Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Holy Monastery of Varlaam

The Holy Monastery of Varlaam is the second largest monastery in the Metéora complex. A church dedicated to All Saints is in the Athonite type (cross-in-square with dome and choirs) with spacious esonarthex (lite) surrounded by a dome. It was built in 1541/42 and decorated in 1548, while the esonarthex was decorated in 1566. The old refectory is used as a museum while at north of the church there is the parekklesion of the Three Bishops built in 1627 and decorated in 1637.

The Varlaam Monastery was built by Saint Nectarios of Aegina and Theophanes. Access to the monastery was originally difficult, and it was deliberately built so, requiring either long ladders put together or large nets used to haul up both goods and people. Climbing up required quite a leap of faith; the ropes were replaced, so the story goes, only when the Lord let them break. In the words of UNESCO, "The net in which intrepid pilgrims were hoisted up vertically alongside the 373 meters (1,220 ft) cliff where the Varlaam monastery dominates the valley symbolizes the fragility of a traditional way of life that is threatened with extinction."

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