This spectacular monastery complex is the second largest and second most important religious complex in Greece after Mount Athos. It is an unusual place consisting of six monasteries located on the natural steep cliffs, and it is largest tourist attraction in Greece mainland nowadays. It is located half way from Athens to Thessaloniki.
Meteora was founded by monks in the 11th century, but monasteries were built in 14th when the Turks conquered Greece, so they needed a place to stay safe. At that time there were no roads or stairs to the monastery, instead the monks got their supplies by ropes, while they climbed with the help of the leather ladder.
This inaccessibility of monasteries allowed the monks to live relatively undisturbed by the Turkish authorities. Stairs and roads were built at the beginning of the 20th century, and today there are many paths and stairs for pedestrians, as well as roads and parking for cars. Monasteries can be, and should be visited on foot, via old trail monopatia.
The vertical walls, natural pillars, on which monasteries were built are very impressive, being narrow and rising high in the middle of the valley of Thessaly. They appear in several films, but the most famous is the sequence of James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only. The walls are 60 million years old, and Μετέωρα is Greek word that means rocks that floats.
Meteora today looks almost the same as a few hundred years ago, except asphalt and stairs, and of course, numerous tourists who visit them every day all year round. It is believed that monasteries were one of the key elements for preservation of Greek culture during the Turkish occupation. Today, the complex found its place on the UNESCO’s list of world’s heritage.
Of the 20 former monasteries, only six are still functioning today, five for male monks and one for female.
Each monastery is built around a central courtyard, which is surrounded with cells, chapels and dining Monastery Agiou Nikolaou Anapafsas which was built in the 15th century, by Dionisius, the Metropolitan of Larisa.
Katholikon The most beautiful fresco in this monastery dates back from 1527. Monastery Agias Varvaras Rousanoú was built in 1545 on the ruins of the old church, and was founded by two brothers from Epirus, Joasaf and Maxim.
It can be reached via a narrow footbridge that connects two rocky peaks. The church has some fascinating murals, wooden iconostasis, and icons. Monastery Varlaam was founded by brothers Theophanis and Nektarios Apsaradas in 1517. It is characterized by set of carved wooden crosses, icons, epitaphs and frescoes painted by the famous post-Byzantine iconographer Frangos Katelanos.
Megalou meteorological (Great Meteor or Monastery of the Transfiguration) is the most famous one, and it is located on the top wall. It was founded in 1382 by Athanasios, one of the most famous Orthodox monks at that time. Today it contains some of the most beautiful frescoes in Greece.
The central church has a 24 meter high dome with fascinating frescoes that depict the persecution of Christians by the Romans. Agia Triada (Holy Trinity Monastery) was founded in the 15th century by monk Dometius. To reach it, you have to climb 140 steps carved into the rock. Monastery Agiou Stefanou is the only female monastery in the complex.