THE HOLY MONASTERY OF
ST. STEFANO (STEVEN)
The Holy monastery of St Steven is one of the two for the nuns and one of the six that still survive in the area of Meteora. It is located at the south of the rock area , just above the town of Kalambaka.
According to the tradition, the foundation of the monastery dated to the end of the 12th century, in 1191 , when a hermit, called Ieremias ( Jeremy) settled in one cave of that rock. There is however confirmed evidence that since the 14th century the monastery of St Steven was an organized coenobium. As founders of the monastery are mentioned Holy Antonios ( 15th century), who is related to the famous byzantine family of Kantakouzinos and the second one was Saint Philotheos from a village in the region of Trikala, who rebuilt the old katholikon of the monastery in 1545 ( the church of St Steven), a small, low basilica with a narthex , which is not open for the visitors in our days because of the restoration. He also built cells for the monks and more buildings for the everyday life of the monks.
During its history, the monastery enjoyed noble protection and help of noblemen from Byzantium, Principalities bordering on the Danube and Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. In 1798, when Amvrosios was abbot of the monastery, the present imposing katholikon dedicated to St. Charalambus was built. It is a big church of the same architectural type as most of the churches in the monasteries, also known as Athonite ( from Mt Athos).
If you are interested in this architecture or if you want to know more about the church of st Charalambus, follow us on a guided tour of the monastery..
The interior of the church is recently painted by an important iconographer, Vlassis Tsotsonis , who follows in a very creative way the tradition of the religious art…. It would be nice to spend time so as to see his beautiful art on the walls of the church! It is the original art, since there was nothing else before, he started from the beginning. In the church there are excellent works of wood carving as well, for example a big wooden construction for the icons, the iconostasi ,( as we call it in greek) , which was done in 1814 and it is decorated with animals, plants.. One of the most beautiful in Greece!!
Inside the monastery there are many more buildings, all totally renovated. One of them it is the old Refectory, which changed into a museum. In the museum works of great artistic value are on display, such as portable icons, vestments, liturgical vessels crosses and manuscripts.
The existence of the monastery was mainly threatened by the two World Wars, the miserable period of the German occupation and the civil war. All these led up the monastery to the dissolution, looting of relics and decay of its buildings. Since 1961 it is a female monastery with a big number of nuns who settled in and they try to organize the everyday life and to preserve and improve the interior.. In the seventies, an orphanage-primary school operated here with success. Teachers were the nuns of the monastery.
The access to the monastery is the easiest among all the monasteries, the ONLY monastery without steps at the entrance, some few inside . A bridge is leading to the entrance and to the interior.
Coming inside to the monastery , from the first moment it is easy for someone to see all the different buildings, so clean and renovated. Few steps higher it is the church of St Charalambus where the relics of the saint are kept..
Behind the church the visitors can go to the museum and the balcony where they can enjoy the view of Kalambaka and of the whole area . The balcony with the view and the gardens is the right place for spending time and take some pictures.