Sitting atop towering sandstone rock pillars there's a cluster of medieval Eastern Orthodox monasteries rising 400 m above the Peneas valley and the small town of Kalambaka on the Thessalian plain.
Meteora translates from Greek to "suspended in air" or "middle of the sky" and originally you could only gain access by being pulled up in a hanging net or basket or by climbing flimsy rope ladders. According to legend, one monastery founder was carried to the top of the mountain peaks on the back of an eagle.
From the 11th century on, the region's caves sheltered hermitic monks, but by the 14th century the orthodox monks were constructing elaborate stone and terracotta buildings, safe from marauding raiders below. During the 18th and 19th century, the monasteries were secure hideouts, housing not just persecuted monks but also guerrilla fighters called klephts who fought for Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire.
Today, of the 24 original monasteries, only six are active. In the 1920s steps were cut into the rock, making the complex accessible via a bridge from the nearby plateau.
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