Church of Metamorphosis

If you are looking to visit a stunning Greek monastery perched high atop a scenic rock mountain, then pack up your bags in Greece and head to Meteora. Meteora is part of the Thessaly region, closest to the town of Kalampaka and the village of Kastraki. Meteora is an utterly astounding conglomeration of rocks that rise out of the earth to form pinnacles in the sky. It is an area that has to be seen to do it justice, and it will undoubtedly leave a firm impression on all visitors. Atop the rocks at Meteora, visitors will find ancient Greek churches dating back hundreds of years that form a community of monasteries. Among the surviving monasteries is the Church of Metamorphisis, also known as Megalo Meteoro, or Transfiguration. It is the best known Greece monastery in this community, and sits highest of them all. The largest as well, the Church of Metamorphisis is the main museum in Meteora. Many of the land tours in Greece make a stop at Meteora, or you can find it by bus or rail from both Athens and Thessaloniki.

The famous Meteora rocks rise at the edge of Greece's Pindus Mountains. Dating back around the 10th century, the area began to see visitors in the way of hermits seeking solitude. As the Byzantine Empire began its decline, groups of monks would seek refuge among the rocks from the imposing Turkish powers. By the 12th century, monks had established a small church at the base of the rocks and from there maintained the customs of the Greek Orthodox religion. When Turkish forces began to move towards Meteora, the monks were forced higher up and began to build their monasteries atop the high rock outcroppings. The Metamorphisis Greece monastery was among the 24 monasteries that eventually comprised the community by the 15th century.

The Church of Metamorphisis, or Megalo Meteoro, is known as being the first church of the Transfiguration. The terms, Tranfiguration and Metamorphisis, refer to the event where Jesus first learned of his identity as the son of God. According to the story, Jesus was atop a mountain, where he became radiant and spoke with Moses and Elijah. He would hear the voice of God, and for the first time be referred to by God as "Son". The Metamorphisis refers to the change that Jesus went through during the Transfiguration.

The Metamorphisis Greece monastery was first built in the 14th century BC, by the founder Athanasios the Meteorite. Athanasios is still revered as an important figure throughout the Orthodox monasticism. Work on the church began in the second half of the 1300's, and after Athanasios the Meteorite passed away, work on the original church was finished under the Monk loasaph. Loasaph was originally a Serbian emperor named Symeon Uros, and he would transfer his wealth into the church as the next owner. As a result, the Metamorphisis Greece monastery became one of the richest and most influential monasteries of its time. In 1544, the Metamorphisis Greece church was renovated and it would be expanded at times throughout the years. Over time, the monasteries would be looted and damaged by invading factions and the course of wars. However, 6 of the original monasteries survive today, and there are still practicing monks and nuns who live and worship in them.

The Church of the Metamorphisis is the main museum house for the remaining monasteries, and inside it you will find artifacts and relics from its past. Due to its initial wealth, the Metamorphisis Greece monastery has beautiful wall paintings and some of the best representations of Mural Art from the post-Byzantine era. Among the paintings found there are frescos by the artist Theophanis that depict the Roman persecution of Christians. During the summer, this popular Greece monastery can fill-up with other tourists, making the off-season the best time to visit. The museum at the Church of Metamorphisis monastery is typically closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and open from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3 p.m.-6 p.m. every other day. The entrance fees are minimal at under $5, but remember the dress code before you go. Pants are required to enter, and sleeveless shirts are prohibited. Girls can wear skirts that go below the knee.

For those who have a particular interest in the churches and monasteries in Greece, there are some other interesting places you may consider heading to. Athens, of course is full of churches, seemingly one on every corner. Two of the smaller churches found in Athens are Kapnikarea and Agios Eleftherios, both located in the Plaka neighborhood. They are both Byzantine relics that have well withstood the test of time. Another interesting place to find some unique churches in Greece is the village of Pyrgos on the island of Santorini. There are 33 churches in this gorgeous whitewashed village, and just outside the village the Monastery of Profitis Ilias sits perched atop the highest point on the whole island.

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