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Huge dark boulders stand imposingly tall like silent giants outside the town of Kalambaka near the foothills of Pindus and Chasia. How they were formed remains unknown. Despite the fact that this question has occupied the minds of many Greek and foreign geolgists over the years, there is no definitive answer – either in mythology or ancient texts, or through clues found in the writings of some foreign historian. The name Meteora is derived from the monasteries that lie on top of the cliffs as if suspended between heaven and earth. Meteora is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, second only to Mount Athos.

Meteora Greece

Meteora Greece

The steep and hard to reach cliffs were apparently an ideal refuge for 11th century hermits, recluses, and ascetics. There, they found a perfect hideaway, a place of serenity and prayer that was far removed from the tumultuous political situation of their era. It is believed that the first ascetic to go there was named Barnabas, and he founded the Skete of the Holy Spirit sometime between 950-970 AD. Soon afterwards, the Transfiguration Monastery was established in 1020 AD by a Cretan monk named Andronikos, and in 1160 AD the Skete of Stagoi or Dhoupiani was formed. In time, the number of ascetics began to grown ever larger and Meteora came to be considered as an ideal place for monastics.

By the end of the 15th century and especially in the 16th century, Meteora reached its pinnacle, as new monasteries began to be established, including Katholika (main churches) and other monastic structures which were adorned with iconography of unrivaled beauty. During the height of its popularity, this monastic complex was rumored to have been home to over 2,000 monks. Neverthless, out of the thirty monasteries that once operated in Meteora, only six remain intact today. Meteora has been included on the UNESCO World Hertage list since 1988.

The most important monasteries of Meteora are:
The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron. It is the biggest of the Meteorite monasteries. The church ‘Katholikon’, honoured to the ‘Transfiguration’ was erected in the middle of 14th c. and 1387/88 and decorated in 1483 and 1552. The old monastery is used as a museum, nowadays.

The Holy Monastery of Varlaam is the second, after the Great Meteoro, big in size monastery. The church, honoured to the three Bishops, is in the Athonite type (cross-in-square with dome and choirs), with spacious esonarthex (lite) surrounted by dome as well. It was built in 1541/42 and decorated in 1548, while the esonarthex was decorated in 1566. The old refectory is used as a museum while North of the Church we can see the parekklesion of the Three (Bishops) built in 1627 and decorated in 1637.

The Holy Monastery of Rousanou. It is dedicated to ‘The Transfiguration’ but honoured to Saint Barbara. The ‘Katholikon’, in the Athonite type, was founded in the middle of 16th c. and decorated in 1560. Both, the Katholikon and the reception halls are in the ground floor while the ‘archontariki’, cells and subsidiary rooms are scattered in the basement and the first floor.

The Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas. It is the first to meet on our way from Kastraki to Meteora. The ‘Katholikon’ dedicated to St. Nicholas, is a single – nave church with small dome, built in the beginning of 16th c. It was decorated by the Cretan painter Theophanis Strelitzas or Bathas, in 1527.

monks at Meteora

monks at Meteora

The Holy Monastery of St. Stephen. It is one of the most attainable as we don’t have to cope with innumerable stairs to reach it. The small single-nave church of St. Stephen was built in the middle of 16th and decorated in 1545 or a little later. The ‘Katholikon’, honoured to St. Charalambos, was built in the Athonite type, in 1798. The old refectory of the convent is used as a museum nowadays.

The Monastery of Holy Trinity is very difficult to reach. The visitor has to cross the valley and continue high up through the rock before we arrive outside the entrance. The church is in the cross-in-square type with the dome based in two columns, built in 1475-76 and decorated in 1741. The spacious barrel – vaulted esonarthex was founded in 1689 and decorated in 1692. A small skeuophylakeion was added next to the church in 1684.

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