This UNESCO World Heritage Site is made up of a network of Greek Orthodox Christian monasteries perched atop a complex of 1000 sandstone boulders, each soaring to 400-meters. Soaring to the sky, these imposing boulders were chosen by the first monks as ideal spiritual locations for monastic cells. Beginning in the 12thC, monks attempted to scale the boulders by pushing logs up against the sides of rock pillars, climbing the logs and then dropping rope ladders down for other monks to join them. To this day, monastic cells dot the sheer face of the rock – evidence of the monks’ determination to worship and meditate as close to God as possible.
The very first monastery built at the very tip of an immense rock pillar was founded in 1344 by St. Athanasio Meteoriti – the namesake of the Meteora monastic network. In fact, Meteora means suspended in air in Greek which is exactly what you’ll feel when you visit these beautiful monasteries. Whether looking up at them from below or looking out at the beautiful natural vistas from one of the mountain-perched monasteries, you’ll feel as if you live in the sky, in the clouds with Trikala’s stunning landscape unfurling beneath you like a verdant red carpet. After the first monastery was built, another 30 monasteries were founded between 1350 and 1500, including some nunneries. In the past, baskets were used to hoist up people and supplies, but now there are stone steps that lead visitors to the stunning monasteries and bridges that connect them once you reach the top. As you make your way from monastery to monastery and cross these bridges, you’ll feel like you’re taking a stroll across the sweeping sky, and you too will feel the serenity and mysticism of this spiritual place. If you’re lucky you’ll see a vestige of the past in action – baskets are still used by monks and nuns to hoist up supplies.
Make it a point to visit as many monasteries as possible – each one hides treasures that span the ages and which will leave you with a deeper appreciation of religious art, monastic life and spiritual scholarship. The monasteries open to visitors include: the Monastery of the Transfiguration of Christ, St. Stefanos monastery, St. Nikolaos monastery, Agia Triada monastery, All Saints/Varlam monastery and St. Barbara/Roussanou monastery. Monks and nuns will be happy to tell you more about the historically and religiously important documents, old illuminated manuscripts, precious books, church artifacts and stunning hand-painted icons that are centuries old. Artifacts that you shouldn’t miss include the Bible of St. Charalambous and the ladder of St. Stefano. As you tour the monasteries and nunneries, admire the unique architecture and its beauty – you too will wonder how such beautiful buildings were built to balance at the top of soaring boulders. The monasteries are adorned with Post-Byzantine murals and icons that date back to 1560, so examine the artwork and the sense of peace infused in every aspect of religious art.