The Metéora 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. The Metéora is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List under criteria I, II, IV, V and VII.
The Theopetra caves 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) south of Meteora had inhabitants fifty millennia ago. The cave of Theopetra, Kalambaka, radiocarbon evidence for 50,000 years of human presence. They were the first people to inhabit Metéora. They lived in hollows and fissures in the rock towers, some of which reach 1800 ft (550m) above the plain.
This great height, combined with the sheerness of the cliff walls, kept away all but the most determined visitors. Initially the hermits led a life of solitude, meeting only on Sundays and special days to worship and pray in a chapel built at the foot of a rock known as Dhoupiani. As early as the 11th century AD hermit monks were believed to be living among the caves and cutouts in the rocks.
The exact date of the establishment of the monasteries is unknown. By the late 11th and early 12th century, a rudimentary monastic state had formed called the Skete of Stagoi and was centered around the still-standing church of Theotokos (mother of God). By the end of the 12th century, an ascetic community had flocked to Metéora.
The climate in the region varies greatly according to the time of year. It may be sweltering during summertime, but extremely cold in wintertime. Rainfall is generally heavy all year round, especially at higher altitudes, but the driest time of the year is during summer.
List of Monasteries
All of these monasteries are located at Metéora in Greece, and most are perched on high cliffs and accessible by staircases cut into the rock formations. They were created to serve monks and nuns following the teachings of the Greek Orthodox Church. Much of the architecture of these buildings is Athonite in origin. Of the six intact monasteries, the Holy Monastery of St. Stephen and Monastery Roussanou are inhabited by nuns.
The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron - This is the largest of the monasteries located at Metéora. It was erected in the mid-14th century AD and was the subject of restoration and embellishment projects in 1483 and 1552. The building serves as the main museum for tourists. The Katholikon (main church), consecrated in honour of the Transfiguration of Jesus was erected in the middle of 14th c. and 1387/88 and decorated in 1483 and 1552.
The Holy Monastery of Varlaam – The Holy Monastery of Varlaam is the second largest monastery in the Metéora complex. It was built in 1541 and embellished in 1548. A church, dedicated to All Saints, is in the Athonite type (cross-in-square with dome and choirs), with spacious esonarthex (lite) is surrounded by a dome. It was built in 1541/42 and decorated in 1548, while the esonarthex was decorated in 1566
The Holy Monastery of Rousanou/St. Barbara was founded in the middle of 16th century AD and decorated in 1560.
The Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas, built in the 16th century AD, is a small church. It was decorated by the Cretan painter Theophanis Strelitzas, in 1527.
The Holy Monastery of St. Stephen is a small church built in the 16th century and decorated in 1545. This monastery rests on the plain rather than on a cliff. It was damaged by the Nazis during WWII who believed it was harboring insurgents and was abandoned. Nuns took it over and reconstructed it.