Meteora is one of the most stunningly beautiful and other-worldly places on earth. Over a millennium ago, monks traveled throughout Greece in search of a place where they could get away from it all. Ultimately, six monasteries were established there, all but one perched atop stone pillars rising hundreds of feet above the plain below.

 Metéora (Greek: Μετέωρα, ‘suspended rocks,’ ‘suspended in the air’ or ‘in the heavens above’) is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, second only to Mount Athos. The six monasteries are built on natural sandstone rock pillars, at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains, in central Greece. The nearest town is Kalambaka. The Metéora is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

OK, I confess. The previous paragraph is lifted verbatim out of Wikipedia. But it’s a decent geographical description of the place. Photographs do not do this site justice, but below are a couple that at least give you a glimpse of what these natural monuments are like.

One of the smaller monasteries of Meteora

Of the six monasteries that still exist, five are inhabited by men, one by women. The largest monastery, Metamorphosis, is the one that most pilgrims visit. It has an eerie ‘skull room’ where many of the former residents still find their abode—at least, in part.

Skull room at Metamorphosis

One of the great ironies of Meteora is that the monks who came here centuries ago sought an ascetic life, away from people. Now, the monasteries have become a tourist attraction, and the town of Kalambaka below the pillars that reach as high as 1400 feet above has grown up to accommodate visitors. There are plenty of hotels, coffee shops, restaurants, trinket-shops. Meteora has become exactly what the original monks did not want.

Stone pillars of Meteora from the town below

This was my third trip to Meteora, but my first visit to the Monastery of St. Stephen. This is the only monastery inhabited by nuns.

There are dozens of Greek New Testament manuscripts in Meteora, most being at Metamorphosis. The Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung (INTF) in Münster, Germany has catalogued these. There are 45 at Metamorphosis, 9 at Barlaam, and 9 at Stephanou (total: 63).

Of the nine NT manuscripts at the Monastery of St. Stephen (Stephanou) that INTF has catalogued, the earliest is from the 11th century. A four-man team from the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts visited the monastery in May, 2010. In our visit, we came across two others, prominently displayed in their museum. See the detailed report, “Uncatalogued MSS at Stephanou, Meteora” posted at, for information on these manuscripts.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    11 replies to "Stairway to Heaven"

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      Good question! I have no idea.

    • cherylu

      Some very interesting places. That skull room would give me “the creeps” big time though, I’m thinking.

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      So, my guess is that you don’t carry a human skull around with you–like St. Jerome did? (:-)

    • cherylu

      Nope, sure don’t!

    • Lucian

      The monks never turned the pious pilgrims away (Hebrews 13:2). Your understanding of monasticism is not really correct. (Which is perfectly fine and completely understandable). They fled from “the world”, they didn’t run away from people.

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      Lucian, thank you very much for this correction. Where can I read more about this?

      At the same time, your viewpoint doesn’t seem to jive with Mt. Athos and its 22 monasteries. Only four visitors allowed on the peninsula a DAY? And no women allowed for over a millennium. Yet, Mt. Athos is viewed as the pinnacle of Greek monasticism, as I have heard many monks admit. If it is the template for the monastic life, then perhaps my understanding of Meteora is not that far off after all?

    • Lucian

      I’m not saying that they put up bilboards and signs, and distribute fliers, or give directions. All I’m saying is that they don’t turn away pilgrims and visitors.

      Athos is in a poor state, and they don’t take more people in than they can handle, but they do treat all visitors, as few as they are, with love and kindness. (The reason they chose not to let any women there is obvious).

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      Good point. My experience with the Orthodox is that they are very kind to visitors.

    • Lucian

      There is a certain Eastern hospitality, that’s true. But peoples of Romanic (Latin) heritage also very hospitable. And since Romanians are both, they’re THE most hospitable. (Except when they’re not… 😀 )

    • Sandra Vannoordt

      I recently went to St Stephen’s Holy Monastery at Meteora. I was very taken by a picture painted on the wall depicting a ladder to heaven, people climbing up and some falling off into the mouth of the devil. I really want to get a copy of this – does anyone have one or know anything about it.

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