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The Cliff-Top Meteora Monasteries

The Awe-Inspiring Monasteries of Meteora  

Meteora means “suspended in the air,” and the monasteries of Meteora seem to reach halfway to the sky. These buildings have perched on the top of steep, narrow sandstone cliffs in Thessaly in central Greece since the Middle Ages. With their red roofs and gray stone walls that match the cliffs, the monasteries are an awesome sight.

These magnificent monasteries are often the inspiration for many movies because they seem so otherworldly. 

The cliffs rise as high as 1,800 feet. The views from the monasteries are spectacular, with the Plain of Thessaly spread out far below as far as the eye can see.

Who Built the Monasteries of Meteora?

Throughout history, people believed the rock formations of Meteora were special. Long before the monks arrived in the early Middle Ages, Meteora attracted hermits and worshippers who were drawn to the site they believed was between heaven and earth.

In the 14th century, the monk Athanasios Koinovitis brought his followers to Meteora, seeking a secluded and quiet place for contemplation and worship. From 1356 to 1372, they built the first and largest of the Meteora monasteries, known as the Great Meteoron Monastery.

Monks continued to build monasteries on the cliffs through the 16th century. Eventually, there were 24 monasteries. Six of them remain today. The rest are mostly in ruins.

Challenges in Building the Meteora Monasteries

As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy to get building materials up the cliffs! The monks used a system of ladders, pulleys, nets, and baskets attached to ropes to haul themselves and the materials up the rock formations.

The difficulties in getting up the cliffs turned into a benefit when, in later years, monks needed to escape war and persecution. For hundreds of years, they found safety at Meteora. After they ascended to the monasteries, they would pull up the ladders, baskets, and ropes behind them. No one could follow them up the cliffs.

Do People Still Live in the Monasteries of Meteora?

A small number of monks and nuns still live and worship in the Meteora Monasteries. Most of the people there now are visitors. Thousands of tourists and pilgrims visit every year.

Tourism disrupts some of the peaceful isolation that the monasteries used to enjoy, but the monks and nuns need the money that tourists bring to keep the monasteries maintained. The monks and nuns protect their privacy. Visitors are not allowed to go into the living quarters or attend religious services.

How Do You Get to the Meteora Monasteries?

In the 1920s, stairs were cut into the rocks, and bridges were built. This made it much easier for the monks to get to the monasteries. They no longer had to climb ladders or get pulled up in buckets.

In the 1960s, paved roads were built, which made it easier for visitors to access the monasteries.

If you visit the monasteries, you can drive up to the monasteries, or you can hike up. The hike is beautiful, but steep, and includes stairs. To reach the Great Meteoron Monastery, you will need to climb more than 300 stairs. Several of the other monasteries have fewer stairs, averaging around 140 each.

Learn about the Acropolis of Athens, Greece

Standing on a very high outcrop in the city of Athens, Greece, is the Acropolis of Athens. An acropolis is a “high city on the edge”. The Acropolis is a city so high that visitors always feel as if they are living with the stars. What makes the Acropolis of Athens even more breath-taking are the sequence of temples and monumental buildings constructed by a statesman of the 5th Century called Pericles. So what really makes the Acropolis of Athens worth exploring? Let’s find out!

Fun Facts about the Acropolis of Athens Greece

The hill of the Acropolis is 490 ft (150m) above the sea basin and covers a surface area of 7.4 acres. It is so rare to find someone who climbs to the top of the Acropolis without stopping to catch a breath. This “city on the edge” harbors a number of ancient monumental buildings constructed around 5 BC. The buildings on the Acropolis are the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Erechtheion, and the temple of Athena Nike. It is amazing how the buildings have survived that long and still stand strong. Another name for Acropolis is Cecropia. Cecrops was the first Athenian King mythically believed to be part serpent and part man.

All Were Welcome

Buildings at the Acropolis were used for spiritual roles by more than one religion. The Parthenon was constructed to honor the goddess known as Athena, whom the city was also named after. It is believed that the site where the Parthenon was constructed had been a temple before it was brought down to pave the way for the Parthenon. The Acropolis has been attacked several times and served as sacred grounds for religions. For example, in 1456 it served as a mosque for the Ottomans.

A Perfect Location to Hunt for Treasure

Persians destroyed the Parthenon in 480 BCE and buried a big chunk of the monuments under the rubble. During special ceremonies, precious items were buried under the surrounding caves to complete certain rituals. Sacred objects lie beneath the mound ready to be discovered, although archeologists have done a good job of uncovering the treasures and sending many of them to museums for display. One thing that stands out about the Acropolis is that all of the treasures at the site were carried out by the best artisans, sculptors, and architects of the ancient times.

A Safe Zone: Acropolis

Originally, the acropolis acted as a fortress to protect Athens from invasion by its enemies. Defending territories from higher ground was a strategy used by various governments including the Greeks and Romans. Ancient people of Athens saw the monumental beauty of the Acropolis and decided to use it as a beautiful symbol of Athens instead of its intended purpose. Millions of tourists still come to the site today. Standing at the Acropolis is a magnificent sight to behold because it provides a beautiful view of the city of Athens, and the sea far away.

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