The Argo Ship
February 4, 2017
 

Meteora Monasteries

How could anyone describe this astonishing geological phenomenon, the breathtaking landscape, the inspiration and spirituality felt, the awe for man’s achievements in an effort to express his religious drive, when these are only some of the many things a traveler experiences when visiting this phenomenal land! Take a moment to skim through our website and find out what Meteora is all about and let us, locals, convince you why you shouldn’t miss out on a visit to this country’s most unique site!

Panorama of Meteora

These immense, solid rocks, split by earthquakes, weathered by water and wind over millions of years, are nature’s authentic masterpiece. Emerging about 25 million years ago as the elevated seabed material that was the outcome of strong tectonic movements, the Meteora rocks became a shelter of humankind. The first hermits arrived in this area to seek spiritual isolation and inhabited the caves of the rocks, with the sole aid of ropes and ladders. Common existential needs and strong religious faith compelled them to live united in the first monastic communities, their common drive of faith guiding them towards the unrepeated construction of monasteries of highest architectural and artistic value.
The 24 monasteries emerged on the countless summits of the rocks from the 14th until the 16th century, 6 of them remaining to be explored and admired by all. These monasteries became the centers of the Orthodox creed in the Byzantine era, having produced some of the best pieces of religious art and craft and still possessing a collection of precious manuscripts, which today are on display in their museums. The Meteora monasteries have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List and the Meteora-Antichassia region has been officially declared a Natura 2000 Ecological Zone by the Greek Ministry of Environment, for the protection of rare species of birds and flowers.

kalampaka meteora view greece
meteora rocks greece

The Meteora Monasteries

Great Meteoron Monastery

The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoro is the biggest and oldest one of all. It was called the monastery that was "suspended in the air" (meteoro), because of the formation of the gigantic rock on top of which it was built.

The Great Meteoro Monastery was founded by Saint Athanasios the Meteorite who was the first founder of the monastery and the organizer of the systematic koenovion. For this reason, the foundation of this monastery is considered to be a turning point, or even better, the beginning of the organized monastisicm in Holy Meteora. Hosios Athanasios was born around 1302 in the medieval town of New Patras, today’s Hypati and his lay name was Andronikos.

The main cathedral in the central courtyard is embellished with beautiful 16th century frescoes. Take time to gaze at the artistic details of some of the best samples of Greek Byzantine art and then rush to the museum, where historical codices and religious icons of high value are on display. Once you’ve reached the summit, a rewarding view awaits you and the monastery calls for exploration.

In the monastery the visitor can still visit and admire the Sacristy as well as the manuscript and the New-martyrs halls (previously a nursing home and hospital) and the hall of Coloured Historical Lithographies of the years 1913-23 and 1940-41.

Take a look inside the old refectory of the monks, where part of an original 16th century table is preserved, with the original cutleries on it. Don’t forget to take a glance at the monastery’s old kitchen on your way out, still black with smoke, with the original bread oven and soup hearth.

Visiting hours and days: The monastery is open from 09:00 to 17:00. It is closed on Tuesdays.

Great Meteoron Monastery

Holy Trinity Monastery

The Monastery of Holy Trinity (Agia Triada) is the most difficult to reach, but once you get to the very top the panoramic view of the surroundings is simply captivating!

This Monastery is very close to the Saint Stephen’s Nunnery and it is perched on a steep and magnificent rock. It had already been organized Monastery since the year 1362 as indicated in a document by Symeon Uressis Palaeologos. Visitors have to follow a pathway that directs them initially to the foot of the rock, before they start walking up about 140 steps.

The monastery’s main cathedral was constructed in the 15th century and decorated with frescoes in 1741 by two monks. The wall-paintings surviving today are the work of the hagiographers Antonios the priest and his brother Nicolaos.

The chapel of Timios Prodromos (St John the Forerunner), a small circular church with a cupola, rock-hewn, decorated all over with wall-paintings of fine art dating from 1682, is of great interest.

Visit this monastery for the adventurous ascent, the striking view and its peculiar architecture. Part of the Monastery was used as the setting for the final scenes of the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.

Visiting hours and days: The monastery is open from 9:00 to 17:00. It is closed on Thursdays.

Holy Trinity Monastery meteora

Roussanou Monastery

The Holy Monastery of Roussanou has received the name of the first probable hermit who settled on the rock. The main cathedral was founded at the end of the 16th century and was decorated thirty years later.

Compared to other rocks where monasteries were built, the one of Roussanou has a lower elevation, which makes it more accessible. The monastery was initially founded by monks and it suffered severe damage during World War II. It became a convent in 1988.

The beautiful wall-paintings of the Catholicon were executed in 1560, when the priest-monk Arsenios was the abbot of the monastery. The unknown hagiographer seems to have been a very skilful artist and successfully follows the Cretan School style.

Visit Roussanou for a different view of the surrounding rocks and adjacent monasteries. Follow the pathway from this monastery to the upper main road and discover an off-the-road spot that allows you to walk on bear rocks! Don’t miss out on this photo opportunity!

Visiting hours and days: Please note that the monasterry of Roussanou does not keep a steady program and there might be small changes to the official closing times. The monastery is open from 09:00 to 14:00. It is closed on Wednesdays.
Roussanou Monastery Meteora

St. Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery

The Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas of Anapafsas is the first Monastery that we encounter on our way to the Holy Meteora and was founded at the end of the 14th century.

For the name Anapafsas there are numerous interpretations two of which are the most popular.

The first one is that the name Anapafsas was attributed by one of the monastery’s benefactors, while the second explanation has to do with the monastery’s position being the first to be encountered on the way up and probably served to the pilgrims and other visitors as a resting place before continuing on. Resting translates into Greek anapafsys, so Saint Nicholas of Anapafsas literally means Saint Nicholas the one who rests you.

The limited surface of the rock forced the building of the monastery to be built vertically on floors, one level on top of the other. Access to all the different floors is achieved through an inbuilt staircase. At the entrance of the Monastery lies the Church of St. Anthony and the crypt where the codes and the monastery’s heirlooms were previously stored. On the walls, paintings of the 14th Century can be seen.

The Catholicon, where St. Nicholas is honored, is on the second floor and it is elongated and stuck on to the south side of the wall of the monastery. The dome of the church is low and has no windows.

The Holy Table rests on the third floor, decorated with murals. The Table, recently restored, is used as a reception area for the visitors. There is even the ossuary, the cells of the monks and the chapel of St. John Prodromos. Since the space is restricted and there is no courtyard, the monks could only gather in the narthex, which was roomy, when there were no liturgies in the nave.

Visiting hours and days: The monastery is open from 09:00 to 15:30. It is closed on Fridays.

St. Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery Meteora

Varlaam Monastery

The Holy Monastery of Varlaam is the second biggest monastery. It is located opposite of the Great Meteoro Monastery and it was founded in the mid 14th century by the exercitant Hosios Varlaam.

The elegant monastery Catholicon was built in the honour of Agioi Pantes in 1541-42, by two brothers from Ioannina, the priest-monks Hosioi Theophanes and Nectarios the Apsarades. The main church was decorated in 1548. Based on stylistic criteria, this magnificent wall-painting is attributed to the famous hagiographer from Thebes, Frago Catelano.

This is the monastery where you can visit the tower of the old preserved net, used by the first monks for their ascent and descent from the rock, until it was "God’s will to have it replaced"!

A very large and impressive 16th century oak barrel for water storage is also not to be missed. The old refectory has been turned into a museum, where visitors can admire the excellence of religious painted icons – mostly contemporary to the Renaissance period – and precious holy vestments of the priests. Other old buildings in the Monastery are the kitchen and the hospital. The bibliographic workshop and the workshop of gold-embroidery of the Monastery were excellent.

Visiting hours and days: The monastery is open from 09:00 to 16:00. It is closed on Fridays.

Varlaam Monastery Meteora

St. Stephen's Monastery

This is the most accessible monastery, where instead of steps you simply cross a small bridge to reach the entrance. It is ideal for visitors who cannot use the steps and yet they wish to have a real experience of a Meteora monastery.

The beginning of monastic life on the rock of Agios Stephanos dates back to early in the 12th century. Hosios Antonios, in the first half of the 15th century, and Hosios Philotheos, who renovated or rather rebuilt from its foundations the old small and elegant Catholicon, the present church of Agios Stephanos, in 1545 are mentioned as its founders.

St. Stephen’s Monastery includes two cathedrals; the old 16th century chapel which was severely damaged during WWII and the consequent Greek Civil War, and the 18th century main cathedral that is dedicated to Saint Charalambos and includes his holy relics.

Most monasteries, such as this one, include the holy relics of their saints or founders in their main cathedrals. Visit this convent for the spectacular view towards the vast valley of Thessaly, the river Pinios and the Pindos mountain range across the plain, but also because of the old cathedral, where the marks of bullets on religious icons witness the dark chapters of the Modern Greek history.

Visiting hours and days: The monastery is open from 9:30 to 13:30 and from 15:30 to 17:30. It is closed on Mondays.

St. Stephens Monastery Meteora
Many thanks to Visit Meteora for photos and texts!