In the spring of A.D. 587, two monks set off on an extraordinary journey that would take them in an arc across the entire Byzantine world, from the shores of the Bosphorus to the sand dunes of Egypt. On the way, John Moschos and his pupil Sophronius the Sophist stayed in caves, monasteries, and remote hermitages, collecting the wisdom of the stylites and the desert fathers before their fragile world finally shattered under the great eruption of Islam. More than a thousand years later, using Moschos's writings as his guide and inspiration, William Dalrymple sets off to retrace their footsteps. Dalrymple's account of his travels, From the Holy Mountain, is an elegy to the slowly dying civilization of Eastern Christianity and the peoples that have kept its flame alive. It is a rich and gripping blend of history and spirituality, adventure and politics, threaded through with Dalrymple's unique sense of black comedy.
"Elegant, poignant . . . Courageous . . . Pitting the idealism of the past against the hatred, dispossession, and denial of the present."—Karen Armstrong, author of History of God
"This splendid book should take its rightful place on the same shelf as Chatwin's In Patagonia. [It is] rich with the poetry of antique places and transports the fascinated reader smoothly into a vanishing world . . . There are, finally, innumerable wonderful stories in From the Holy Mountain."—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World
"Dalrymple is a born travel writer, with a nose for adventure and a reporter's healthy skepticism. His quirky, exhilarating mosaic will appeal to readers of all faiths."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)