The wild and inaccessible landscape was a suitable place for the Christian ascetics who settled in the area at a time that is not exactly known. According to various opinions of Byzantine scholars, it is claimed that the settlement started before the 11th century. Other historical information, however, mention Barnabas as the first ascetic to settle, who in 950-970 founded the very old Hermitage of Holy Spirit. The foundation of the Transfiguration in 1020 by the Cretan monk Andronicus and the Skete Stagon or Doupiani in 1160, followed. 200 years later, the ascetic Varlaam founded the Monastery of the Three Hierarchs and of All Saints. Later on, unknown priests built the Monasteries of: Holy Trinity, Saint Stephen, Ypapanti, Roussano or Arsano, Saint George Mandila, Virgin Mary of Micani, Saint Theodore, Saint Nicholas of Bandova, Holy Apostles, Saint Gregory, Saint Anthony, Pantocrator, Ipsilotera or Calligraphon, Modestos, Alyseos, Apostolos Petros, Saint Dimitrios, Kallistratos, Taxiarchon and Ioannou Bounilas.

In the 16th century, at their zenith, there were 24 monasteries in Meteora, which were created to serve monks and nuns following the teaching of the Orthodox Church. Today 6 of them are still in operation, which have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, since 1988. They are situated on the tops of high rocks and are now accessible by stairs and paths carved into the rocks. Of the six monasteries that operate, the Holy Monastery of Saint Stephen and the Holy Monastery of Roussano are inhabited by nuns, while the rest of them are inhabited by monks. The total population of the monasteries of Meteora in 2015 was 56, consisting of 15 monks in four monasteries and 41 nuns in two monasteries. All 6 monasteries today can be visited and are consisted of the following:

The Holy Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior, also known as Great Meteoron, is a male monastery located at the highest point of Meteora, at an altitude of 534 meters. It was founded in the 14th century by Saint Athanasios of Meteora and was particularly prosperous in the middle of the 16th century, as it was the subject of restoration and beautification works in 1483 and 1552. The monastery is located at the top of the hill Platis Lithos and you can have access to it via stairs. The monastery operated as a hermitage by Saint Athanasios of Meteora in the first half of the 14th century. Athanasios built a church dedicated to Virgin Mary, which became known as the Virgin Mary of Meteorite Petra, and organized a monastic community in the form of a religious community. In 1544/5 a new katholikon was built, dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Savior, on the initiative of the abbot Symeon, incorporating the previous one as a sacred step. The tower was built during the same period and the nursing home in 1572. New cells were constructed, in 1806. Near the entrance of the monastery the tower of the brizoni is found, which housed the net mechanism, and the monastery’s cellar (vagenario), which today operates as a museum with objects of daily use. Then there is the hearth, the dining room and the hospital. In the eastern you can see the nursing home and on the right the katholikon. Next to the holy step you will see the vaulted chapel of Timios Prodromos and in the southwest the one-room chapel of Saints Constantine and Helen, which was built in 1789.

The Holy Monastery of Varlaam or Holy Monastery of All Saints was created in the early 16th century, but it was named after the ascetic Varlaam, who settled on the rock in the 14th century. It is known for the important file it maintains. The monastery was organized by the brothers Nectarios and Theofanis, the so-called Apsarades from Epirus, at the beginning of the 16th century. In 1518, they renovated the chapel of the Three Hierarchs, which was built by Varlaam and in 1536 the brizoni tower was built. The monastery experienced economic growth and spiritual prosperity. The katholikon of the monastery, dedicated to All Saints, is a cruciform inscribed church based on the Athonite type and dates back to 1541. Its hagiography was done in three phases. The earliest hagiographies were made by Fragkos Katelanos in 1548. The second phase dates from 1566 and is the work of the hagiographers Georgios and Fragos Kontaris. The most recent hagiographies date from 1780 and 1782, according to a founding inscription, but they were probably small-scale interventions. In the Northwest of the katholikon there is the altar which houses heirlooms, the chapel of the Three Hierarchs, a one-room wooden-roofed church, the hearth, the cells and the guest house. On the other side, towards the entrance, there is the hospital and the chapel of Saints Anargyroi.

