St. Athanasios (a.d. 1302-1380) went to begin his monastic life on Mount Athos, now in northeastern Greece. He was both ascetic and learned, and brought a group of monks with him to Meteora in northwest Thessaly, Greece in a.d. 1344. They would found the chief monastery of Great Meteora from a.d. 1356-1372 on the top of Broad Rock, the largest of the amazing rock formations which thrust into the sky from the plain up to almost 1,800 feet. These rock formations had already been used as monastic refuges earlier, but not organized in such a formal way.
St. Athanasios saw that these rocks were safe and secure from intrusion, and could control access to their entrance by lowering or raising a ladder for the monks. With much patience and endurance, the monastery was built up stone by stone, and was first dedicated to the Virgin Mary Theotokos. Later a larger church was added dedicated to the Transfiguration, a favorite feast of Orthodox monks. Former Serbian King John Uros came to Great Meteora to be a monk in a.d. 373, and became St. Athanasios’ able successor after St. Athanasios’ death in a.d. 1380.