January 13, 2013

0466 GREECE (Thessaly) - Meteora (UNESCO WHS)

Even since the dawn of Christianity there were faithful who renounced to the worldly pursuits to fully devote one's self to spiritual work, but individually, not in an organized way. The first lavras appeared on the territory of Byzantine Empire, and Saint Pachomius was the one who organized his followers in what was to become the first Christian cenobitic monastery. The father of monasticism (which come from the greek monachos, derived from monos - alone) was Saint Basil the Great, bishop of Caesarea, who established the first rules for monastic communities, the Rule of Saint Basil.

It isn't known exactly when the monasticism appeared in the area later called Meteora, but hermits were already there in the 2nd century. Meteora is a unique place, almost inconceivable, consisting of almost a thousand natural stone towers, like an immense forest of stone that rises abruptly from the plain of Thessaly (in the middle of northern Greece), some of them to nearly 600 metres hight from the plain. In the 9th century, a group of hermits moved up to the pinnacles, living in superficial recesses in the vertical walls of rock, just enough to fit one person, possibly with a wooden narrow foothold in front of them, not to fall out. Some of them didn't descend from there whole months.

On the late 11th century was founded the Skete of Stagoi, which received privileges since the 14lea century from the Serbians kings, who then owned Thessaly. In 1344, Athanasios Koinovitis from Mount Athos brought a group of followers there, and founded a monastery on Platilithos (Broad Rock), between1356 and 1372. He called that rock Meteora (that in Greek means "middle of the sky", "suspended in the air" or "in the heavens above"), and the monastery Great Meteoron. The monks had complete control of the entry to the monastery, the only means of reaching there being a long ladder, which was drawn up whenever the monks felt threatened. The same system was preserved in all monasteries built thereafter, until the 17th century the primary means of conveying goods and people from these eyries was by means of large nets, baskets and ropes, which were replaced, so the story goes, only "when the Lord let them break".

More than 20 monasteries were built, especially after the Ottomans conquered Greece, six remaining until today, four inhabited by men, and two by women. One of the ones inhabited by nuns is the one from the image, the Holy Monastery of Rousanou / Saint Barbara founded, according to tradition, in 1288 by the monks Nicodim and Benedict. It is certain that 165 years later it was restored, functioning as a cenobitic monastery by the care of the monks Maxim and Josaphat, who came from Ioannina in 1545. Monastery church, i.e. the central nave, is dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ. In terms of architecture is a Byzantine style church with towers.

In 2000 I had the joy of visiting this complex of monasteries, which simply left me breathless. It's undoubtedly the most impressive sight that I ever admired. Above you can see the entrance ticket from then, found now, after nearly 13 years, in a book bought there, which I leafed it to refresh my memory. The Meteora was included in 1988 on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

About the stamps
The first stamp, showing a paper boat, is one of the two of the series Greek Islands - Personal Stamps, about which I wrote here.

The second, depicting Anemonia viridis (0.05€), is part of the definitive set Riches of the Greek seas, about which I also wrote here.

The third and the fourth are part of the series Games of the old neighborhood, issued on April 18, 2012 and comprising six stamps (you can see them here), of which I have three:
• ball (0.02€) - it's on the postcard
• scooter (0.10€) - it's on the postcard
• jumping rope (0.35€) - it's on other postcard
• hopscotch (3.00€)
• whirligig (2.00€)
• beads

The last stamps are for Sunday Stamps #104, run by Viridian from Viridian’s Postcard Blog. The theme of this week is Beginnings and I think that childhood and the games  fit with the theme. Click on the button to visit Viridian’s blog and all the other participants.

Meteora - Wikipedia
Cenobitic monasticism - Wikipedia
Meteora, by Theoharis M. Provatakis, Ed. Michalis Toubis, Atena, 2000

sender: Milda Kriukaite (direct swap)
sent from Piraeus (Greece), on 30.11.2012


  1. This place is just amazing. No wonder it is on the UNESCO list. thank you for sharing it with us, and sharing the stamps too.

  2. I almost forgot to look at the stamps as I was so interested in what you have written. Children and theur playthings are ideal for the theme.

  3. Monasticism seems like a complicated subject.

    I really like the games stamps.

  4. What a wonderful place and postcard. How lucky to have been able to visit. I love the stamps too - they are a great way to interpret the theme.