The 15 most beautiful monasteries in the world

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Joel Fulleda

They are places where you can breathe one spirituality deeper than anywhere else on Earth: the monasteries.
Whether they are Christians, Buddhists, Hindus or dedicated to any other cult, anyone who enters these buildings does so with the utmost respect towards those who usually frequent them but above all towards those who, with solid faith, have designed, built, inhabited them and, in general , they take care of it.
There are monasteries in almost every country in the world, some located in barely accessible places, others with such a particular architecture as to be a tourist destination as well as a pilgrimage destination.
In this ranking are indicated the 15 most fascinating monasteries scattered around the world.

15 - Osiou Grigoriou - Greece

Religion: Orthodox Christian

This monastery, dedicated to San Nicola, is built on the southeastern slope of Mount Athos, Greece. Erected in the fourteenth century, it occupies the seventeenth rank of the hierarchy of monasteries of the "Holy Mountain". It is considered one of the most organized and rigorous monasteries, based on tradition and community life. Since 1990 it has been inhabited by 70 monks, its katholikon, the main church of the building, was instead built in 1768 and frescoed by the monks Gabriele and Gregorio di Castoria.

14 - Taktsang or Tiger's Nest - Bhutan

Religion: Himalayan Buddhism

È one of the most sacred and spectacular places of the Buddhist religion, includes a complex of buildings and temples whose construction began in 1962. A legend linked to this monastery tells of how Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche, a sacred man) came from Tibet to the original cave that gave life to this place on the back of a tiger.

13 - Pečerska Lavra or monastery of the caves - Kiev, Ukraine

Religion: Ukrainian Orthodox Church

Declared World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1990, this complex better known as Kiev Monastery of the Caves it is a veritable temple of Ukrainian Orthodox memory. Today it has become an integrated part of the urban area of ​​the capital, it was erected on Mount Berestov in the first decades of the year 1000. Destroyed several times by the Mongols and heavily damaged following the Nazi occupation of Kiev, it is awaiting restoration. It houses museums that exhibit objects and symbols of Ukrainian culture, the remains of leading exponents of the Ukrainian Orthodox faith, mummies of saints and relics are preserved in the catacombs.

12 - Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel - France

Religion: Roman Catholic Christian

It's a fortified abbey and it sure looks like it! Construction of the site began in the year 966 when the abbey location was a rocky island protected from marauders coming from the ground by highest tides in Europe.

The reclamation of the marshes and the construction of a causeway in the th century disrupted the natural flow of the water, allowing the silt to gradually surround Mont Saint-Michel on three sides, but a reclamation project currently underway is expected to restore the isolation of the monastery.

11 - Alcobaça - Portugal

Religion: Catholic Christian

An immense construction that leaves you breathless is that of the Alcobaça Monastery, known as one of the most beautiful and majestic Cistercian monasteries in the world and declared World Heritage Site by Unesco. In gothic style, it has very large interior spaces but at the same time simple and almost naked, an unusual choice for the architectural style to which it belongs.

Curiosity: the construction is linked to a painful story: Dom Pedro, mad with rage after the murder of his wife Inês de Castro by his father-in-law, built a sumptuous tomb for his beloved after having his body exhumed, crowned and forced the nobles to kiss her hand.

10 - Rumtek - India

Religion: Tibetan Buddhism

Nestled among the lush hills and periodically lashed by the powerful monsoon rains of the Himalayas, the Rumtek Monastery it is home to monks of all ages, including children. Rumtek presents itself to visitors in bright colors and with the glint of gold, a glorious mandala it embellishes the ceiling of a portico that leads to the main temple.

9 - Taung Kalat - Burma

Religion: Buddhism

This monastery is located on the top of Mount Popa, considered by the local population the spiritual home of the 37 "Nats" of Myanmar, or the spirits of an animist cult that is very widespread throughout the country. The temple, which houses Buddhist and animist sacred altars of worship, still has some mysterious aspects, including the date of construction. Visitors will be rewarded for the 777 steps required to reach the top of the mountain with its spectacular view from the temple. Beware of your personal items and especially the food you bring with you: they are present lots of macaques ready to steal anything!

8 - Xuánkōng Yes or suspended monastery - China

Religion: Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism

Xuan Kong Sì Monastery was built on a rock face near Mount Heng in Shanxi Province, China, about 1400 years ago.

Suspended 50 meters above the ground, was originally built without the help of the wooden poles that support it today: they were added only later as it is said that no one, at that time, had the courage to enter it for fear that it was unstable. In reality the monastery has never had any problems, on the contrary, it has overcome very well dozens of severe seismic events, including the deadliest earthquake recorded in history occurred in 1556 where about 830.000 people died.

