Greek Meteora Monasteries of Orthodox Tradition

Strange natural conglomerate rock pillars appear to rise ‘to the middle of the sky’ in central northern Greece. Indeed, the word ‘meteora’ means ‘suspended in the air’, or ‘in the heavens above’. The monolithic pillars of rock reach up like hands supporting a complex of six isolated Greek Meteora monasteries. The nearest town of Kalambaka shelters at their feet. Please speak to us if we can help with accommodation there.

Kalambaka as Seen from Meteora. Greek Meteora Monasteries
Kalambaka as Seen from Meteora: Mzmona / CC BY-SA 3.0

Kalambaka as Seen from Greek Meteora Monasteries

Ancient flows of mud, stone, and sand formed the conglomerate ‘foundations’ of Meteora on the edge of an ancient lake. Sixty million years ago, movements in the Earth pushed them upwards to create a high plateau. Wind and rain nibbled away at fault lines down countless centuries. The pillars are unique because they have few lines of strata. It is as if Meteora simply happened.

Monastery of the Holy Trinity. Greek Meteora Monasteries
Monastery of the Holy Trinity: Napoleon Vier / GFDL

Monastery of the Holy Trinity at Meteora

Natural caves in the colossal pillars housed people for 50,000 years before monks joined them in the 11th century. They retreated to the tops of them when Turkey launched attacks on Greece in the 14th Century. There, they built their first monastic shelter reached by removable ladders they winched up and down. Tradition has it they only replaced the ropes when they snapped. Since then the Eastern Orthodox believers carved steps into the cliffs to the relief of visitors.

Stairway to "The Middle of the Sky". Greek Meteora Monasteries
Stairway to “The Middle of the Sky”: Ed / CC BY 2.0

Meteora Stairway to ‘The Middle of the Sky”

During World War 2, the Greek Meteora monasteries were bombed and many treasures stolen. Only 6 of the original 24 remain in use, with the remainder lying in ruins. At the last count, only 41 nuns in 2 monasteries, and 15 monks in 4 remained in 2015. We are witnessing the end of an era and the closing of a dynasty. How sad it is to see the end of such tradition. I wonder what they will do with the buildings when they are all gone.

Monasteries Built at Meteora in Faith
Monasteries Built at Meteora in Faith: Ruben Holthuijsen / CC BY 2.0

About Richard Farrell

Richard Farrell I tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally. This was after I escaped the corporate world and searched in vain for ways to become rich on the internet by doing nothing. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. I will deny I am obsessed with it when I have the time. My base is Umtentweni in South Africa on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast (30.7167° S, 30.4667° E). I work from home where I ponder on the future of the planet, and what lies beyond in the great hereafter. Sometimes I step out of my computer into the silent riverine forests, and empty golden beaches for which the area is renowned.

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3 Responses

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    Nick Stamoulis

    It is sad! Even more reason to try and visit in the near future. If you do visit, keep in mind that there are protocols to follow and it’s worth researching what the most up to date protocols are. For example, men must wear trousers and women must wear skirts below the knee and no bare shoulders are allowed.


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