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Easter at Meteora

The gigantic complex of over 800 dark rocks is not only one of the most awe-inspiring corners of the planet, but also a very important place for the Orthodox Church. Spirituality and the grandeur of nature converse with each other to give the thousands of visitors flocking from all over the world a lifetime experience.

Most of the 30 monasteries, founded in the 14th century, are now deserted. Only six of them are still open and resonate with religious traditions and the deep godliness of old times.

 

The monasteries

Megalo Meteoro: It is located on the highest and longest and it was established in 1340 by St Athanassios Meteoritis (1302-1380). Visit the tower (1520), now operating as a Folklore Museum with old appliances and tools, the ossuary, the church of Metamorfoseos tou Sotiros (Transfiguration of Jesus) whose sanctum was built in 1388 and main church and narthex in 1545, the Holy Altar (built in 1557 and at present Museum of Church Heirloom) and the cook-room of 1557, nowadays Folklore Museum with old copper, clay and wooden kitchen utensils.

Agios Stefanos: St Antonios (first half of the 15th century) and St Filotheos (in the middle of 16th century) are both honoured as monastery founders. The small St Stefanos church is a single-aisled basilica, built in 1350. Today's St Charalampos church (1798) is decorated with amazing fretwork. Its imposing Holy Altar has been turned into a modern museum with the most impressive church heirlooms: Scripts, post Byzantine icons, canonicals and fabrics embroidered with gold, fretwork, fine silverware pieces etc.

Varlaam: According to history, it was first inhabited by monk Varlaam in the 14th century. The biggest part of the athonic-type church that was built in 1542, is dedicated to Agious Pantes. The main body of the church has many murals painted by the Theban painter Fragko Katelano in 1542. At the end of the 16th and in the beginning of 17th centuries the most organized bibliographic laboratory of Meteora monasteries and a special gold thread embroidery workshop were functioning here.

Agia Triada: It is located on a typical imposing and steep rock of Meteora. By the script of the potentate Simeon Ouresi-Paleologou appears that Agia Triada has been a fuctioning monastery since 1362. The church we see today was constructed around 1476 and it is a small cross-like double-columned church with a dome. Also very interesting is the Monastery Folklore Museum boasting a wide selection of old clothing, appliances, tools and other folklore items.

Roussanou: It was built in 1529 on the ruins of older constructions. The church of Metamorfosis tou Sotiros (Transfiguration of Jesus) was built around 1530 and is of athonic architecture. Its wall paintings covering the main body of the church and the narthex belong to the Cretan Art School. In spite of the church being dedicated to Metamorfosi tou Sotiros, the believers celebrate the memory of Agia Varvara (4th of December) with equal grandeur and devotion in a nearby chapel.

Agios Nikolaos Panausas: The multilevel, graceful and imposing Holy Monastery of Agios Nikolaos Panausas is located near Kastraki Village, among the ruined monasteries of Prodromou, Agias Monis and Pantokratoros. The organized monastic way of living in this monastery was established during the first decades of the 14th century. The frescos are the oldest signed paintings created by Theofanis the Cretan and carry all the characteristic features of this great angiographer of the Cretan Art School.

 

 

The rituals

At Easter, the monasteries at Meteora guarantee you will really feel what these days are all about. Experience the awe and the ecstasy and let humbleness lead you through the mystic atmosphere to purification.

During the Holy Week, the mass starts at 19:00 and finishes around 21:00. At midnight on Easter Saturday when the resurrection is announced, the doors of the monasteries open to welcome those who want to attend the whole of the religious ritual.

Maundy Thursday is unique at the Varlaam monastery for the mass of the Last Supper and the Passions: the 12 gospels tell the story of Jesus Christ’s way to Calvary. In the eerie sounds of the bells ringing mournfully, the believers take part in the divine drama to attain a spiritual and moral elevation themselves.

On Good Friday, the Epitaphs are decorated and the scent of incense and lilac fills the atmosphere. The icons seem to weep in the pale candle light. The devout visitors of the monasteries lean their heads in humbleness and breathe in serenity in the place where time seems to stand still.

On Easter Sunday and the following days too, a traditional custom is definitely worth a visit. It is paschalogiorta (=Easter festivities) in the town of Kalabaka. The scent of lamb on the spit intoxicates your lungs everywhere, while the Easter-related dishes paspaliáres (= pies made with corn flour and baked in clay pots) and basiordí (=pork preserved in its fat) together with endless quantities of wine double the pleasure of singing and dancing along!


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