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The first footprints of monasticism in Meteora are lost in the past time and surrounded by legends and myths.
In the Byzantine and post-Byzantine years, it seems that the first hermits was climbed like eagles in their nests, inside the caves of the rocks. A total of 24 monasteries were the monastic community of Meteora in the late 16th century. They flourished particularly when they were first built and later when they were renovated and completed. For years with the historic changes that occurred in Greece, most of the monasteries were depopulated and were deserted. Nowadays, after their restoration and renovation, apart from the 6 monasteries that are in operation, some old monasteries, deserted monks’ cells and hidden small temples have been preserved also. In all these hidden gems it is worth a visit, through beautiful paths, trekking and climbing routes.
Hermitage of Doupiani
The Hermitage of Doupiani or “Stagon” was the first monastic community that operated at Meteora in the 11th century. The small Byzantine church dedicated to Virgin Mary which is located just below the monastery of Saint Nicholas Anapafsas. In the skete of the Stagon the hermits who lived in the surrounding caves,were gathered and prayed all together each Sunday. Also the skete was the public worship center called “Kiriako” [in Greek = Kiriaki = Sunday] or “Protato”, from the “First” [in Greek = protos] as called the Abbot of the monastery.
Today the little church of Virgin Mary is preserved with its excellent full-length murals of Jesus and Mary, which kept in good condition. It is worth visiting, as it is located on the road that climbs to Meteora.
Monastery of Ypapanti
The Monastery of Ypapanti (the Candlemas of Jesus) was founded in 1367 by the monk Hosios Neilos and the monk Kyprianos and is built at a height of 70 meters from the ground, into the cave in a cliff, just a short distance from the monastery of Great Meteoron in which it belongs. The monastery was renovated in 1765 by the national hero Papathymio Vlachava and it abandoned in 1809, when it destroyed by the Turkish soldiers . The restored Church of the monastery, dedicated to the Candlemas of Christ, has remarkable hagiographies of the 17th century, which are preserved in very good condition. The monastery today has been renovated but it remains uninhabited.
Monastery of Saint Nicholas Badovas
The Monastery of Saint Nicholas “Badovas” or “Kofinas” was founded in the 14th century in place of an old hermitage and is located on the edge of Meteora, in the canyon that separates the Kastraki from Kalampaka, inside the cave in a steep cliff. It was renovated in 1893 by Eugenia the first woman nun. The monastery renovated and structured into six levels, at a height of 50 meters from the ground. In the temple that is located on the 5th floor there are superb murals of the 18th century and remarkable ecclesiastical heirlooms. Today the monastery has been renovated, but remains uninhabited. It is worth to follow the path that leads to the monastery and admire also the hermitage of Saint Gregory the Theologian, and the hermitage of Saint Anthony in the same canyon.
Monastery of Saint George of Mandilas
The Monastery of Saint George of Mandilas is located outside of Kastraki, opposite of the Doupiani rock and on the rock of the Holy Spirit. It was probably built in 1367 by the monk Neilos. Today is preserved only a small carved temple in the cave of the rock, at a height of 30 meters from the ground. Furthermore, in the church there are wall-paintings with representations of Christ and St. George. The name “Mandillas” took it from the custom of faithfuls to hang on the gray rock colored scarves, symbolizing strength and health. According to legend, a Muslim woman prayed to the Saint to heal her husband, who injured his hand, when he cut trees in the forest. When the Saint made his miracle, then the woman climbed up to the monastery and offered him the scarf as a gift. Since then every year on the St. George’s Day, young people climb with ropes in the cave and change the scarves with new ones, while the old ones take them for amulet. Access to the Monastery is really difficult and need knowledge of climbing.
Rock of Aghio Pnevma
The rock of Aghio Pnevma or Holy Spirit or Tower of Stagoi is the oldest monastery of Meteora and is located above Kastraki, on the plateau of the rock, at an altitude of 300 meters. It was founded in 950-970 by Varnavas, the first hesychast of Meteora. In the impressive skete of the Holy Spirit survives a small temple carved in the rock and some ruined cells. However, it is noteworthy that the formation of the small temple and separating the sanctuary from nave, are all hand-carved by a shepherd in the region. Furthermore, the view from the top of the rock of the Holy Spirit, where the belfry and the cross are, is amazing and rewards the visitor, who needs more than an hour of hiking to get there.
Ruins of Monastery of Ypsiloteras or Calligraphists
The Monastery of Ypsiloteras or Calligraphists was built in 1347 on the top of a vertical rock, at a height of 100 meters from the ground, near the Great Meteoron, moreover it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. At the end of the 14th century and the beginning of the 15th century, a workshop of reproduction and calligraphy of manuscripts and ecclesiastical codes was operated, therefore took the name Calligraphists. Today only a few ruins remain.