Friday, 30 November 2012

The World’s Inaccessible Monasteries



The World’s Inaccessible Monasteries by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul

Monasteries are usually located in remote places far from the hustle and bustle
of cities and towns. It takes more than a mild determination to reach them, but
some of these are deliberately almost inaccessible. The idea was to keep all
but only the most dedicated followers from reaching these holy sites;
while in the midst of peace and solitude, they also make the monks feel like
they are closer to God and Nature.

Today, however, most of these monasteries have become tourist attractions.
And in favour of the tourists, several accessible methods like ropeways and
stairs have been added. They still look stunning as they still require hundreds
of metres of vertical trekking.


Monasteries of Meteora, Greece



The World’s Inaccessible Monasteries by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul

The Metéora (Greek for “suspended in the air" or "in the heavens above") is
a group of six monasteries and one of the largest and most important complexes
of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece. The six monasteries, built on natural
sandstone rock pillars, are one of the most powerful examples of the architectural transformation of a site into a place of retreat, meditation, and prayer.

The monasteries are built on rock pinnacles of deltaic origin, known as Meteora,
which rise starkly over 400 m above the Peneas valley and the small town of
Kalambaka on the Thessalian plain. During the fearsome time of political instability
in 14th century the monasteries were systematically built on top of the inaccessible
peaks so that by the end of the 15th century there were 24 of them. They continued
to flourish until the 17th century. Today, only four monasteries — Aghios Stephanos,
Aghia Trias, Varlaam and Meteoron — still house religious communities.

The World’s Inaccessible Monasteries by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul

Access to the monasteries was originally and deliberately difficult, requiring either long ladders
lashed together or large nets used to haul up both goods and people. This required quite a leap of faith – the ropes were replaced, so the story goes, only "when the Lord let them break". In the 1920s there was an improvement in the arrangements. Steps were cut into the rock, making the complex accessible via a bridge from the nearby plateau.

The World’s Inaccessible Monasteries by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul

The World’s Inaccessible Monasteries by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul


Taung Kalat Monastery, Burma


The monastery of Taung Kalat is located on a top of a volcanic plug that rises 737
metres from the surrounding in central Burma (Myanmar) about 50 km southeast
of Bagan, and near the extinct volcano Mount Popa. The monastery can be accessed 
by exactly 777 steps and those who reach the top are rewarded by a spectacular view.
 
The World’s Inaccessible Monasteries by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul

To the north-west opens a view to distant temples of Bagan, and to the east is towering the
forested Taung Ma-gyi summit. There is a big caldera, 610 metres wide and 914 metres in
depth so that from different directions the mountain takes different forms with more than
one peak. Many Macaque monkeys live here that have become a tourist attraction on Taung
Kalat. 


The World’s Inaccessible Monasteries by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul



Taktsang Palphug Monastery, Bhutan



The World’s Inaccessible Monasteries by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul

Taktshang monastery, also known as The Tiger's Nest, is located on a
precipitous cliff about 900 metres above the Paro valley, in Bhutan. The rock
slopes are extremely steep — almost vertical — and the monastery buildings
are built into the rock face. The scenic monastery complex has access from
several directions, such as the northwest path through the forest, from the south
along the path used by devotees, and from the north. A mule track leading to it
passes through pine forest that is colourfully festooned with moss and prayer flags.
On many days, clouds shroud the monastery, giving it an eerie feeling of remoteness.


  The World’s Inaccessible Monasteries by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul
The World’s Inaccessible Monasteries by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul



Sümela Monastery


The World’s Inaccessible Monasteries by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul

The Sumela Monastery is built into the rock cliffs of the Altmdere Valley in Turkey.
At an altitude of about 1,200 metres it is a major tourist attraction of Altındere
National Park.

The monastery was founded in 386 AD during the reign of the Emperor
Theodosius I (375 - 395). Legend has it that two priests undertook its creation
after discovering a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave on the mountain. 
During its long history, the monastery fell into ruin several times and was restored
by various emperors. It reached its present form in the 13th century after gaining 
prominence during the reign of Alexios III.

The World’s Inaccessible Monasteries by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul

The monastery was abandoned after World War I and the start of the population
exchanges between Greece and Turkey that forced some 2 million ethnic Greeks
and Turks to leave their long-established communities in Turkey or Greece and
return to their ethnic homelands. It lay empty for decades before being partially
restored and returned to life as a museum. 

The World’s Inaccessible Monasteries by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul


Hanging Monastery, China


The Hanging Monastery or Hanging Temple is located in a canyon at the foot
of the Mountain Heng in the province of Shanxi, China. The temple is built into
the cliff side about 75 meter above the ground, and stands propped up by hidden
rocks corridor and wooden beams inserted into the mountain. Over 40 halls,
cabinets and pavilions within an area of 152.5 square meters are connected each
other by corridors, bridges and boardwalks.

The World’s Inaccessible Monasteries by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul

They are evenly distributed and well balanced in height. Inside the temple are
more than 80 bronze cast statues, iron cast statues, and clay sculptured statues
and stone carvings banded down from different dynasties. The temple was build
to avoid the terrible flood, and use the mountain as protection from rain, snow and
sunshine. Today, it is one of the main tourist attractions and historical sites in the
Datong area.

The World’s Inaccessible Monasteries by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul


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