The Meteora (Greek: Μετέωρα, “suspended rocks” or “suspended in the air”) is one of the largest and most important complex of monasteries in Greece, second only to Mount Athos.
The monasteries are built on spectacular natural sandstone rock pillars, at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Peneios river and Pindus Mountains, in central Greece. The Meteora is home to six monasteries and is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Although it is unknown when Meteora was established, as early as the 11th century CE hermit monks were believed to be living among the caves and cutouts in the rocks. By the late 11th or early 12th century a rudimentary monastic state had formed called the Skete of Stagoi and was centered around the church of Theotokos (mother of God), which still stands today. The hermit monks, seeking a retreat from the expanding Turkish occupation, found the inaccessible rock pillars of Meteora to be an ideal refuge. Although more than 20 monasteries were built, beginning in the 14th century, only six remain today. These six are:
‘Great Meteoron (or Transfiguration), Varlaam, St. Stephen, Holy Trinity, St. Nicholas Anapausas and Rousanou.
In the 1920s, steps were cut into the rock, making the complex accessible via a bridge from the nearby plateau. Of the six monasteries now inhabited, five are male, one female. Each monastery has fewer than 10 inhabitants and is visited by many tourists.