Greek monastery, floating in the air.
Meteor is not only a beautiful location and geological phenomenon, it is also a complex of monasteries located on the cliff tops of Thessaly in Northern Greece.
The rocks of Meteora were formed about 60 million years ago, when instead of a plain in this area was a prehistoric sea. Under the influence of water, wind and extremes of temperature here gradually formed a massive stone pillars, as if suspended in the air. In Greek language “meteorа” means “floating in the air.”
Monastery floating in the air. Greece. Photo
There are the stone statues near the town of Kalambaka, which is 300 km from Athens. The average height of the rock formations is 300 metres away, but some of them reach 600 meters high.
Many modern climbers do not venture to climb round, almost steep wall of unusual rocks. But looking up at the tops of the pillars, you notice almost each of them is the Church.
Winding mountain trails, you can climb to the top of many pillars and a spectacular view of the valley of the Pineios river. According to tradition, the first hermits appeared in these inaccessible and rocky, cut off from the world the rocks in the IX century. They lived in rock cavities and natural caves, and next created a small site for a joint study of spiritual texts and prayers. Later, the constant raids of bandits have forced the monks to leave their caves and build monasteries on the tops of the rocks.
It’s hard to even imagine how much work it took to build those monasteries in such extreme conditions. Before 1920, the temples were closed to outsiders, the monks led a very secluded life, and the food was brought to them by residents of neighboring towns. Transportation of parcels on top of the rocks was carried out using ropes and baskets.
At the foot of the cliff every temple had at its disposal a plot of land, which the monks cultivated and grown there vegetables and fruit. Up and down they are using a complex system of nets, baskets, ropes and carts. If at the bottom there is the danger, the inhabitants of the monastery, broke off all contacts with the outside world – raised rope and net, then no one could disrupt their peace and harmony.
No matter how hard the hermits to protect its territory different tricks and traps, the temples were still destroyed and ruined. Up to the present day survived only 6 out of 24 monasteries, the once-capped cliffs. In them are stored the priceless riches: the unique frescoes, icons, medieval manuscripts and other ancient shrines. To currently include the monasteries of St. Nicholas of Agios Nikolaos, Varlaam, Rousanou, the Great meteoron, the Holy Trinity and St. Stephen.
The St. Nicholas monastery of Agios Nikolaos was founded in the early fourteenth century the Metropolitan of Larissa town of Dionysius. It is a small monastery, which has relatively easy steps. It has a unique design – a small area of rock on which was erected the monastery forced the monks to build cells, temples and other buildings on multiple levels.
On the first level of the monastery is a small chapel. Anthony and the crypt, which housed the relics and the manuscript, the second is the Cathedral of SV. Nicholas, the third – restored chapel. John the Baptist, frescoed dining room, and a vault for the storage of relics.
The main Church of the monastery of St. Nicholas, decorated with magnificent frescoes of the XVI century, made the famous Cretan painter Theophanes Strelitzas.
The Varlaam monastery was founded in 1517 by monks-priests Theophanes and Nektarios. Its name he received in honor of the monk, who in 1350 first settled on top of a cliff, and built there a Church dedicated to the Three Hierarchs, the water tank and the cell,. No one else followed the example of Barlaam, and after his death this place has long been abandoned, until two rich brothers Theophanes and Nektarios he founded a monastery there.
The frescoes decorating the main temple done by famous artist Frank Catalano in 1548. Also in the monastery is preserved a valuable collection of icons, rare manuscripts, mosaic, carved wooden crosses, gold-embroidered shrouds.
Currently, in the monastery of Varlaam live 7 monks who are happy to greet guests and courteously conduct interviews with them.
Rousanou monastery is a female monastery founded in 1545 by the brothers Maxim and Joasaph. It is located on a low rock, covers the entire area of its surface, and consists of three levels. On the first level there are the cells and Church, and the other two levels contain the living quarters, exhibition and reception room, and extra cells. The interior of the monastery are decorated with beautiful paintings, precious lecterns, icons, and wooden altar with gilding and carving. The nuns living here have a reputation for being very friendly and welcoming women often treat their guests to sweets and treats.
The great meteoron (Transfiguration monastery) is the largest and oldest metersky monastery, founded in the early fourteenth century, St. Athanasius Meteosim. He first climbed this high mountain, and built a modest Church and cells for monks. His successor was St. Joseph, the Serbian king, who in 1373 was refused by the secular power, to become a monk. During his stay in the monastery he rebuilt the Church of the Transfiguration, built a hospital and a reservoir.
In the XVI century Transfiguration monastery received a significant portion of Royal and Imperial donations. Then, the monastery complex was rebuilt and expanded. Built a new kitchen, nursing home, tower and several chapels.
In 1552 on the creation of murals in the monastery, worked the famous painter Theophanes. These murals represent one of the best examples of the late Byzantine monumental painting. In the temple there is a fine collection of valuable icons, manuscripts and Holy relics.
The Holy Trinity monastery is a male monastery, situated on top of one of the most graceful and picturesque rocks of Meteora. To get to the monastery is possible by climbing 140 steps cut into the rock in 1925, making it the most austere and serene monastery, since not everyone has the strength to overcome such a difficult road.
According to history, the monks settled here in the early fourteenth century, but the present monastery was built in the period 1458-1476. Today in the monastery of the Holy Trinity is home to only a few monks that creates a special atmosphere of privacy and tranquility.
During the Second world war it was badly damaged and virtually all its treasures were looted.
The monastery of St. Stephen is an active convent, which houses an important relic – the relics of Saint Haralambos, protects from diseases and ailments. The Foundation of the monastery dates from the XIV century, the first hermits came here in the XII century. It is located on a high cliff, which rises above the town of Kalambaka. To get to this monastery is very simple – it leads to a stone footbridge, a length of 8 meters.
It was founded by the priests Catacutan Anthony and Philotheus. In 1350 was built a small chapel of St. Stephen. The Church of Saint Haralambos was built in 1798 according to the Athonite type and decorated with gilded cross and wood carving. During the Second World War, the monastery was regularly bombarded, with the result that a large number of frescoes was damaged. Their recovery involved the artist Vlasov Dotson.
Now in the refectory of the monastery is a Museum, which exhibits valuable relics of the monastery: the Byzantine icons of the XVII—XVIII centuries, the paten with a chalice and a manuscript of the divine Liturgy, which was written by one of the founders of the monastery.
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