(We were given a Complementary Tour by Visit Meteora to Facilitate this review. However, the thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. You can read my full disclosure here.)
Have you heard of the Meteora Monasteries?
When most people think of Greece, they think of myths and legends, gods and goddesses. They think of wonders of the Ancient word. All this is an integral part of Greek history and culture. However, did you also know that Greece is also home to several Christian monasteries built between the 14th and 16th Century?
Recently while visiting Greece my family was able to spend a few days in the small town of Kalambaka in central Greece so that we could go see the Monasteries of Meteora. We loved our experience taking the Half day tour from Visit Meteora were a tour guide regaled us with the History of the Meteora Monasteries as we drove in a very comfortable tour bus up the mountain to go see them for ourselves. What a fantastic homeschool field trip for our family!
Depending on what day you go on the tour different Monasteries (or Nunneries) are open to the public to visit. The day we went on our Half day tour, we were happy to get to go inside both the monastery of St. Nicholas and the Great Meteoro Monastery which was the first monastery built in those mountains (in the 14th Century) Though we were only able to go inside and explore 2 of the monasteries the tour took us along a route where we were able to see all 6 of the remaining Monasteries. There is a 3 Euro an Adult Fee (kids get in free) for entrance to the monasteries which help them to keep running. Just like the pilgrimage offering did in centuries past. I loved the history lesson our tour guide gave us along the way. While there may only be 6 Monasteries in active use today (two are being used as Nunneries) at one time, there were as many as 24 Monasteries with 100 monks residing between them all.
As we drove up the mountains to see the Monasteries I was in awe from my first glimpse. I mean how did these humble monks manage to build such incredible buildings on the tops of these remote cliffs? There were no roads they could use to get the building materials up the mountains. There weren’t even paths usable for pack animals. No, the monks had to carry each needed stone on their own backs (in addition to other needed building supplies and their own needed provisions) all the way to the tops of the Meteora mountains just to be able to build.
Why choose such a remote location to build these holy monasteries? Our tour guide from Visit Metora informed us that there were 2 main reasons. The first was for security. As I said before, these great monasteries were built on the tops of remote cliffs. To get inside you either had to climb up rope ladders (which were pulled up at night and times of unsure safety. Or you had to be pulled up in a rope net and basket (which is what they used to get supplies up to the monasteries. ).
The second reason for the remote location was that through the hardships involved in building and later running these monasteries was believed to build character and purify the soul. After visiting these monasteries I believe there was another reason for building them on the tops of the mountains. As I walked through these centuries-old holy buildings I couldn’t help but feel a deep peace, a feeling of being away from the hustle and bustle of the world, a feeling of being closer to God.
While the Monastery of St Nicholas was small and intimate, the Great Meteoro was the opposite. It was large, ornate, and enough like a castle to get my kids excited to go inside. Our children’s favorite rooms of the Mesenteries were the chapels (with the beautifully painted walls and ceilings depicting Saints and scriptural scenes.) and the Museums where the ancient relics and treasures were kept. Of course, those were the only rooms we were not allowed to take pictures of. (Which I totally understand to the holy nature of those rooms) We were able to take pictures in the other rooms and courtyards of the Monasteries.
You can learn more about each of the 6 still active Meteora monasteries here. I find each of their histories fascinating and I know you will too. Of all the places we visited and things we saw during our almost 3 months visiting Greece, Meteora was one of our absolute favorites. It is definitely a must-see destination for anyone visiting Greece. We totally want to go back again as a family and this time we want to take the Sunset Tour (I hear it is amazing!)
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