The Meteora are rock formations shaped as a result of the erosion of wind and rain over time creating separate pillars of various height and width. Centuries ago, monks seeking quiet solitude for their devotions created small places of prayer by making cells inside caves that had eroded from the side of the rocks, and the area came to be known as a holy place. Amazingly, around the 14th Century, many Meteora monasteries started to be built at the very top of the rock pillars, access being gained only by removable ladders and winch systems used to haul up baskets and nets – for goods and people!!.
In 1988 Meteora was recognised for its outstanding value as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, six of these monasteries remain in central Meteora, housing organised monastic communities, and are open to the public for viewing. Fortunately for us, stairs were carved into the rocks in the 1920’s allowing easier access for visitors, and a decent bitumen roadway services the entry points for each of the monasteries, a short drive from the town of Kalambaka
The monasteries appear to cling to the tops of the rock pillars, visually fascinating, and you wonder how the monks ever managed to create these beautiful sanctuaries. As you enter each monastery you gain a glimpse into the lives of the nuns and monks who maintain these works of devotion. Inside the monasteries you will find small museums, chapels open for visiting, beautiful frescoes, illuminated manuscripts, sacred vessels, early printed books, gorgeous gardens, magnificent views out over the valley below, and daunting entrance platforms with winch areas showing the perilous method of ascent and decent that was previously used by the occupants and visitors.
We stayed in the village of Kalambaka, in the beautiful Doupiani House, and our rooms overlooked the amazing rock formations of the Meteora. The Meteora Monasteries are relatively close together so it is possible to visit a few on the same day, depending on how well you go at climbing up and down stairs! The Monastery of St Stephen allowed easy access via a bridge across to the entrance, however entry to the other monasteries involves a serious amount of stair climbing. That being said, they are also truly wonderful and well worth the hard work.
One of the rooms has a barrel store that contains a massive oak barrel with a capacity for 13,000 litres! There is also a beautiful stone courtyard with a rotunda on the edge of the terrace, which overlooks the valley below. I think this monastery was the prettiest of the four we visited.
The Monastery of Great Meteoron
The highest and the largest of the remaining monasteries – its construction was a truly remarkable achievement. There is an old kitchen with its original artefacts on display here, as well as a small room where the bones and skulls of former monks are kept neatly stacked on shelves. As you walk up the (many) stairs to the entry, you have a fabulous photo opportunity for a birds eye view overlooking the Varlaam Monastery.
St Stephen’s Monastery
This monastery has a beautiful garden and courtyard which overlooks the valley far below, and a quaint little museum of precious artefacts on display as well as souvenirs available for purchase.
Holy Trinity Monastery
Simple, beautiful, and serene. The entrance platform room is displayed with the winch, hook and net system that was used in the 14th Century by the monks to come and go from the monastery. An incredible concept to me – I could only just manage to hold my camera out over the edge to take a shot of the drop without feeling squeamish! (I don’t do heights…). Inside the stone walls and timber handrails and doors provide a peaceful setting for the devotions of the monks. For the movie buffs – this monastery was featured in the James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only”.
Meteora Monasteries dress code
Out of respect for the nuns and monks, there is a dress code to be worn: long pants men, long skirts for women – there are sarongs available for use while in the monasteries if required.
Meteora Monasteries opening hours
Check here for the opening hours opening hours before you visit.
|Holy Monastary of:||Telephone|
|Great Meteoro||+3024320 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|St. Nicholas Anapafsas||+3024320 email@example.com|
|Holy Trinity||+3024320 22220|
|St. Stephan||+3024320 22279|
For a more detailed history of the famous Greek Meteora, try reading this book.
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