Meteora: A Pillar of Eastern Christian Monasticism

  • Group of Orthodox monasteries located on rocky outcrops
  • First monasteries founded in the 14th century
  • Several monasteries still functioning in the present day

Meteora, a group of monasteries located several hundred miles to the northwest of Athens, represents the later Orthodox Church in Greece, having been founded beginning in the 14th century.  Perched on the top of rocky crags, Meteora is one of the most stunning sites in Greece.  Visitors to the monasteries will learn of the evolution of the Orthodox Church in Greece and will experience the workings of modern monasteries steeped in centuries-old tradition.

Meteora, located in a valley about 350km (200 miles) to the northwest of Athens, refers to a group of monasteries perched on the top of free-standing rocks.  The earliest monastic community was founded in the 14th century, when Greece was undergoing many political and military problems, making Meteora a place of retreat from the problems of the world.  Although now approachable by a series of roads and staircases, access to the monasteries originally was by a series of wooden ladders or a net up the sheer rock faces.  When Meteora was flourishing in the 16th century, it consisted of thirteen large monasteries and twenty or so smaller communities.  By the 18th century, however, the monasteries had declined, and many were being deserted in the 19th century. Only a few monks and nuns now live in the monasteries, where they now accept visitors.  The major monasteries, including Megalo Meteoro and Varlaam, provide one of the few looks into the Orthodox monastic life.

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