The monasteries of Meteora are positioned on the lordly peaks of sandstone pillars formed millions of years ago in the region of Thessaly. Most monasteries were built in the Middle Ages. The Greek word “Meteora”, which means “suspended in the air,” perfectly describes these remarkable buildings of the Greek Orthodox beief. The monasteries of Meteora are some of the most spectacular sights of Greece. And not just because they offers incredible views of the surroundings, but it also illustrates the unique perspective through a medieval monastic life.
Six of the original complexes are still inhabited by clerics who greet visitors from all over the world. The picturesque town of Kalabaka, located at the foot of cliffs, serves as a camp for those who want to soar to the top.
1 The Great Meteoron Monastery
The largest and oldest monastery of Meteora, the Great Meteoron Monastery is also the highest, located at more than 615 meters up. Founded by St. Athanasius, whose followers were exiled royal figures, Meteoron has always been considered the most prestigious. The huge complex includes a nuns’ monastery, dating from the XIV century, a small museum, a wine cellar and a shaded courtyard. For many visitors, a memorable image is that of the sacristy, where the skulls of those who lived in the monastery are being kept.
2 Holy Trinity Monastery
Serving as a place of filming for the James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only”, the 1981 Holy Trinity Monastery is probably the most recognizable of all the monasteries at Meteora. Situated on top of a lonely height, it is a real challenge for visitors. From the parking lot, they descend 140 steps to a ravine and then climbed another 140 steps to reach the monastery. Many believe that this route is worth the effort. Because of its vaulted rooms, completely restored eighteenth century frescoes and wonderful views, the Holy Trinity Monastery rewards visitors through an experience that can not be forgotten soon.
3 Varlaam Monastery
The second largest monastery in Meteora, Varlaam, gives an overview of the difficulty the monks have encountered when they built these sanctuaries on the rocks. It took 22 years to bring all necessary materials to the place where construction would begin. The tower that used a rope basket supply is present today in the museum. Until the twentieth century, the only way that visitors could reach the monastery was by being picked up with the same means of climbing. Today, 195 steps carved into the rock lead to the peak. Inside, you will admire the main chapel frescoes covering the walls, including drawings with apocalyptic themes.
4 Monastery of St. Stephen
The only visible monastery in Kalambaka, St. Stephen, was a place of pilgrimage since the XIV century, when Byzantine Emperor Andronicus Palaeologus visited and financed the original church. Built in 1500, the church houses in prezet the skull of Saint Charalambos, which is believed to have healing powers. The monastery suffered serious damage in the twentieth century: it was bombed during the Second World War by the Germans while several frescoes were damaged by the communists during the Greek Civil War. The monastery was practically abandoned until 1961 when it became a place for nuns. Dining room dating from the fifteenth century was converted into a museum, which showcases finely embroidered robes and tapestries. The road to the monastery is considerably eased by a bridge that connects it to the main road. The nuns welcome visitors and sometimes offer them embroidery manufactured with their hands.
5 Rousanou Monastery
Located relatively lower than its “cousin” from Meteora, Rousanou Monastery is easily accessible and a restored crossing bridge over the stone walls will make the pass more exciting. Founded in the sixteenth century, the monastery was converted in 1988 into a place for nuns. The hospitable nuns welcome the visitors from the doorway create a stark contrast with the macabre scenes captured in the frescoes in the main chapel. The elated yards and gardens outside the monastery are a real bless during the hot Greek summer days and serve as perfect backdrops for those who want to take pictures.
6 Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapafsas
Being relatively small, the monastery of St. Nicholas Anapafsas is often overlooked during visits, although the complex is easily accessible and is definitely worth a visit. Monastery built in the fourteenth century holds some of the most beautiful frescoes of Meteora. The famous Cretan painter Theophanis Strelitzas adorned the main chapel with illustrations of biblical scenes representing lively images of monastic life in the XVI century. The road to Kastraki will lead the visitors to the base of the peak, where 150 steps are enough to reach the monastery.
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