Silhouetted against the azure skies, the black crags topped by the monasteries of Meteora in Thessaly, central Greece, rise out of the fertile plains like ghostly sentinels. Framed by the picturesque Pindus Mountains in the distance, Meteora – a Greek word that means “suspended in the air” – is a bizarre landscape of finger-like sandstone pillars, believed to be formed millions of years ago by violent tectonic movements.
The first inhabitants were thought to be 9th-century monks, who lived in the holes and fissures of the pillars, and only met to pray on Sundays and other holy days. In the 14th century, three monks sought refuge from the Turkish invasions in the area, and settled on a pillar, building a small wooden hut. Later, they scaled a gargantuan rock rising above the town of Kalambaka and built the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron.