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The Monasteries at Meteora

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Within the Meteora, an area near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains in central Greece that consists of soaring pillars of smooth rock, are ancient monasteries. 24 monasteries were built on the pinnacles of the Meteora and today, and only six remain. These remaining monasteries are active religious sites that are occupied by monks or nuns.

The inaccessibility of the rocks made the Meteora an ideal spot for hermit monks that were looking for a safe haven during the Turkish incursions into Greece. The monasteries were reached by climbing removable ladders and later windlasses were used so monks could be hauled up in nets. Today, the remaining monasteries are accessible by steps that were carved into the rocks in the 1920’s.

Remaining monasteries that can be visited today are:

Moni Agiou Nikolaou
The Moni Agiou Nikolaou is the monastery of St. Nikolaou Anapafsa. It’s the closest monastery to Kastraki. The Moni Agiou Nikolaou was built in the 15th century and features beautiful frescoes that were painted by the monk Theophanes Strelizas from Crete including “The Naming of Animals by Adam in Paradise”.

Moni Megalou Meteorou
The Moni Megalou Meteorou is the Grand Meteora Monastery, the best known of all of the monasteries. It was built on the highest rock in the valley in the 14th century and became the richest and most powerful monastery. It features a series of frescoes entitled “Martyrdom of Saints” that depicts the graphic persecution of Christians by the Romans.

Moni Varlaam
The Moni Varlaam has a small museum that features an original monastery rope basket that at one time hauled up provisions and monks. The monastery also has late-Byzantine frescoes.

Moni Agias Varvara Rousanou
Visitors can access the Moni Agias Varvara Rousanou via a small wooden bridge. The Moni Agias Varvara Rousanou is an imposing steep structure that features beautiful colored glass illuminated katholikon. Today it is home to an order of 15 nuns.

Moni Agias Triados
The Moni Agias Triados is the Holy Trinity Monastery that has a remote feel and features extraordinary views. It was used in the James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only” in 1981.

Moni Agiou Stefanou
The Moni Agiou Stefanou is at the end of the road and nuns sell religious souvenirs and DVDs here. Among the exhibits in the museum is fascinating embroidered picture of Christ.

When visiting the monasteries it’s important to adhere to monastery etiquette. Men must wear trousers and women must wear skirts below the knee and no bare shoulders are allowed. The monasteries each have varying days and hours that they are open. Before visiting the monasteries it’s important to decide on a route. If you want to see all or several of the monasteries you will need to start your day early and take your own transportation. You can also take the bus, but it has limited hours. The monasteries are accessible via the main asphalt road that surrounds the entire Meteora complex.

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