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Greece travel: Meteora Monasteries Page 3

st. stephan moni 16CTheir decline was well advanced by the 18th century, refledting the general decline in monasticism all over Greece, and due also to disintegrating buildings which had not been built to withstand long occupation and weathering.

An additional factor was the depopulation of the monasteries with the establishment of the new Greek nation to the south. As Thessaly was not included within the boundaries of the new state (becoming a part of it only in 1878), the position of the monasteries as a center of Greek nationalism and resistance to Turkish rule became something of the past.

After the 'Katastrofi' (Catastrophe) of 1922, with the compulsory exchange of Christian and Moslem populations, some monastic lands were appropriated by the Greek government for the settlement of the numerous Asia Minor refugees pouring into Greece, and by the 1950s only five active monasteries remained, with a handful of monks maintaining them. Additionally, and unfortunately, despite a revival of interest in living there among young monks of a few decades ago, tourism, helped along by films that used Meteora as a setting, eliminated any chance of the rebirth of flourishing monastic communites in this very unique site, though two monasteries continue as religious communities: Aghias Triadhos and Aghiou Stefanou. The JAMES BOND movie FOR YOUR EYES ONLY was filmed there.

Great MeteoraThe Great Meteoron, which is built on a rock named 'Platis Lithos' (Broad Rock), had its privileges guaranteed in 1362 by the Serbian emporer and his son, who became the resident monk Ioasaph, who paid to reconstruct the Katholikon in 1387-88. His apse and sanctuary, decorated with painting during the last years of the 15th century, form the eastern extension of the existing church, which was enlarged after an earthquake in 1544, built in the form of a Greek cross with a dome set on a drum.

On the north side of the church is the Refectory, built 1577, with a vaulted roof supported by five pillars. The monastery is looked after by a few monks of the order of St Basil (Vasil) and houses a fine collection of 9th century manuscripts and ikons, which are displayed in the old refectory.

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