“In the 11th century orthodox hermits started living in caves
in these high cliffs, far, far away from the rest of the world, at Meteora”
Driving form Kalambaka Village up to the Monasteries of Meteora, it is almost like being on a different planet. These high pillars of rock that seem to reach for the sky in the otherwise flat landscape look like something out of science fiction and on top of them – the Monasteries – old, magnificent and very impressive.
The area of Meteora is said to have been sea once upon a time. Sometime in the 11th century orthodox hermits started living in caves in these high cliffs, far, far away from the rest of the world. They slowly became organized since they met for mass once a week, and in the 14th century the first constructions started and it is believed that one of the reasons was that the monks and the people needed shelter from the Turkish attacks that went on.
The most important of Meteora Monasteries 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, honored to the three Bishops, is in the Athonite type (cross-in-square with dome and choirs), with spacious esonarthex (lite) surrounded 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 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 St. Stephen. It is one of the most attainable as we don’t have to cope with innumerable stairs to reach it. The small 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.
The Meteora Monasteries themselves, besides providing an incredible view are full of religious treasures, wall paintings, icons and libraries rich in old manuscripts.
Most of Meteora Monasteries were built in the 1500’s and then added to over the centuries.
Meteora Monasteries had its peak period in the 16th century, but then were slowly abandoned.
The fascinating landscape was used when filming the Bond film “For Your Eyes Only”. The hero and the bad guys climb the high “stalagmites” and as a matter of fact, there are many people who still do this through the mountaineering organizations of the area.