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  GREECE January 2004    
  Talbot Bible Lands Tour

The name Meteora means suspended in the air.  The formation of the crags is believed to have occurred thousands of years ago, when possibly the nomos of Thessali was under the sea.      

No one knows for sure when the first monks came to live and set up their monasteries here, monasticism is believed to have flourished in the area as early as the 9th century.  Most of what we saw was estimated to have been built in the 14th century.  There were once 24 monasteries functioning, but today only 6 are still active.  The one we visited, which has a beautiful church sanctuary with icons depicting many biblical events, and a museum, is the Verlaam monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior or the Great Meteoron.

Meteora rock pillars and the town of Kalambaka

To the west, above the Pineios Valley and the town of Kalambaka, just as the Pindus Range begins to form, stand the incredible cliff-top monasteries of the Meteora. Perched upon bizarre vertical rock formations of up to 984ft high, a total of 24 monasteries, some with beautiful Byzantine frescoes, were founded here. Hundreds of massive crags rise vertically and loom over the town in the western foothills of the Andichasia Mountains, close to the point where the River Pineios leaves the slopes of the Pindus and approaches the western Thessalian plain.

We visited the Verlaam monastery built in the 14th century and subsequently enlarged in the 16th century. There are 12 monks there now. The church is famous for its wood panel paintings. The church itself is representative of the Athonite architectural style (from Mt. Athos). In this style, the church narthex is often larger than the main church. Here the narthex has its own dome. At the top of the dome is a picture of Christ. At each corner is pictured one of the four evangelists. In one of these we see Luke painting a picture of the Virgin Mary. In the tradition of the Orthodox Church, Luke>s portrait of Mary was the very first icon. Tradition says that Luke painted 70 icons and that only 3 remain.

Roadside monument of Leonidas King of Sparta during the battle of Thermopoli 480 B.C against King Xerxes of the Persians, on the way to Meteora from Athens
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Central Greece on the way from Athens to Meteora and the city of Kalambaka
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Meteora from the icon shop below
Meteora when it hasn't snowed*
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Monastery without snow*
Monastery without snow*
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Narrow winding road to the top
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Riding up toward the monastery
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Riding up toward the monastery
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Riding up toward the monastery
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Riding up toward the monastery
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Another monastery below Varlaam
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Riding up toward the monastery
View from the parking area at the monastery
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View from the parking area at the monastery
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View from the parking area at the monastery, with walkway
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View from the walk way
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Outside the Varlaam monastery
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Another view
Meteora view from the top at the Varlaam Monastery
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Meteora view from the top
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Meteora view from the top
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View from the monastery porch
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Fresco icon on the porch
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Varlaam Monastery, the name of the first hermit or ascetic on that column of rock.
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The ceiling of the porch
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Porch inside wall
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Ryan and our guide Caliope at the winch to bring up supplies from below

*Pictures from and some pictures by Daniel Roh

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