Monasteries in Greece

Monastery of Great Meteoron

The Monastery of Great Meteoron is the largest of the monasteries located at Meteora, though in 2015 there were only 3 monks in residence. The Great Meteoro Monastery was founded in the mid-14th century by Saint Athanasios the Meteorite who was the first founder of the monastery and the systematic organizer. For this reason, the foundation of this monastery is considered to be a turning point, or even better, the begi ...
Founded: c. 1350 | Location: Kalabaka, Greece

Varlaam Monastery

The Holy Monastery of Varlaam is the second biggest monastery in Meteora. It is located opposite of the Great Meteoron Monastery and it was founded in the mid-14th century by the exercitant Hosios Varlaam. The elegant monastery Katholikon (main church) was built in the honour of Agioi Pantes in 1541-42, by two brothers from Ioannina, the priest-monks Hosioi Theophanes and Nectarios the Apsarades. The main church was d ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Kalabaka, Greece

Roussanou Monastery

The Monastery of Roussanou was founded in the middle of the 16th century. Compared to other rocks where monasteries were built, the one of Roussanou has a lower elevation, which makes it more accessible. The monastery was initially founded by monks and it suffered severe damage during World War II. It became a convent in 1988. The beautiful wall-paintings of the Catholicon were executed in 1560, when the priest-monk Ars ...
Founded: c. 1550 | Location: Kalabaka, Greece

Arkadi Monastery

Arkadi Monatery is perhaps the best known monastery on Crete due to the Holocaust of 1866. However, its location and impressive architecture make it all the more special. The current catholicon (church) dates back to the 16th century and is marked by the influence of the Renaissance. This influence is visible in the architecture, which mixes both Roman and baroque elements. As early as the 16th century, the mon ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Arkadi, Greece

Holy Trinity Monastery

The Holy Trinity Monastery (also known as Agia Triada) is situated at the top of a rocky precipice over 400 metres high and forms part of 24 monasteries which were originally built at Meteora. The church was constructed between the 14th and 15th centuries and is included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites titled Meteora. Holy Trinity was built in 1475–76, though some sources say the construction dates of ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Kalabaka, Greece

St. Stephen Monastery

The Monastery of St. Stephen was founded by St. Antoninus Cantacuzene, who is thought to be a son of the Serb ruler Nicephorus II of Epirus, in c. 1400. This monastery rests on the plain rather than on a cliff. It was shelled by the Nazis during World War II who believed it was harboring insurgents and was abandoned. The monastery was given over to nuns in 1961 and they have reconstructed it into a flourishing nun ...
Founded: c. 1400 | Location: Kalabaka, Greece

Pantanassa Monastery

The Pantanassa Monastery is a monastery in Mystras. It was founded by a chief minister of the late Byzantine Despotate of the Morea, John Frankopoulos, and was dedicated in September 1428. It is the only monastery on the site still permanently inhabited. Today it is inhabited by nuns providing hospitality. Its beautifully ornate stone-carved façade is of architectural note. Pantanassa Monastery is part of the UNESCO Wor ...
Founded: 1428 | Location: Mystras, Greece

Agia Triada Monastery

Agia Triada (Holy Trinity) Orthodox Monastery was built in the 17th century by two brothers of the Venetian Zangaroli family on the site of a pre-existing church. The church is built in the Byzantine architectural cruciform style with three domes. The main church is flanked by two smaller domed chapels, one of which is dedicated to the Life-Giving Spring (Zoodochos Pigi) and the other to Saint John the Theologian. The ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Chaniá, Greece

Brontochion Monastery

Brontochion Monastery is located on the northern slope of Mystras, an archaeological site dedicated as UNESCO World Heritage Site. The abbot Pachomius incorporated into  the small church of the Hodegetria, or 'Aphentikon', as the monastery"s catholicon. The church was reconstructed and completed around 1310.
Founded: 1308-1322 | Location: Mystras, Greece

St. Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery

St. Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery is one of six monasteries built on immense natural pillars and hill-like rounded boulders that dominate the local area of Meteora. Hermits seem to have first occupied this rock in the early 14th century, as evidenced by remains of frescoes in the Chapel of St. Anthony. The present monastery was founded in 1510 by St. Dionysius, Metropolitan of Larisa, and Nikanoras, priest-monk and exar ...
Founded: 1510 | Location: Kalabaka, Greece

