Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Holy Monastery of Grand Meteora

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After St Varlaam’s, we headed over to nearby Grand Meteora (also known as Transfiguration), which is traditionally the ruling monastery of the area. It was founded in 1340 by St Athanasios. His successor, St Ioasaph, is also credited as co-founder of the monastery. St Ioasaph was of the Byzantine and Serbian imperial families and heir to the throne of Thessaly and Epirus. At 22, though, he abdicated the throne to become a monk in St Athanasios’ brotherhood, eventually becoming his successor.

St Ioasaph enlarged the monastery and the central church, which was later incorporated as the sanctuary of the church that stands today.

The monastery really flourished, though, in the 16th century, along with the other monasteries of Meteora. The present church was built and frescoed during this period, again by the Cretan school of iconography.

The monastery, like all the monasteries of the region, suffered under the Turks and eventually was abandoned. After World War II, local villagers turned it into a tourist hotel. It was reestablished and flourished again as a monastery under Elder Amilianos, now of Simonopetra on the Holy Mountain.

Like all the men’s monasteries now in Meteora, there are very few monks -- currently three.

The grounds are quite extensive, with several museums, so they employ pious locals to help them manage the tourists. It is quite impressive.

One of the monks, who spoke English, sat and talked with us for quite awhile, and insisted on giving us copies of all the monastery’s books, which catalog its history and various collections.

The top photo is of the monastery as we walked toward it from the parking area.

The second photo is of the winch and net which is still used to carry up goods.

The third is of the interior of the monastery and the fourth is a view of St Varlaam’s from Grand Meteora.

1 comment:

Christina said...

I went to Meteora many years ago. And even though we only went to one monastery (we were only there for one night), the whole area is so breathtakingly (is that really a word?) beautiful! Definitely worth the trip just to see these monasteries rising from the rocks as if they were meant to be there!