HOLY MONASTERY OF ROUSSANOU
( ST BARBARA)
The holy monastery of Roussanou is between the monastery of St Nicolas and Varlaam , on the way to Meteora area. It is one of the two female communities and of course one of the six that still survive in the area. The monastery is open for the public and the visitors have to walk up the stairs for coming to the entrance.
The rock, on the top of which the monastery is built, is vertical, steep and narrow. Visitors are impressed when they see it from a distance. The monastery spreads all over the surface of the peak of the rock and it gives the impression of a single construction. Reaching the entrance ,the visitor will enjoy the impressive view of the landscape and from the first moment will feel that it was worth it to see this monastery as well.
The history of the monastery goes back to 1288, even though this date has not been proved historically. According to another information the monastery was founded in 1388 by the priest-monks Nikodemus and Benedict. But it is certain that between 1527 and 1529 the priest-monks brothers Ioasaph and Maximus from Ioanina took permission to build on the top of the rock a small monastery and to become monks on the Rousanou rock. When they climbed up the rock, they found only ruins. In 1530 they built the katholikon on the ruins of the even older church of the Transfiguration and they renovated the monastery. They added some more cells and other helping areas and also they offered to the monastery some properties and some utensils and some manuscripts! The community was organized as a very strict coenobio and the two founders in 1545 wrote their will where they explained the way the monastery should be! The Orthodox church celebrates the memory of them on the 7 of August.
We don’t know about the monastery evolution in the following years. But in the two last centuries it fell into gradual decline up to 1940. The bad economical situation was forcing the monks to leave the area and the monasteries to remain without men. During the Ottoman period and especially the years of Ali Pasha the conditions became even harder for the monks. After the revolution of 1821 and during the 19th century the whole area was deserted and some European travelers who came to the monasteries they talk about only few older monks inside.
During the German Occupation the monastery was totally empty and it was plundered. In 1950 for the first time one woman nun settled in the monastery with another woman, who was helping her from the village kastraki and since 1988 the monastery became officially a female community with 8 nuns. From the first moment those nuns started to reorganize the monastery, to renovate it and to work hard so as to maintain the interior and the buildings. In 1996 a new part was added to the old one, with more cells , a new chapel , a library and many workshops.
The access to the monastery of Roussanou: the visitor will walk up the steps till the entrance and on the way he can stop several times to enjoy the view… Entering the monastery, there is a balcony that offers fantastic view of the area and then some steps down, where the church is located , dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ. It is a small but very elegant church that follows the tradition of other monastic churches, it has the form of a cross covered with a dome. All the interior is covered with paintings in very good condition, created in 1560 . All of the paintings have the characteristics of what we call the “Cretan School” , there is no reference about the artist’s name but it is considered as one of the best preserved iconographic sets in the post byzantine art( later than 1550)
The monastery of Roussanou is known as St Barbara’s monastery, in honour of the holy martyr who lived in the 3rd century AD
Regarding the name ROUSSANOU, there are many theories about the meaning of the word…. Maybe it was the name of a monk,….. maybe for another reason we call it Roussanou……
Let s not say anything else now, I am waiting for you and we learn more… we see more on a guided tour!!!!