Meteora is an almost indescribably beautiful place, with high jutting rocks appearing out of nowhere on the plains of Thessaly, leading into the mountians. Years ago, a monk from Mt. Athos (where women are still
not allowed--not even female animals, although they have broken down enough to admit that their hens must be girls, since they lay eggs), arrived here to build a monastery. And build he did. There are four monasteries and one nunnery hidden among or perched on top of these enormous, craggy cliffs. The poor monks who live there can't have a very peaceful, monastic life with the hoards of visitors, but they certainly rake in the dough.
I visited the Great Meteoran, the largest and oldest of the monasteries, a smaller one, and the nunnery. Climbed the winding stairs, looked politely at the ancient kitchens and chapels and gardens, and made a few discoveries.
The celebrated and gorgeously painted frescoes had interesting subjects.
After gaping for a while, I started noting down exactly what I was seeing in my journal:
1. Beheadings. Many, many, many beheadings.
2. People tied to a wheel and rotisseried through a flame.
3. People crushed between two enormous slabs.
4. A guy dragged behind a horse by the feet.
5. Burned at the stake.
6. Burned in a furnace.
7. Burned in a cage.
8. Boiled in a pot of water.
10. Tied prone to a woodpile.
12. Pierced or stabbed with knives or swords.
13. Hung upside down (by the ankles).
14. Traditionally crucified.
15. Fed to lions.
16. Hung rightside up (by the neck).
17. Buried halfway in unidentified white things.
ETA: Oh, yes. Amongst all these where the guys with halos were coming out the worst, there was Daniel with lions licking his feet. I swear, all the martyrs were looking at him, going, "You bitch."
Also ETA: As a kid, I couldn't parse what halos were in my Children's Illustrated Bible
, which was the only religious text I owned until I was 18 or so. I thought they all had plates on their heads and could NOT figure that out for the life of me.
It was like the little lederhose men in Germany, but these were all beautifully painted up in a church.
So, I'm not a churchgoing person, I admit, but I always thought church frescoes were, like, beautiful scenes. This was gorier than a slasher flick directed by a 16-year-old.( And in case you were wondering what happened to all those heads cut free from the bodies... )