Meteora is a breathtaking landscape of massive rock pillars with Byzantine monasteries perched on top of steep rocks that house valuable artefacts and wall paintings. The Meteora monasteries have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage list and the Meteora-Antichassia area is part of the Natura 2000 network hosting some rate species of birds and flowers.
Origins of Meteora Monasteries
The Orthodox Christian hermit monks were the first to come to this place for find quiet and to isolate themselves in the many caves found scattered among the cliffs of Meteora. In the 12th century, a monk named Nilos gathered the hermit monks into a more organized monastic community. Two centuries later, another monk named Athanasios established the first of Meteora monasteries, the Great Meteoron. By the 16th century, there were 24 monasteries but today, only 6 remain active for people to visit.
The Holy Monastery of Varlaam
The Holy Monastery of Varlaam was named after its founder, the ascetic monk Varlaam who lived in a cave as a hermit and built a chapel on top of a rock. In the 16th century, two priest-monks Theophanes and Nectarios from Ioannina enlarged the chapel and built a monastery and a new church, known as the Chapel of the Three. The monastery has preserved the tower with the old pully system that was used by the first monks to bring up people and provisions. The monastery hosts a museum that displays many of the monastery’s treasured relics, art and manuscripts.
Agios Stefanos Monastery
The Agios Stephanos Monastery started as a small Catholicon in the 12th century and was rebuilt in the 15th century. During WWII, it was destroyed by German troops who believed that Greek resistant forces were hidden in the monastery. Many precious frescoes were damaged, but some relics were saved. The main church is dedicated to Agios Charalambos and his relics. The church has a timber roof and is decorated with wall paintings. The monastery gives spectacular views to the plain of Kalambaka.
- The Greek word Meteora means “suspended in the air” which aptly describes the Greek Orthodox monasteries.
- The Agios Stephanos Monastery is one of the few female monasteries of Meteora.
- The Holy Monastery of Varlaam is the second biggest monastery of Meteora. This male monastery can be accessed through the main road after climbing 195 steps carved in the rock.