The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron is considered to have been the beginning of organized monasticism on Meteora. The monastery of the Transfiguration of the Christ has come to be called “Great Meteoron”, not only because of the size of its buildings, but also because of its spiritual reputation and its primacy it held among the other monasteries on Meteora in the mid-16th century.
Great Meteoron is currently the largest of the existing monasteries on Meteora. It is perched on a tall and imposing rock 613 m. above sea level and 416 m. from the bed of the river Peneus.
The Athonite monk Saint Athanasius initially led an ascetic life for ten years on a rock called “the Pillar of Stagae”. He was the first to live on the “Wide Stone” along with a fellowship of fourteen monks.
They carved out holes in the cliff, thrusted beams, raised scaffolding and managed to get on a place, where until then only birds could reach: the top of the rock.
There, between earth and heaven, on the edge of a vertical precipice, St. Athanasius the Meteorite built the monastery around 1340 AD and organized the first systematic monastic community on Meteora. He built a church dedicated to the Theotokos (Our Lady of the Meteoron Stone).
Later on, he built another church in honor of our Trasfigurated Savior Jesus Christ, which became the main church (the Catholicon) of the monastery and gave it the name of the “Transfiguration”, which it holds till today.
Second founder of the monastery and continuer of St. Athanasius’s work was his disciple and former Serbian prince John Uroš Ducas Palaeologus, who had become a monk and came to be known as Saint Joasaph. In 1388 he built a new Catholicon in the place of the church St. Athanasius had built.
In times past, the monastery was accessed by the use of rope ladders and since 1520 the Tower, i.e. a block and tackle with a net at its end that is still in use today to carry things or, sometimes, elderly pilgrims. This was until 1923.
Nowadays, the ascent is by a staircase of about 146 sloping and irregular stairs that lead to the entrance of the monastery.
The first small building that we face οn the rock, on the left of the staircase is the hermitage of Great Meteoron’s founder. Entering through the main entrance, we can see on the right the old winch.
The view on the base of the cliff is breathtaking. Climbing the stairs, we can see the sacristy, the old cook’s and the cellar.