Nikos Deja Vu - Meteora in Thessaly, Greece (Slideshow © 2011) UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Meteora (Greek: Μετέωρα, "suspended rocks", "suspended in the air" or "in the heavens above") is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, second only to Mount Athos.
The six monasteries are built on natural sandstone rock pillars, at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains, in central Greece. The nearest town is Kalambaka.
In northwestern Thessaly there rears up out of the plain of the Peneios (Pinios) a group of conglomerate rock formations up to 300m/985ft high which have been weathered by erosion into a variety of bizarre forms. Vertical rock faces, sharply pointed pinnacles and massive crags tower up above Kalambaka and the village of Kastraki, separated by deeply slashed defiles. Perched on these rocks are the monasteries of Meteora, which take their name from their situation - ta meteora monastiria, the monasteries hanging in the air.
Originally accessible only by bridle tracks, ladders and windlasses, the monasteries have now been brought within the reach of visitors by the construction of modern roads and flights of steps and by signposting;
but it should not be forgotten that these are places of peace and prayer and meditation, and visitors should conduct themselves accordingly.
To get the most out of a visit to this awe-inspiring landscape visitors should avoid merely driving quickly from one sight to the next. The best plan is to allow time to explore the area on foot and to see some of the remoter monasteries, now abandoned, as well as those that are shown to tourists.
In the ninth century the first hermits settled in caves beneath the rocks of Meteora, and a church of the Panayia was built at Doupiani. The place became known as "stous Ayious" ("at the saints' place"), which was corrupted into Stagoi. In 1340 Thessaly came under Serbian control, and Simeon, an uncle of the young king Stephen Uros V, was crowned as king of the Serbs and Greeks at Trikala. During this troubled period the hermits sought safety and tranquillity on the summits of the rocks. Then monasteries were built, beginning with the Great Meteoron, founded by Athanasios the Meteorite between 1356 and 1372 on the Broad Rock (Platys Lithos) and enlarged from 1388 onwards by his disciple and successor Joasaph, a son of King Simeon. In the heyday of Meteora there were 24 monasteries; but decline set in during the 16th century, and only six monasteries are now still occupied. Together with the monasteries of Athos, they make an important contribution to our knowledge of the post-Byzantine painting of the 16th century.
Hobbies & Activities category: Cave; Hiking opportunity; Christian sites; Scenic site or route; UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Nikos Deja Vu