1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Meteora

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

METEORA, a group of monasteries in Thessaly, in the northern side of the Peneius valley, not quite 20 m. N .E. of Trikkala, and near the village of Kalabaka (the ancient Aeginium, medieval Stagus or Stagoi). From the Cambunian chain two masses of rock are thrust southward into the plain, surmounted by isolated columns from 85 to 300 ft. high, “ some like gigantic tusks, some like sugar-loaves, and some like vast stalagmites,” but all consisting of iron-grey or reddish brown conglomerate of gneiss, mica-slate, syenite and greenstone. The monasteries stand on the summit of these pinnacles; they are accessible only by aid of rope and net worked by a windlass from the top, or by a series of almost perpendicular ladders climbing the cliff. In the case of St Stephen's, the peak on which it is built does nor rise higher than the ground behind, from which it is separated by a deep, narrow chasm, spanned by a drawbridge. Owing to the confined area, the buildings are closely packed together; but each monastery contains beside the monks' cells and water-cisterns, at least one church and a refectory, and some also a library. At one time they were fourteen in number, but now not more than four (the Great Monastery, Holy Trinity, St Barlaam's and St Stephen's) are inhabited by more than two or three monks. The present church of the Great Monastery was erected, according to Leake's reading of the local inscription, in 1388 (Björnståhl, the Swedish traveller, had given 1371), and it is one of the largest and handsomest in Greece. A number of the manuscripts from these monasteries have now been brought to the National Library at Athens. Aeginium is described by Livy as a strong place, and is frequently mentioned during the Roman wars; and Stagus appears from time to time in Byzantine writers.

See W. M. Leake, Northern Greece (4 vols., London, 1835); Professor Kriegk in Zeitschr. f. allg. Erdk. (Berlin, 1858); H. F. Tozer, Researches in the Highlands of Turkey (1869); L. Heuzey and H. Daumet, Mission archéologique de Macédoine (Paris, 1876), where there is a map of the monasteries and their surroundings; Guide-Joanne; Grèce, vol. ii. (Paris, 1891).