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Holy Monastery of Agios Stefanos

At the southeastern end of the meteorite cluster of rocks is the female monastic community (since 1961 AD) of the Holy Monastery of Agios Stefanos. The time of its foundation is lost in the mist of tradition with testimonies from pilgrims from different eras who affirm that they saw at the outer entrance of the rock, an inscription with the name Jeremiah engraved and the date 6700 from the creation of the world, i.e. 1191-1192 AD . The inscription has been lost and it is probably a hermit who lived in a cave in the rock. There are 2 known founders of the monastery, the first being Archimandrite Osios Antonios in the 15th century. AD who had a royal origin, being the son of a Serbian ruler and a woman who came from the Kantakouzen family. The second founder is Osios Philotheos who, in the middle of the 16th century AD, again built from the ground up the old catholicon of the monastery, the church of Agios Stefanos.

The monastery enjoyed the high protection of nobles of Byzantium, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Transdanubian hegemonies. It was a Danube hegemony and specifically a Romanian house that in 1798 AD, the year of the construction of the present imposing catholicon in honor of Agios Charalambos by the Bishop of Stagon Paisios of Kleinovitis, donated to the monastery the cart of Agios Charalambos which is kept there as a sacred treasure . We observe great building and intellectual activity during the 19th century. AD when father Constantios was abbot of the monastery. Then in 1961 AD the monastery was converted into a nunnery with the nuns, who found the monastery almost in ruins, under difficult conditions and by making great physical and spiritual efforts, they managed to organize the monastery communally and give it a bright future. As we mentioned above, the old Catholic church of Agios Stefanos, from which the monastery took its name, is a single-aisled church and was painted in 1545 AD. It is an important post-Byzantine ensemble and the depictions of the Platytera of the Heavens and the Divine Ascension stand out. In the main church we find equally important hagiographies and in the narthex we can see the performances of the founders of the monastery. The temple suffered great damage during the Second World War which resulted in the destruction of the faces and eyes of the Saints. Today's catholicon, dedicated to Agios Charalambos, follows the saintly type, being a four-column cruciform church and in which the visitor can admire the wood-carved iconostasis, the despotic throne and the impressive shrines. The roof of the church was destroyed by German shells during the Second World War and so in 1972 AD we have the general restoration of the church. Its walls were not covered by frescoes and this work was undertaken by the acclaimed icon painter Vlassios Tsotsonis who creatively follows the standards and tradition of the Cretan School.

The monastery was famous for the great wealth of its relics, since, apart from its own, it hosted and kept the relics of other monasteries over the centuries. The monastery houses 154 manuscripts dating from the 11th to the 19th century. A.D. Worth mentioning is the old bank which has been converted into a museum, the kitchen, the guest house as well as multipurpose rooms. Be sure to admire the portable post-Byzantine icons, gold-embroidered robes and goldsmithing.

The monastery is the most easily accessible of Meteora and is reached via a descending road that leads to a solid bridge that connects the rock of the monastery with the rest of the meteoric world.

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