In The Heavens Above
I am occasionally spellbound by man’s will. His sheer determination. Bewildered and even confused. How did man accomplish this? Moments of wonderment come to mind when I think of Petra in Jordan, the Taj Mahal in India, the temples of Bagan in Burma or the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan.
I had a similar sense of awe during a recent visit in Meteora
, Greece. Meteora which translates roughly to “suspended in air” or “in the heavens above” can be found in central Greece, four and half hours away by car from Athens. Six Greek Orthodox monasteries stand as sentry on towering, sandstone pillars.
Byzantine hermits discovered and began to populate these caves during the 11th century. The current monasteries were constructed during the 14th and 15th centuries. At its height, 24 monasteries flourished during the 17th century, only six survive today. Four of them remain active today with monastic communities.
These monasteries hover and balance on the stone towers at minimum heights of 1000 feet. The first hermits scaled sheer walls to isolate themselves in dank caves. Over time religious structures were built, from a simple wooden hut to the magnificent monasteries that can be seen today. Today, access is simple. In the 1960s, roads were carved into the mountains, staircases brought you the final distance.
But how were these built centuries ago without roads for access or modern technology? Through grit and resolve these monks persevered to create these majestic structures. A series of ladders, ropes & pulleys and baskets reluctantly conveyed supplies and tools to these perilous peaks. These monasteries range in height from 1000 to 1800 feet. The compensation for the monks was blessed isolation and protection from the invading Turks.
A visit to Greece is not complete without gazing at these UNESCO sites. You will be amply rewarded. So after you visit the Acropolis and the beaches of Santorini, head to the central Greece to view the monasteries of Meteora.
Article and pictures by Ric Gazarian