At the edge of a steep cliff there lies the historic convent of St. Stephen of Meteora, known for St. Charalampus’s sacred skull being kept here.
Founders of the Monastery are said to have been Saint Anthony who lived in the early 15th century and Saint Philotheos who lived in the 16th century.
The monastery during its long historic route got relief and protection from the aristocratic houses of the Byzantine Empire and the rulers of the Danubian countries. In 1398 the Prince of Wallachia Vladislav donated a priceless treasure to the monastery: the skull of St. Charalampus, who became the second patron saint of the monastery.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate recognized the contribution of this historic monastery to Orthodoxy by subordinating it directly to the Holy Council of the Patriarchate rather than to the local bishop (a privilege known as Stauropegion); this is why the monastery is called “Stauropegic” and since it received the high assistance and protection of regal houses, it was also given the title “Royal”.
The monastery is known for its great offer to the national struggles of Greeks, especially during the period of the Greek Struggle for Macedonia, when it served as the headquarters and hideout of the Greek fighters. During the Axis occupation of Greece, the monastery was bombardised (1943), St. Charalampus’s church was destroyed and St. Stephen’s abbot was arrested and imprisoned.
In 1961 the monastery was turned into a convent and a new sorority was installed. The difficulties they faced were great and the living conditions were particularly harsh.
The Monastery is the most easily accessible of the entire monastic complex of the Holy Meteora. The visitor entering the courtyard of the monastery faces the entrance of the new Athonite style Catholicon, which is dedicated to Saint Charalampus and was built in 1798 by Abbot Ambrose.
Nowadays, the old refectory has become a standard modern museum, where the most remarkable relics of the monastery are exhibited (manuscripts, Byzantine icons, embroidered vestments, textiles, woodwork, ornate silverware, etc.).
The monastery celebrates on January 17, the feastday of its Saints founders, on December 27, the memory of the First Martyr and Archdeacon Stephen, and on February 10, St. Charalampus’s feastday.