Sunday, April 17, 2011


The Metéora (GreekΜετέωρα, "suspended rocks", "suspended in the air" or "in the heavens above") is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, second only to Mount Athos.The six monasteries are built on natural sandstone rock pillars, at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains, in central Greece. The nearest town is Kalambaka. The Metéora is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List under criteria .

Meteora are among the most amazing places in Greece,if not the world . If you have seen pictures of Greece or spend any time looking through travel brochures then you have certainly been impressed by the monasteries perched on top of enormous rocks and have probably wondered how on earth they built them. The rocks themselves are impressive, rising from the plains of Thessaly a few miles northwest of Kalambaka. In fact the producers of James Bond found them so impressive that they had Roger Moore (or his stunt double most likely) climb the stone face of one in the movie  For Your Eyes Only. Nowdays these rock faces are climbed by professional and amatuers looking for a challenge and what Paros is to wind-surfers, Meteora is to rock-climbers.
At the end of the 14th century, the Byzantine Empire's 800-year reign over northern Greece was being increasingly threatened by Turkishraiders who wanted control over the fertile plain of Thessaly. The hermit monks, seeking a retreat from the expanding Turkish occupation, found the inaccessible rock pillars of Meteora to be an ideal refuge. More than 20 monasteries were built, beginning in the 14th century.[1] Six remain today. There is a common belief that St. Athanasius (founder of the first monastery) did not scale the rock, but was carried there by an eagle.

In 1517, Nectarios and Theophanes built the monastery of Varlaám, which was reputed to house the finger of St John and the shoulder blade of St Andrew.
Access to the monasteries was originally (and deliberately) difficult, requiring either long ladders lashed together or large nets used to haul up both goods and people. This required quite a leap of faith – the ropes were replaced, so the story goes, only "when the Lord let them break". In the words of UNESCO, "The net in which intrepid pilgrims were hoisted up vertically alongside the 373 metres (1,224 ft) cliff where the Varlaam monastery dominates the valley symbolizes the fragility of a traditional way of life that is threatened with extinction." In the 1920s there was an improvement in the arrangements. Steps were cut into the rock, making the complex accessible via a bridge from the nearby plateau. During World War II the site was bombed and many art treasures were stolen.

Until the 17th century, the primary means of conveying goods and people from these eyries was by means of baskets and ropes.
Only six of the monasteries remain today. Of these six, five are inhabited by men, one by women. Each monastery has fewer than 10 inhabitants. The monasteries are now tourist attractions.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Other Monasteries

There are many other monasteries in Meteora, but they are closed (without monks), like "Ypapanti", "St. George Mandilas", e.t.c.

No comments:

Post a Comment