7 - Sumela - Turkey

Religion: Ortodox church

Another suspended sanctuary on a cliff is the Sumela Monastery, in the Turkish province of Trabzon (Trebizond to the ancient Greeks and Byzantines). Its construction dates back to the year 386. According to the legend a couple of priests, walking east from Athens, seeing the steep cliff overlooking the Altindere valley, thought it would be a good place to build a monastery. At least an extravagant choice! However, this decision provided the building with "natural" protection.

6 - Saint Catherine - Egypt

Religion: Orthodox Christian

One of the oldest Christian monasteries in Egypt, if not the world, is the Monastery of Saint Catherine, located near the Mount Sinai. It is precisely on this stony ground that the roots of monasticism have grown. Today its walls, built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the th century, are still formidable and in excellent condition. They must in fact guard the second largest collection of manuscripts and manuscripts in the world, second only to the Vatican Apostolic Library.

In it they are collected about 4.500 volumes in various ancient languages ​​including Greek, Coptic, Arabic, Armenian, Hebrew, Georgian and Syriac and, among these, there is also the oldest preserved Bible, dating back to the th century.
There are also numerous unique works of art kept here: mosaics, religious vestments, chalices, reliquaries and about 2.000 Byzantine icons dating back to the th and th centuries made with the encaustic technique.

5 - Skelling Michael - Ireland

Religion: Christian

Skellig Michael is a inhospitable rocky island located 17km off the coast of County Kerry, Ireland, and is home to u ne of the oldest and most famous monasteries in Ireland, as extraordinary as it is not very accessible.

Built in 588 and became World Heritage Site protected by Unesco in 1996, it is a spartan and bare monastery, which housed no more than a dozen monks who chose to live here depriving themselves of every comfort and in an absolutely adverse environment. Image of asceticism and of the strict life, is formed by small circular cells (clochans) made of embedded dry stone. They are practically built on the top of cliffs overlooking the sea about 60 meters high.

4 - Khor Virap - Armenia

Religion: Armenian apostolic church

The Monastery is located near Mount Ararat and, in the Armenian territory, it is the closest and most suitable place to observe or take photos at biblical mountain. The building is of fundamental importance in the cult of the founder of Christianity in Armenia, Gregory the Illuminator.

Curiosity: Legend has it that the pagan king Tiridates III imprisoned the Saint in a well for 12 years, accused of having professed and spread Christianity (khor virap means "deep well"). St. Gregory was released by order of the sister of King Khosrovidukht for heal the ruler of lycanthropy, an illness into which he had fallen following the refusal of the Christian virgin Hripsime to marry him. The king was so grateful that he converted to Christianity and St. Gregory began to build churches over the pagan temples and to teach his own doctrine.
At the monastery it is possible to visit the well, 6-7 meters deep, above which the Church was built.

3 - Palchor - Tibet, China

Religion: Tibetan Buddhism

The role of this monastery is unique in Tibetan Buddhism, as it represents all three sects at the same time: Gelugpa, Sakkyapa and Bhuton. It originated in 1418 and, during its heyday, it housed within its walls not only a thousand monks but even an entire town. Of the numerous constructions some buildings have survived, inside which you can admire the lacquered statues of 84 saints and a superb collection of 15 mural mandalas.

2 - Glastonbury Abbey - England

Religion: Christian

The ruins of this ancient abbey hide the mortal remains of numerous Saxon kings, among which, it is said, are also King Arthur and his wife Guinevere.

Curiosity: legend has it, in fact, that King Arthur slept under the pinnacles of the abbey with his equally famous knights. The place is also known for the "Glastonbury hawthorn", which blooms both in May and at Christmas: according to legend this shrub would have sprung from the stick of Joseph of Arimathea which, according to legend, would be the founder of the abbey, arrived here in about 60 AD to convert the Britons to Christianity.

1 - Metéora - Greece

Religion: Greek orthodox church

Metéora means, in Greek, "floating in the air": this is one of the largest and most important Eastern Orthodox monastery complexes in Greece, second only to Mount Athos.
The monasteries are located on features sandstone columns, real natural rock towers suspended in the air. Of the twenty-four monasteries, built with enormous sacrifices, only six are still inhabited and recovered after years of neglect.
UNESCO World Heritage Site, these monasteries represent one unique artistic and architectural realizationas well as a place of retreat, meditation and prayer.

In the past, monasteries could only be reached through precarious roads, with ladders or pulley systems, but today there are more modern masonry or rock-cut stairways. Once you reach the top, you can enjoy the atmosphere that reigns in this spectacular place, immersed in an imperious nature, made of mystical sacredness.

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