The surprising accessibility to the Holy Monastery of Roussanou standing atop the standstone cliffs of Meteora, Greece, calls for a visit. By Tanvi Jain
Few kilometres from Greece’s Kalambaka town, lie the rocks of Meteora rising from the plains of Thessaly. The famous monasteries of Meteora came into existence in the 14th and 17th centuries, by the monks who had come here to seek solitude. Standing atop sandstone cliffs, these Greek Orthodox sanctuaries comprise of monastic cells.
One such is The Holy Monastery of Roussanou, also called St Barbara. It got its name from the first monk who had settled on the rock of Meteora. While its first cathedral was built in the 16th century, it was decorated 30 years later by a monk who lived here.
It is home to 16 nuns and also holds relics of Saint Barbara, popular in medieval times. Earlier, the only way to reach this monastery was either by climbing ladders or by being airlifted in a net basket. However, now, it has become comparatively easier to access the monastery, with the help of new tunnels and steep roads, and staircases. There are also guided tours available for a better understanding of its history.
Inside this beautiful monastery are the Byzantine frescoes that fill the chapel, along with illustrations of planets, peacocks, and seraphim. The ostrich eggs have been displayed as symbols of kingship, resurrection, and safekeeping.
The monastery with comparatively better accessibility due to its lower elevation had suffered severe damage during World War 2, and became a convent in 1988. The wall-paintings of the monastery’s Catholicon were executed in 1560.
While taking a stroll in the monastery garden that lies just a small bridge away, one can also see eagles, falcons, and some rare vultures. Near the monastery lie 16 hermetic caves, and the oldest Great Meteoron Monastery, which is home to skulls of monks who once lived there; some vibrant paintings, and a 14th century bread oven.
It takes approximately four hours from Athens by a car, and 200 steps to reach Roussanou monastery.