Friday, April 01, 2011

From Delphi to the high monasteries of Meteora

Our hotel in Delphi was in the quaint town and a block away from the Corinthian Sea and many took advantage of the setting and walked along the lovely promenade.  At dinner we celebrated the 22nd wedding anniversary of St. Paul's members Carol and Andy Hays.

The next morning, it was up and out for the three hour drive to Kalambaka and the high monasteries of Meteora.  The drive was along incredibly beautiful mountain roads offering views that reminded me of Tuscany.  When we arrived at Meteora, we had lunch at a cafeteria located below the monasteries and then took the winding roads up. Meteora means "suspended rocks" (think "meteor").   Of course, the monasteries have little to do with St. Paul and came well after him.  Sometime around the 9th century, hermit monks began to occupy the caves and fissures in the rock sides.  In the 14th century, during a time when Turkish raiders threatened daily life, the monks began to build monasteries, at one time there were more than twenty.

 Today, six monasteries occupy sites perched atop the Meteora rocks.   We took the 150 step climb up from the bus parking lot and visited the monastery of Varlaam built by Sts. Nectarios and Theophanes in 1517.  Our guide Sophia provided us with an outstanding lecture not only about the monasteries, but about the Byszantine style church and the iconographic scheme that marks this style. Beyond this, her personal love and understanding of her Greek Orthodox faith shone through and moved us all. (Sorry, but we were not able to take pictures inside the churches).

We were shown the "basket" that is used to get goods, and sometimes people, up and down the rock.  After Varlaam, we took a short winding drive to St. Stephens, now a convent.  In their church, new icons are being written in the same style as the old Byzantine and they are beautiful.

After visiting the monasteries, the coach took us to our hotel, the Divani, in Kalambaka at the foot of the Meteora Rocks.  Sophia recommended a book, The Lost Throne by Chris Kuznekc, a murder mystery set in Meteora which Susan uploaded to her Kindle and began to read as she looked out our windows at the monastery up above.  

The Holy Monastery of Varlaam

The Monastery of the Holy Trinity

A beautiful fresco of the beardless Christ in heaven in a courtyard at Varlaam

The skirts are not a fashion statement, they were provided to the women by the monastery and required for entry


Anonymous said...

What fabulous places! I'm envious of your wonderful trip, Chip. You've been there before -- how did you set it all up? Would love to do something like this some day. Safe journeys and traveling mercies! -Susan Williams

Chipblog said...

Hi Susan, send me an e-mail at and I'll let you know who I use.