Christian Monasticism is a practice which began to develop early in the history of the Christian Church, modeled upon scriptural examples and ideals, including those in the Old Testament. Originally, all Christian monks were hermits seldom encountering other people. But because of the extreme difficulty of the solitary life, many monks failed, either returning to their previous lives, or becoming spiritually deluded.
This isn’t about religion, as it is about culture, history and architecture. As more people took on the lives of monks they started to come together and eventually lived in Christian monasteries, and these are probably 10 of the most impressive ones yet; how many do you recognize?
10. Alcobaca Monastery
The Alcobaça Monastery is a Roman Catholic Monastery located in the town of Alcobaça, in central Portugal. It was founded by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, in 1153, and maintained a close association with the Kings of Portugal throughout its history. The church and monastery was one of the most important of the medieval Christian monasteries in Portugal.
9. Sümela Monastery
The Sümela Monastery is a Greek Orthodox monastery, standing at the foot of a steep cliff facing the Altindere valley in modern-day Turkey. Founded in the year 386 AD during the reign of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I (375 – 395), legend has it that two priests undertook the founding of the monastery on the site after having discovered a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave on the mountain.
8. Ostrog Monastery
The Monastery of Ostrog is a Serb Orthodox monastery placed against an almost vertical background, high up in the large rock of Ostroška Greda. It is dedicated to Saint Basil of Ostrog and is the most popular pilgrimage place in Montenegro. Founded in the 17th century, the present-day look was given in 1923-1926.
7. Kiev Pechersk Lavra
Kiev Pechersk Lavra, also known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, is a historic Orthodox Christian monastery in Kiev, Ukraine. Since its foundation as the cave monastery in 1015 the Lavra has been a preeminent center of the Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Eastern Europe.
6. Gelati Monastery
The Monastery of Gelati is a monastic complex in western Georgia. It contains the Church of the Virgin founded by the King of Georgia David the Builder in 1106, and the 13th-century churches of St George and St Nicholas. For a long time, the Gelati Monastery was one of the main cultural and intellectual centers in Georgia.
5. Mount Athos
Mount Athos is a mountain and a peninsula in northern Greece. The peninsula, the easternmost “leg” of the larger Halkidiki peninsula houses some 1,400 monks in 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries. An autonomous state under Greek sovereignty, entry into the area is strictly controlled and accessible only by boat.
4. Rila Monastery
The Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, better known as the Rila Monastery is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. It is situated in the northwestern Rila Mountains, in the deep valley of the Rilska River. It is traditionally thought that the monastery was founded by the hermit Saint Ivan of Rila, whose name it bears, during the rule of Tsar Peter I (927-968).
3. Saint Catherine’s Monastery
Saint Catherine’s Monastery lies on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, at the mouth of a gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai. The monastery was built by order of the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I (reigned 527-565) at the site where Moses is supposed to have seen the burning bush. The monastery library preserves the second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts in the world, outnumbered only by the Vatican Library.
2. El Escorial
Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama in Spain, the world famous Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial (El Escorial for short), was the political center of the Spanish empire under King Philip II. Philip appointed Juan Bautista de Toledo as the architect in 1559. Juan Bautista had spent the greater part of his career in Rome, where he had worked on the basilica of St. Peter’s.
Metéora (“suspended in the air”) is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, second only to Mount Athos. The six Christian monasteries are built on natural sandstone rock pillars in central Greece. In the 14th century, Athanasios Koinovitis from Mount Athos founded the great Meteoron monastery on Broad Rock.