In the prefecture of Trikala (just 20 km from the city of Trikala), above the town of Kalambaka, the proud and majestic stone cliffs of Meteora are rising, full of fossilized shells, witnessing a unique geological phenomenon. Meteora is, after Mount Athos, the largest and with a continuous presence of monastic territory since the establishment of the first ascetics in Greece. The historical evidence suggest that in the past, the monasteries of Meteora were thirty in total. Out of these thirty, only six are in operation today and receive many visitors throughout the year. Most of them were founded in the 14th century.
The name Meteora is newer and not mentioned by the ancient writers. The name derives from Saint Athanasios the Meteorite, founder of the Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Saviour (Great Meteor), who gave this name to the “wide stone” he climbed for the first time in 1344. According to the prevailing view, the first anchorites settled in the 12th century. In the mid-14th century, the monk Nilus gathered the monks who lived isolated in caves of the rocks around the hermitage of Doupiani organizing this way the monasticism in Meteora.
The conquest of Thessaly by the Ottoman Turks (1393) and the gradual collapse and final fall of the Byzantine Empire brought in, during the 15th century, a downturn in the monastic life of Meteora.
During the last quarter of the 15th century, there is a recovery marked by the foundation of the monastery of the Holy Trinity (1475-1476) and the mural of the old Catholic Grand Meteor (1483). The edge of Meteora will take place in the next century, in which new monasteries are established, new Catholic monasteries and other buildings are erected, most of which are adorned with fine art paintings.
During the period of Turkish occupation in Thessaly (1393-1881), Meteora monasteries functioned as places of hope. In the early 19th century, the troops of Ali Pasha brought destruction and looting in several of them (Visitation Monastery, Monastery of St. Demetrios etc.).
The six visitable monasteries of Meteora, are now restored and preserved for the most part with their mural decoration.
In 1989, Unesco inscribed Meteora on the list of World Heritage Monuments as a special cultural significance and natural resource. It characterized the “Holly Meteora” as “A monument of Humanity “, stating that way that they do not belong only to Greece but to the whole world. The Monasteries of Meteora are among the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites because they are a unique, harmonious matching of Byzantine architecture and natural beauty. The buildings of the monasteries seem like a continuation of the rocks, like natural endings. Furthermore, they include a priceless artistic and relic treasure.
The presence of several monasteries in such a small space and the Orthodox spiritual life and exercise, cause the lasting admiration of visitors and people around the world.
Source: Ministry of Culture and Sports / Wikipedia