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Read more about the holy monasteries: Great Meteoron - Varlaam - St. Stephen - Holy Trinity - St. Nicholas Anapausas - Rousanou - other monasteries - Kalambaka

Optional trip to Meteora monasteries

The Meteoras ("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 nearest town is Kalambaka, Greece. The monasteries are built on natural sandstone rock pillars, at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Peneios river and Pindus Mountains, in central Greece. The Meteora is home to six monasteries and is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Meteora's criteria for the UNESCO World Heritage Site are I, II, IV, V and VII.

Although it is unknown when the monasteries of Meteora were established, as early as the 11th century AD hermit monks were believed to be living among the caves and cutouts in the rocks.

By the late 11th or early 12th century a rudimentary monastic state had formed called the Skete of Stagoi and was centered around the church of Theotokos (mother of God), which still stands today. The hermit monks, seeking a retreat from the expanding Turkish occupation, found the inaccessible rock pillars of Meteora to be an ideal refuge. Although more than 20 monasteries were built, beginning in the 14th century, only six remain today.

These six are: 'Great Meteoron (or Transfiguration), Varlaam, St. Stephen, Holy Trinity, St. Nicholas Anapausas and Rousanou. There is a common belief that St. Athanasios (founder of the first monastery) did not scale the rock, but was carried there by an eagle. Access to the monasteries was originally extremely 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-meter 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. 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 amongst the most popular tourist sites in the world and now serve primarily as museums.

Since the 9th century, an ascetic group of monks moved up to the ancient pinnacles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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