On a camping trip through northern Greece a few years back with some Italian friends, we happened upon a world heritage site that I had remembered seeing in the 1981 James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only” – the monasteries of the Metéora.
While evidence suggests that humans inhabited nearby caves as many as 50,000 years ago, it is believed that as early as the ninth century monks began building monasteries on the top of natural rock towers at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains, in central Greece. Today, six of these monasteries can still be seen. The rock towers reach an altitude of 550 meters [1800 feet] and the vertical nature of the towers provided a natural defense for the monks.
The exact date of the creation of the monasteries is not known. However, by the end of the twelfth century, is known that an ascetic community had flocked to Metéora.
The great Metéora monastery on Broad Rock was founded in the late fourteenth century, which provided the monks a much-needed refuge from the political chaos of the time, as the only means of reaching the monastery was by climbing a long ladder, which was drawn up whenever the monks were threatened. Toward the end of the 14th century, Byzantine rule was being threatened by the Turks, and no less than fourteen monasteries flourished. Of these, six remain.
Today a UNESCO world heritage site, the Metéora with their Byzantine architecture have been characterized has characterized as “a monument of Humanity that has to be maintained.”
So whether you are an archaeology buff, a religious historian, or a James Bond fan, this site is one not to be missed.