There’s an expression in Greek- όνομα και πράμα– it means the name and the thing are one. Meteora means “suspended.” Geologically and spiritually, it hovers somewhere between heaven and earth- the perfect place for a Monastery. Or twelve. We are on a tour with Meteora Thrones of all the monasteries that remain- six- two of which are convents. The landscape is otherworldly. You need time to take it in and happily we did that with a hiking tour. That started at the first and largest of the Monasteries- Grand Meteora. A monk from Mt. Athos founded the Monastery in the 14th C (carried by an Eagle, legend has it), and others followed. If you have time to visit just one Monastery, this might be the one. It is the least contemplative but there is the most to see.
The monastic life of the past
If you want to feel the past, this is the place. The Church is magnificent but no more so than the others. The Monastery has a lot to see- the things of life- kitchens vessels and tools for making wine,
Things of death- an ossuary filled with skulls in tidy rows.
And things of eternity- a beautiful church- rebuilt lavishly in the 16th C. All the churches we see share the same distinctive mood- unlike any other churches I have visited. They have an unusually narrow and high dome. Rich and dark iconography covers the walls. Images of martyrdoms- sometimes graphic, cover the walls of the forechamber. In the central sanctuary is the life of Christ- in beautiful easy to follow narrative detail. These were the graphic novels of their day.
Photography inside the Church is not permitted,
This discrete slice is taken through a window.
There is also a museum of things of the secular world- Meteora was not untouched by the second world war-
|Painting from the Museum at Grand Meteora
And the Nazis were not untouched by Meteora.
From the terraces, we can see Varlaam:
famous for its twelve-ton water tank
and dizzying height of its tower- a winch and net bag hoisted supplies, building materials and even the monks themselves.
We have already visited one of the two convents- St. Stephen- on our sunset tour
. Now we visit Roussanou, perhaps the most fairy-tale like of the Monasteries.
The access is simple but thrilling- a path and stairs lead to a short but dizzingly high bridge
The nuns are sweeter than the monks- literally- they keep bees, and the honey (chestnut!) they sell is delicious. They also have children’s books in their gift shop and paint tiny rocks as a memento/talisman.
Grand Meteora is the most prominent monastery, but it is Agia Triada (Holy Trinity)- the most free-standing of all the monasteries and the most difficult to reach- is the most famous (007 defies death from its cliffs in the film For Your Eyes Only- see the clip here
). Art sometimes imitates life, and sometimes doesn’t even come close. Taking the conventional path up to Agia Triada- basically a narrow walkway etched into the cliff face- is all kinds of drama.
The tunnels and stairs lead to an enclosed area- you enter Agia Triada and then it opens up again to the broadest vistas we have seen our whole trip-
That wall on the lower right? It’s to contain soil for the tree, not to contain us.
This is the largest and most wild of open areas.
I discover I have no particular fear of heights
We visit the church, and see all the things we are supposed to see. But we spend most of our visit outside, suspended, somewhere between heaven and earth, enjoying the meaning of the word Meteora.