The Meteora Monasteries are perched upon the summits of some precipitous and
isolated rocky pinnacles which rise above the almost flat valley of the Pineios (Pintos)
river, 9 km beyond Kalambaka in Thessaly. The monastic history of the Meteora goes back to
the 11th century A.D. when the first hermits sought peace and solitude in the rifts and
caves of these rocks. The first monasteries were not built until the 14th century A.D.,
attaining their peak in the 16th. Of the 13 large and 20 small monasteries and hermit's
cells, only four are now occupied. These are at: Megalo Meteoro, Moni Varlaam, Moni Agiaa
Triadaa and Moni Agiou Stefanou. The most important of the group, Megalo Meteoro (also
known as Moni Metamorfosseos Tou Sotiros), was built in the 14th century A.D. by Saint
Athanassios Meteoritis on the rock until then called "Platylithos" and known
thereafter as "Meteoro". The Monastery acquired wide fame in the days of the
Orthodox Christian Serb monarch Symeon Uresis whose son John, a pupil of Athanassios,
became a monk under the assumed name of Joasaph. The Monastery chapel at Metamorfosis is
of peculiar architecture with its tall and intricate dome with twelve sides and fine
|In the 15th century A.D. Antonios
Katakouzinos, son of the Despot of Epirus, founded the Monastery of Agios Stefanos. In the
following century two more monasteries were added, one being the small Monastery of
Rousaanou and the other that of Varlaam where frescoes by Frangos Kastellanos survive. The
refectory in the latter has been converted into a museum where ecclesiastical treasures
are kept. There are some very good frescoes by Theophanes Kritikos in the Monastery of
Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas. Apart from portable ikons, miniatures, ecclesiastical robes,
utensils and crosses, all of them excellent examples of Byzantine and post-Byzantine art,
the Meteora Monasteries also contain rare editions and manuscripts.
There's an excellent site on Meteora here.
Moni Varlaam: Tel. 0432 - 22.277.
Moni Megalou Meteorou or Metamorfosseoa Tou Sotiroa: Tel.0432 - 22.278.
Moni Agiou Stefanou: Tel. 0432 - 22.279.
Moni Agiou Nikolaou Anapafaa: Tel. 0432 - 22.375.
Moni Agiaa Triadaa: Tel. 0432/22.220,
MOUNT ATHOS (AGION OROS)
This is a strictly monastic area, a part of the Greek State with its own administration.
It is built on the easterly of the three prongs of the Halkidiki (Chalcidice) peninsula
with the small town of Karies as its administrative centre. Admission rules are governed
by the edict or "Chryssobul" issued by Emperor Constantine Monomachos of
Byzantium (1060 A.D.) which remains valid in part to the present day.
||Entrance is denied to women.
||Overnight stays are denied to visitors
except to those with proven scientific or religious interests only if they are more than
21 years old.
||All vessels coasting round the shores of
Mount Athos are required not to approach closer than 500 meters, if they have women on
||Filming and use of tape-recorders are
forbidden. Photographs with an ordinary camera but without use of a tripod or flash-bulb
may be taken.
||A decent appearance is an essential
||Conditions for Admission of Foreigners :
It is necessary to possess an individual or group permit in order to visit Mount Athos. In
the former case, the interested party should first obtain from its country's diplomatic or
consular authority a letter of recommendation. On the strength of such a letter an
admission permit can be issued by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Directorate of
Churches) at 2, Zalokosta Street in Athens (Tel: 362.68.94) or by Ministry of Northern
Greece (Directorate of Civil Affairs) at Platia Dilkitiriou, in Thessaloniki (Tel: 031 -
270.092). Organized visits by groups cannot exceed fifteen persons and can take place only
after prior arrangement with the Holy Supervisory Authority and those in charge of the
monasteries concerned. A maximum stay of four days is allowed and for not more than ten
persons per day.
The oldest of the Mount Athos
Monasteries, called Megisti Lavra, was built in the 10th century A.D. by Ossios Athanassios in an area to which, from much earlier
times, hermits and anchorets had been retiring. The beneficial diligence of successive
Byzantine emperors soon caused the number of monasteries to increase to 40 and their
inmates to 40,000, the whole area attaining the summit of its glory in the 15th century
A.D. After the fall of Constantinople, Mount Athos became the centre of culture and art,
affording a sanctuary to Byzantine artists and men of letters. At present, apart from
cells, huts and hermitages, there are twenty large monasteries divided into two
categories, "Coenobite" and "Idiorrhythmic". The former are veritable
walled towns, usually rectangular in shape with towers.
The interior contains: the monastery chapel, usually located in the centre of the
enclosure, the "Phiale" or canopied stoup containing the Holy Water, the
refectory, the guestroom known as the "Xenon" or "Archontariki" and
the cells of the monks. In the "Idiorrhythmic" monasteries the monks enjoy more
independence and less rigid rules.
Characteristic of Athonite church architecture are the apsidal ends to the transepts
and the double narthex. The older murals belong to the Macedonian School of Art (14th
century A.D.), expressed mainly by Manuel Panselinos and his contemporaries. Splendid
frescoes by Panselinos decorate the oldest church on Mount Athos which is that of Protaton
in the town of Karies while other murals by some of his contemporaries adorn the Vatopedi
monastery chapel. Later murals belong to the Cretan School of Art, founded by the monk
Theophanis and continued by Frangos Kastellanos of Thebes with Italian and German
influence. These frescoes represent genuine Athonite religious art. Frescoes by Theophanis
the Cretan are to be seen in the Megisti Lavra monastery chapel while others by Frangos
Kastellanos are to be found in the chapel of Agios Nikolaos. Works by Cretan painters
adorn the Monasteries of Iviron, Docheiariou, Koutloumousiou and others.
Mount Athos is a veritable museum of Byzantine and post-Byzantine art in so much as
concerns portable icons, relics, precious miniatures, ceremonial drapings, robes,
utensils, manuscripts and documents, both ecclesiastical and Imperial. Some of the richest
Athonite libraries are those of Megisti Lavra, Iviron, Vatopedi, Panteleimonos and the