Meteora is a rock formation in Greece hosting one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Greek Orthodox monasteries. The original twenty-four monasteries were built on large natural pillars that dominate the local area. The name means “lofty”, “elevated”, and is related to the word meteor.
Caves in the vicinity of Meteora were inhabited continuously between 50,000, and 5,000 years ago, however, Meteora’s current religious significance first started when an ascetic group of hermit monks, in the 9th century AD, moved up to the ancient pinnacles. They lived in the hollows and cracks in the rock towers, some as high as 1800 ft (550m) above the plain. The height and the sheerness of the cliff walls kept away visitors. Initially, the hermits led a life of solitude, meeting only on Sundays and special days to worship and pray in a small chapel built at the foot of the rocks. More and more monks were attracted to the area and occupied more of the caverns of Meteora, and by the late 11th and early 12th centuries, a rudimentary monastic state had formed.
The monasteries were not built until the 14th century when the monks sought somewhere to hide in the face of an increasing number of Turkish attacks on Greece. At this time, access to the top was via removable ladders or windlass. Until the 17th century, the primary means of conveying goods and people to the monasteries was using baskets and ropes. In the 1920s, steps were cut into the rock, making the complex accessible via bridges.
Today Meteora is located near the town of Kalambaka, and of the original 24 monasteries, only six are still functioning, with increasingly reduced membership. Four monasteries are for male members and two are for female members.
- Monastery of Great Meteoron, which is the largest of the monasteries located at Meteora
- Monastery of Varlaam, which is the second largest monastery in the Meteora
- Monastery of Rousanou / St. Barbara is inhabited by nuns
- Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas, built in the 16th century
- Monastery of St. Stephen is occupied by nuns
- Monastery of the Holy Trinity is on top of the cliffs and was built in 1475
Greek Proverbs and Quotes
“Happiness can only be achieved by looking inward and learning to enjoy whatever life has and this requires transforming into gratitude.”
– Saint John Chrysostom
Photo Credit: JOM