Meteora’s Hidden Gems: Old Hermitages, and Ruined Monasteries
Today the area filled with many Meteora ruins and hidden gems, of a past period when at the hight of the monastic community the site had close to 24 active monasteries and many hermitages. Not many people actually know that the origins of Meteora monasteries go back to the 10th century when the first hermit monks came here seeking to find isolation. They are the ones who laid the foundations for Meteora to become later on an important monastic center of the Orthodox Church. The caves around Meteora are filled with many abandoned hermitages from that early period.
By the late 16th century, Meteora’s monastic community included a total number of 24 active monasteries. By that time most of the small hermitages, like the one of Doupiani, had almost been abandoned since the new idea for the formation of larger monastic brotherhoods prevailed. The monasteries would offer opportunities for the improvement of daily life conditions and the resolution of problems, mostly centered around the oppressive nature of the Ottoman dominion and the harsh persecutions of Christians.
In the mid-17th century, the monasteries of Meteora gradually started to decline. Within the next two centuries many of the Monasteries and hermitages were totally ruined, either due to the destruction by the Ottomans, or they were eventually abandoned by the monks and, thus, deserted. This long process of decline lasted until the early 20th century leading to what we call today the “ruins and hidden gems” of Meteora. During the start of the previous century, several monks arrived at Meteora from Mount Athos and began to repopulate the few remaining monasteries.
A huge restoration and renovation project was then initiated, in order to preserve the unique cultural and historical heritage of Meteora. Part of this large restoration program focused specifically on the remaining Meteora ruins and hidden gems. Today, apart from the well-known 6 monasteries, a number of hermitages and small abandoned monasteries have also been restored. Our goal and wish is to try and acquaint visitors with some of these less popular – but not at all less interesting – historical and religious monuments. Below you can see how much more there is to explore in the region of Meteora.
If you find this impressive, why not booking an experience that will take you to these hidden gems of Meteora that most visitors are completely unaware of!
Discover the hidden gems of Meteora
Few know today that the word hermit is a Greek word derived from “heremos” meaning the desert. It was used in the first centuries of Christianity to describe the Desert Fathers who withdrew from society to live in isolation in the deserts of Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The hermits, more than 1000 years ago are the first ones who chose to occupy the cliffs and the caves of Meteora for religious reasons.
Hidden among the giant rocks of Meteora one can still see the evidence of all 3 types of monasticism, the eremitic, the skete and the cenobitic coexisting in the ruins of St. Gregory left by the last hermit-monk inside a small cavern, the skete of St. Antony and the small monastery of St. Nikolas of Badovas.
The first ever recorded hermit of Meteora leaved on a huge pillar like rock known at his time as the pillar of Stagoi. This huge rock pillar rises more than 200 meters from the ground right above the modern day village of Kastraki. His name was Varnavas and stayed in a small cave where he made a small chapel dedicated to “Holy Spirit”. The date was 980 AD!
Byzantium in the 14th century and after many centuries of decline was reduced to a mere shadow of the once glorious Roman Empire. The last Christian emperors of the East now controlled only a tiny handful of territories, struggling to contain the advancement of the Ottoman Turks in all fronts. For many Christians of that period the end was near and their last hope was to retreat in their faith. The monastery of Ypapanti was first established during that dark period in the year 1367.
Mankind’s presence in the area around Meteora dates back to 40.000 BC! The whole area is considered by many to be the cradle of the Greek nation when the proto-Greeks emerged out from the fertile plain of Thessaly almost 6.000 years ago. In this huge rock complex rising 430 meters above the town of kalambaka the locals call today ‘Aghia’ there are ruins that nobody knows how old they are…
This is the most popular local cave, dedicated to St. George and located in one of the steepest slopes of a high rock, right outside the village of Kastraki.
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