According to the local tradition, the Holy Monastery of Holy Trinity was built by the monk Dometios in 1438, but there are reports of the monastery’s existence since 1362. The founding inscription informs us that the katholikon of the monastery, which is based on the cruciform inscribed type with a dome supported by two columns, was built in 1475-76 and was hagiographied in 1741 by the monks Antonios and Nikolaos. A small sacristy was built in the southeast corner of the monastery in 1689. The wide inner narthex with the vaulted roof was built in 1689 and was hagiographed in 1692. The chapel of Saint John the Baptist, which is in the form of a rotunda, is carved into the rock and contains frescoes from 1682. It was richly decorated and contained important treasures, which, however, were removed during World War II by the Germans. On the left of the entrance there is the brizon tower and the altar, and opposite that there are the cells. Behind the katholikon, at the highest point of the rock, there is a balcony. The monastery is accessible today either by using a motorized lift or by stairs carved into the rock with 145 steps. Holy Trinity appears in the James Bond film “For your eyes only” (1981), as well as in the series “The Tattoo” by the director and actor Andreas Georgiou (2018).

The Holy Monastery of Saint Stephen is a nunnery monastery and is located at the southern end of Meteora, above Kalabaka. The settlement of the monks on the rock of Saint Stephen began at the end of the 12th century, when in 1191/2, according to the tradition, the ascetic Jeremiah founded the monastery. The construction of the monastery began in the 14th century, by the first owner Antonios Kantakouzinos, and was completed in the 16th century. The monastery seems to have been completely renovated in the 16th century by the monk Philotheos from Sklataina. During his days, in 1545, the monastery became stauropegic (until 1743). It took its current form with the buildings that were built in the 18th and 19th century. Since 1961, a sorority has been leaving there. The monastery is connected to the modern road by a small bridge. The cells of the monastery are located on either side of the entrance. In the southeast of the precinct there is the old katholikon of the monastery, which dates from the 15th century. It is a small one-room church, internally divided by rows of columns in aisles or passages, with a narthex. It has two phases of murals, with the second being done by Nikolaos Kastrinsios. The new katholikon is located in the northwest of the precinct and was built in 1798. It is a cruciform inscribed Mount Athos type, with a narthex and a portico. It was hagiografied in the 1980s by Vlasis Tsotsonis. Near the old katholikon there is the altar and the sacristy-museum. In the east of the precinct there is the hearth, the stable, a small square vaulted building and other ancillary spaces.

The Holy Monastery of Roussano is a Christian orthodox monastery and it is not known why it took that name. The most probable theory is that it was named after the first inhabitant of the rock or the owner of the first church. The rock was known as Roussano’s rock since the beginning of the 16th century, when the owners Joasaph and Maximus, who rebuilt the ruined monastery, settled. In 1545 they rebuilt the katholikon, which is dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Savior and which honors Saint Barbara, too. The monastery declined in the 19th century and became the hermitage of Varlaam Monastery. It was restored in the 1980s and today functions as a nunnery monastery. It occupies the entire plateau at the top of the rock where it is located. It is a three-storey building. On the ground floor there are the katholikon, the archontariki and cells, and on the other floors there are cells and auxiliary spaces. The katholikon is a cruciform Mount Athos type church, with a narthex with a dome, hagiographed in 1560. The access to the monastery is possible either by stairs or by two bridges, which were built in 1930 in the position of an older wooden bridge.

The Holy Monastery of Saint Nikolaos Anapafsas stands out because of its design, which was adapted to the small plateau on which it has been built, consisting of consecutive floors. On the lower floor of the monastery there is the chapel of Saint Antonios, of the 14th century, with traces of hagiographies, and a crypt. On the upper floor there is the katholikon and on the top floor, there is the archontariki (previously altar), the ossuary and the chapel of Saint Ioannis Prodromos. The monastery is probably named after an ascetic who practiced on the rock during the 14th century. It was rebuilt in the first decade of the 16th century by Saint Dionysius the Merciful, the metropolitan of Larissa and the monk Nikanoras, exarch of Stagi. Its katholikon was hagiographed by the Cretan painter Theofanis Strelitzas in 1527. These hagiographies are one of the most important sets of post-Byzantine painting. Due to the small availability of space on the walls of the church, many representations are in the size of a portable image. In the narthex there are large multi-faceted compositions, such as the Second Coming, the Assumption of Ephraim of Syrus, a representation of Adam naming the animals, scenes from the miracles of Christ and images of saints, among which the owners of the monastery stand out. In the main temple, at the dome there is the hagiography of the Pantocrator, below that the Divine Liturgy and the Prophets, and in the triangles the Evangelists. On the walls there are representations of the Dodecaorton and depictions of saints.