Location and Values: Meteora is a ‘mixed’ site located in north-central Greece where a number of spectacular ancient monasteries are perched on seemingly inaccessible pinnacles of rock. Meteora means literally ‘rocks in the air’, and it is perhaps not surprising that this awe-inspiring place should become a religious centre. The massive sandstone cliffs, towers, pinnacles and domes that provide the natural setting for monastic life are the product of coastal erosion by a prehistoric sea that covered the plain of Thessaly 30 million years ago. The earliest religious communities appeared in the late tenth century when groups of hermits made their homes in some of the natural rock caves, but it was not until the sixteenth century that Meteora reached its zenith, with 24 monasteries and hermitages established. The 16th-century frescoes and other religious art are of particular significance in the development of post-Byzantine painting. Today, six of the monasteries are still occupied, and an unusual (seventh) one, clinging to the side of a cliff, has been restored and can be visited.
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2017) the conservation status of the Meteora is ‘good, with some concerns’. The IUCN report notes that, while the site is not at serious risk the protection of its natural values would benefit from a more integrated approach to management, with greater emphasis on the linkages between natural and cultural attributes. The report also acknowledges the effects of recent financial austerity in Greece as a serious concern that limits conservation efforts.
UNESCO Official Website
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description