Simonopetra Monastery

Simonopetra Monastery is an Eastern Orthodox monastery in the monastic state of Mount Athos. Simonopetra ranks thirteenth in the hierarchy of the Athonite monasteries. The monastery is located in the southern coast of the Athos peninsula. While the southern coast of Athos is quite rugged in general, the particular site upon which the monastery is built is exceptionally harsh. It is built on top of a single huge rock, ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Mount Athos, Greece

Preveli Monastery

Preveli Monastery comprises two main building complexes, the ruined Lower Monastery of St. John the Baptist, and the currently operational Upper (Rear) Monastery of St. John the Theologian. The monastery was probably founded in the Middle Ages, during the occupation of Crete by the Republic of Venice, its founder being a feudal lord named Prevelis. It developed over several centuries as a religious and cultural centre ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Ágios Vasíleios, Greece

Hilandar Monastery

Hilandar Monastery is the northern most monastery located on the northeast side of the Athos Peninsula. The monastery was founded in 1198 by saints Sava and Simeon. The Monastery has been supported and populated by Serbian monkssince then. It is ranked fourth in the hierarchical order of the twenty monasteries located on the Mount Athos peninsula. After forming the Serbian state Stephen Nemanja, the Grand Župan o ...
Founded: 1198 | Location: Mount Athos, Greece

Toplou Monastery

Toplou monastery is one of the most significant monasteries in Crete, dedicated to Virgin Mary and St. John the Theologian. It was founded around the mid-15th century, probably on the ruins of an earlier convent. The monastery was plundered by the knights of Malta in 1530 and shattered in 1612 by a strong earthquake. Due to its strategic position, the senate of the Republic of Venice, then ruler of Crete, decided to ...
Founded: c. 1450 | Location: Sitia, Greece

Peribleptos Monastery

The Peribleptos Monastery is a late Byzantine-era monastery in Mystras, Greece. It was probably built in the mid-14th century by the first Despot of the Morea, Manuel Kantakouzenos, and named after one of the most celebrated monasteries of Byzantine Constantinople. The Monastery is built into the side of a cliff with a cave supporting the structure. This architectural style is known as the Mystras style and is prevalent i ...
Founded: c. 1348 | Location: Mystras, Greece

Great Lavra

The Monastery of Great Lavra is the first monastery built on Mount Athos. The founding of the monastery in AD 963 by Athanasius the Athonite marks the beginning of the organized monastic life at Mount Athos. Athanasius began the construction according to the will of his friend and Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas who funded the project. The emperors gave also the Great Lavra many other lands of property incl ...
Founded: 963 AD | Location: Mount Athos, Greece

Keras Kardiotissas Monastery

The Eastern Orthodox Keras Kardiotissas is dedicated to Virgin Mary that is situated near the village of Kera of the Heraklion regional unit in Crete. It is built on the north slopes of Mt. Dikti, at an altitude of 650 m and a location that is approximately 50 km east of Heraklion, next to the road to Lasithi Plateau. The exact date of the monastery"s establishment is unknown. However, references to it ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Chersónisos, Greece

Iviron Monastery

Monastery of Iviron is an Eastern Orthodox monastery in the monastic state of Mount Athos in northern Greece. The monastery was built under the supervision of two Georgian monks, John the Iberian and Tornike Eristavi between 980-983 and housed Georgian clergy and priests. Iviron literally means 'of the Iberians' in Greek. The name Iviron originated from the ancient Georgian Kingdom of Iberia (Ive ...
Founded: 980-983 AD | Location: Mount Athos, Greece

Koutloumousiou Monastery

The Monastery of Koutloumousiou is one of twenty monasteries on the Mount Athos peninsula and is located on the northeastern side of the peninsula, near Karyes. It is sixth in hierarchical rank among the monasteries. While the existence of the monastery is confirmed by document from 1169, Koutloumousiou Monastery was founded in its present form in the 14th century. Its central church was built in 1540. It is consi ...
Founded: 1169 | Location: Mount Athos, Greece

Gregoriou Monastery

The Gregoriou Monastery is situated on the southwest side of the Athos Peninsula in northern Greece, between the monasteries of Dionysiou and Simonopetra. Gregoriou originally was dedicated to the St. Nicholas but later was renamed in honor of its founder, Gregory. It is ranked seventeenth in the hierarchical order of the twenty monasteries located on the Mount Athos peninsula. The monastery was founded by St. ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Mount Athos, Greece

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.