Meteora

Μετέωρα

( Meteora )

The Meteora (/ˌmɛtiˈɔːrə/;[1] Greek: Μετέωρα, pronounced [meˈteora]) is a rock formation in central Greece hosting one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries, second in importance only to Mount Athos.[2] The six (of an original twenty four) monasteries are built on immense natural pillars and hill-like rounded boulders that dominate the local area. It is located near the town of Kalambaka at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains.

The Meteora (; Greek: Μετέωρα, pronounced [meˈteora]) is a rock formation in central Greece hosting one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries, second in importance only to Mount Athos. The six (of an original twenty four) monasteries are built on immense natural pillars and hill-like rounded boulders that dominate the local area. The rock formations have always been a site of worship for the ancient people of the area, however between the 13th and 14th century the twenty four monasteries were established atop the rocks. Meteora is located near the town of Kalabaka at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains.

Meteora is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List under criteria I, II, IV, V, and VII.

The name means "lofty", "elevated", and is etymologically related to meteor.

 
History Archaeology

The cave of Theopetra is located 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) from Kalambaka. Its uniqueness from an archeological perspective is that a single site contains records of two greatly significant cultural transitions: the replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans and later, the transition from hunting-gathering to farming after the end of the last Ice Age. The cave consists of an immense 500 square metres (5,400 sq ft) rectangular chamber at the foot of a limestone hill, which rises to the northeast above the village of Theopetra, with an entrance 17 metres (56 ft) wide by 3 metres (9.8 ft) high. It lies at the foot of the Chasia mountain range, which forms the natural boundary between Thessaly and Macedonia prefectures, while the Lithaios River, a tributary of the Pineios River, flows in front of the cave. The small Lithaios River flowing literally on the doorsteps of the cave meant that cave dwellers always had easy access to fresh, clean water without the need to cover daily long distances to find it.[1]

Ancient history

Caves in the vicinity of Meteora were inhabited continuously between 50,000 and 5,000 years ago. The oldest known example of a built structure, a stone wall that blocked two-thirds of the entrance to the Theopetra cave, was constructed 23,000 years ago, probably as a barrier against cold winds – the Earth was experiencing an ice age at the time – and many Paleolithic and Neolithic artifacts of human occupation have been found within the caves.[2][3]

Meteora is not mentioned in classical Greek myths nor in Ancient Greek literature. The first people documented to inhabit Meteora after the Neolithic Era were an ascetic group of hermit monks who, in the ninth century AD, moved up to the ancient pinnacles. They lived in hollows and fissures in the rock towers, some as high as 1800 ft (550m) above the plain. This great height, combined with the sheerness of the cliff walls, kept away all but the most determined visitors. Initially, the hermits led a life of solitude, meeting only on Sundays and special days to worship and pray in a chapel built at the foot of a rock known as Dhoupiani.[4]

As early as the eleventh century, monks occupied the caverns of Meteora. However, monasteries were not built until the fourteenth century, when the monks sought somewhere to hide in the face of an increasing number of Turkish attacks on Greece.[5][6] At this time, access to the top was via removable ladders or windlass. Currently, getting up there is a lot simpler due to steps being carved into the rock during the 1920s. Of the 24 monasteries, only six (four of men, two of women) are still functioning, with each housing fewer than ten individuals.[7]

History and Construction of the Monasteries

The exact date of the establishment of the monasteries is widely believed to be unknown, however there are clues to when each of the monasteries were constructed. By the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries, a rudimentary monastic state had formed called the Skete of Stagoi and was centred around the still-standing church of Theotokos (Mother of God).[4] By the end of the twelfth century, an ascetic community had flocked to Meteora.

In 1344, Athanasios Koinovitis from Mount Athos brought a group of followers to Meteora. From 1356 to 1372, he founded The Great Meteoron Monastery on the Broad Rock, which was perfect for the monks; they were safe from political upheaval and had complete control of the entry to the monastery. The only means of reaching it was by climbing a long ladder, which was drawn up whenever the monks felt threatened.[8]

At the end of the fourteenth century, the Byzantine Empire's reign over northern Greece was being increasingly threatened by Turkish raiders who wanted control over the fertile plain of Thessaly. The hermit monks, seeking a retreat from the expanding Turkish occupation, found the inaccessible rock pillars of Meteora to be an ideal refuge. More than 20 monasteries were built, beginning in the fourteenth century;[6] only six remain today.

In 1517 Theophanes built the monastery of Varlaam, which was reputed to house the finger of St. John and the shoulder blade of St. Andrew.[9]

Access to the monasteries was originally (and deliberately) difficult, requiring either long ladders latched together or large nets used to haul up both goods and people. This required quite a leap of faith – the ropes were replaced, so the story goes, only "when the Lord let them break".[10] In the words of UNESCO, "The net in which intrepid pilgrims were hoisted up vertically alongside the 373 metres (1,224 ft) cliff where the Varlaam monastery dominates the valley symbolizes the fragility of a traditional way of life that is threatened with extinction."[11]

Until the seventeenth century, the primary means of conveying goods and people from these eyries was by means of baskets and ropes.[12]

In 1921, Queen Marie of Romania visited Meteora, becoming the first woman ever allowed to enter the Great Meteoron monastery.[13]

In the 1920s there was an improvement in the arrangements. Steps were cut into the rock, making the complex accessible via a bridge from the nearby plateau. During World War II the site was bombed.[14]

^ Theopetra's Prehistoric Cave from Visit Meteora Travel. Retrieved 26, Jul 2013. ^ Y. Facorellis, N. Kyparissi-Apostolika and Y. Maniatis 2001 The cave of Theopetra, Kalambaka: radiocarbon evidence for 50,000 years of human presence. Radiocarbon 43 (2B): 1029-48 ^ [1] Archived December 6, 2014, at the Wayback Machine ^ a b Cite error: The named reference meteora was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Hellander, Paul (2008). Lonely Planet: Greece. Lonely Planet. p. 266. ISBN 978-1-74104-656-4 ^ a b “Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas Anapafsas.” Kalampaka.com, 10 July 2016, https://www.kalampaka.com/en/meteora-monasteries/monastery-of-saint-nicholas-anapafsas/. ^ "Meteora". www.beautifulworld.com. Retrieved 2016-09-27. ^ Nicol, Donald MacGillivray. Meteora : The Rock Monasteries of Thessaly by Donald M Nicol. Chapman and Hall, 1963. EBSCOhost, search-ebscohost-com.holycross.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat06787a&AN=chc.b1193287&site=eds-live&scope=site. p. 82 ^ Cite error: The named reference :2 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ "Greece Meteora - Travel with a Challenge". travelwithachallenge.com. Archived from the original on 5 September 2013. Retrieved 3 April 2018. ^ Bruce B. Janz (29 April 2017). Place, Space and Hermeneutics. Springer. pp. 67–. ISBN 978-3-319-52214-2. ^ "Meteora, Connecting with Heaven presented in History section". www.newsfinder.org. Archived from the original on 24 May 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2018. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-04-19. Retrieved 2015-04-19.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) ^ "Damaged in World War II - World Heritage Site - Pictures, Info and Travel Reports".
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