So Close To God

I think these are some of the most beautiful monasteries. Hidden in the mountains, so close to the sky, they are quiet shelters far far away from secular society. No matter the religion, these isolated wonders remain an expression of pure faith and peace beyond time and space. Some of them are still inhabited, others, forgotten will become dust with time.

St George Monastery, Wadi Qilt, Israel

The monastery, originally dedicated to the Virgin, was founded about 480. It flourished in the sixth century but was destroyed by the Persians in 614 and thereafter was abandoned. The present buildings were erected between 1878 and 1901. The church dedicated to the Mother of God has fine icons and wall paintings; the church of St John and St George preserves a sixth century mosaic pavement. In a cave are the remains of the monks who were killed during the Persian advance on Jerusalem.

Xuan Kong Temple, near Datong, China

In China’s Shanxi Province around 500km (300 miles) south west of Beijing is located The Hanging Temple (named Xuan Kong Si). This amazing structure is one of the most precarious structures in the world. Long wooden beams extend from the outer edge of the temple buildings down to holes chiseled into the massive rock face.

Anapafsa Monastery, Meteora, Greece

The Greek word Meteora means “suspended in the air”, and our words meteorite and meteorology come from the same root. The conglomerate rock at Meteora, Greece, has eroded into fantastic peaks upon which medieval monks built monasteries, several of which are still active. The isolated monasteries of Meteora helped keep alive Greek Orthodox religious traditions and Hellenic culture during the turbulent Middle Ages and Ottoman Turk occupation of Greece (1453-1829).

Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery, Serbia

Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery in Ras ,Republic of Serbia,near Novi Pazar was founded by the first Serbian ruler Stefan Nemanja in 1170-1171 according to the incarved inscription from the main church portail. It was built on a hilltop near old Ras and its location is a significant point in the area at his new just established state with the tour of Ras as a capital.

Petra Monastery, Jordan

Petra is a historic and archaeological city in the Jordanian governorate of Ma’an that has rock cut architecture and water conduits system. Established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan as well as its most visited tourism attraction. It lies on the slope of Mount Hor in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. Petra is an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.

Madonna del Sasso, Switzerland

High up above the town of Locarno, there is a sanctuary located on a forested cliff; Madonna del Sasso. Sasso means rock, so hopefully I won’t be struck down for translating it as Madonna on the Rocks. The church was consecrated in the 19th century when a local monk, Brother Bartholomeo, claimed that the Madonna had appeared before him whilst walking in the woods.

Popa Mountain Monastery, Myanmar

Rising majestically out of the plains of central Burma, 2,417 feet up in the air atop an ancient, sheer-sided volcanic plug, the Buddhist monastery of Popa Taungkalat surveys the surrounding scene. An amazing example of a human construction merged organically with its natural setting, Taung Kalat also draws thousands of pilgrims each year because of its great spiritual significance. More about this monastery here

Glojene Monastery, Bulgaria

According to the legend, the monastery was built in the 13th century (1224), when Ukrainian knyaz Georgi Glozh settled in the area with Ivan Asen II’s approval. The knyaz founded a monastery carrying the name of St George, whose icon he had brought with himself. The icon then disappeared numerous times only to be found on a hill not far from the village of Glozhene, which was interpreted by the monks as a divine sign to move the monastery there. This was eventually done near the end of the 14th century.

Le Mont Saint Michel, France

Mont-St-Michel (also written Mont Saint Michel) is a small rocky island about 1 km from the north coast of France at the mouth of the Couesnon River in Normandy. The mount is best known for the medieval Benedictine Abbey and steepled church that occupies most of the 1km-diameter clump of rocks jutting out of the waters of the English Channel.

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