Meteora: Monastery of Agios Stephanos [New Katholikon]
The new Katholikon dates from 1798. It has been renovated with new frescoes by the contemporary iconographer, Vlasios Tsotsonis from Corinth and dedicated to St. Charalambos, whose relics (skull) are housed at the monastery. The new frescos are breathtaking, filling the entire church, with the south wall all women saints. Tsotsonis honors the fact that the monastery is now a community of women.
The pièce de résistance is Tsotsonis' Second Coming (Last Judgment) fresco (see images below), true to Byzantine precepts yet "alive" with movement, detail and vibrancy. A wonderful book about this fresco published by St. Stephen's Monastery, and produced by Thrasivoulos Voyatzoglou, says of these images (and of all icons): "The depictions of the martyrdoms of the Saints, the Last Judgment, Hell and Paradise are sending inward messages, they encourage our spiritual rebirth and our progress from 'the image' to 'the likeness'. The icon in this way becomes a 'guide' to Christ." The book further explains how the depiction of the Second Coming was established on the eastern wall of the Narthex of Orthodox churches in the 9th to 10th centuries (though this particular fresco is on the west wall because of architectural impediments). Why the Narthex? Because this was the place where the penitents and catechumens (those seeking instruction before baptism) stood during the Divine Liturgy and where they could contemplate the fruits of repentance! This "story" with its many areas of instruction, explains the entire cycle of salvation, and the "river of fire" that threatens us as we climb our spiritual ladder to Christ. It is the entire cycle, from the Fall to the Resurrection and Enthronement of Christ in Paradise.