefield, 2012, pp. 130-132.
The Desert Blooms
St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery is an oasis in an otherwise flat piece of desert. In less than a decade, the monks who live there built two churches, five chapels, housing, maintenance facilities, rotundas, fountains, and sandstone walkways. They also planted thousands of trees, shrubs, and cactuses, literally covering the once-barren desert into one of the most beautiful spots in Arizona.
Construction began in 1995; the first church was completed within a year. It is one of ten monasteries started in North America by Father Ephraim, a spiritual leader from the Greek Orthodox homeland at Mount Athos in Greece.
Surrounded by foliage and spires, visitors might easily envision themselves in a foreign country. The roofs and columns on the places of worship vary from copper domes to bell towers, and the architecture ranges from brick to stone to lumber.
Visitors are asked to check in at the bookstore directly inside the entryway, where they are welcomed with pitchers of ice water and sweet cakes. They may attend services, walk through the grounds, take photographs, and enter the churches.
But there are some restrictions. Men are asked to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Women should wear skirts below the knees, long-sleeved shirts or blouses, and have their heads covered with a veil or scarf. No hats, caps, sheer scarves, shorts, pant-skirts, miniskirts, or sleeveless blouses. Everyone is asked to wear socks, especially when wearing sandals. A limited supply of proper attire is available in the bookstore for improperly clad guests. Smoking and conversation with the monks are not allowed.
To reach the monastery, take Paisano Road east off Route 79 about twelve miles south of Florence. Stay on the paved road; it’ll lead you directly to the entry.