Meteora is home to a spectacular complex of monasteries “suspended in air”. The complex was originally formed by 24 monasteries located on the top of high cliffs but only 6 monasteries survived. Today they are used as museums and offer a really interesting insight in the Orthodox monastic life.
Located in the northwest corner of Thessaly, near the Peneios river and Pindus Mountains, just beyond the town of Kalampaka, you can find the largest complex of monasteries in Greece: Meteora.
How to get to Meteora
Trains are available from Athens and Thessaloniki (but you need to switch the trains in Larissa). If you choose this alternative and travel from Athens, make sure to take a morning train so that you can enjoy the spectacular scenery while passing through the mountains.
The Monasteries of Meteora
Around the 14th century, the Byzantine Empire – especially the community of monasteries- was besieged by Turkish pirates. At that time, three monks- Athanasius, Gregory and Moses- left the Monastery of Iviron to look for a new home. They have heard of miracles taking place in a land of great rock forests and arriving there settled on the top of a cliff called Stylos (Pillar) where they built a wooden hut. Athanasis formed a small community and built a chapel and few cells on another cliff called Platys Lithos (Broad Rock).
Symeon Uros, the Serbian Emperor, helped the monks to build the Church of the Transfiguration. At the same time, around 1356, he also helped to enlarge the monastery with more cloisters and cells. The Emperor’s son, John Uros, retired here as the Monk Ioasaph, continued to expend the monastery.
At the beginning there were no steps and the monasteries were connected by a net hitched over a hook and hoisted up by a rope. Monks used baskets or a retractable wooden ladder to descend to the fertile plains where they grew their crops.
After the death of Ioasaph, Meteora plunged into disorder. But by the 18th century the monasteries became a place of refuge for the Greeks escaping the Ottoman overloads.
The World War II added to the destruction of the monasteries and today only 6 of the 24 original monasteries survive and are used as museums. Some Orthodox monks and nuns still occupy them but the main purpose of the monasteries is to show the traveler the Orthodox monastic life.
Best time to visit
The Monasteries of Meteora can be visited all year round. If you choose to visit them during winter (December to March) the weather will be cold and damp. In May and June the weather is comfortable while the rates are low and you won’t find too many tourists. Expect to be really crowded between July and mid-October (in high season).
“Decent” clothing is required when visiting the monasteries. Sleeveless clothes and shorts are not allowed. Guys shouldn’t wear shorts and tank tops. For those dressed unacceptably, shawls and skirts are available at the entrance.
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