Movies

Is St. Cyril’s Monastery Real ?

A Historical Gem of Greece in the James Bond Film "For Your Eyes Only"

The James Bond film series is renowned for its exotic locations, thrilling action sequences, and intricate plotlines. One film that stands out in this regard is the 1981 release “For Your Eyes Only”. This film takes viewers on a thrilling journey to St. Cyril’s Monastery, a fictional location of significant importance in the Bond universe. Perched atop a rocky outcrop over 400 meters high, this abandoned Eastern Orthodox monastery in Greece serves as a backdrop for some of the film’s most suspenseful scenes.

The monastery’s historical significance as a refuge during World War II is woven into the narrative, providing a rich context for the characters and their actions. This article delves into the role of St. Cyril’s Monastery in the film, the real-life location where the scenes were shot, and the challenges faced during filming. It also explores the significance of the monastery in the broader James Bond universe.

Key Takeaways

  • St. Cyril’s Monastery is a key location in the 1981 James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only.
  • The monastery was used as a refuge during World War II, a historical detail that is incorporated into the film’s narrative.
  • The scenes at the monastery were filmed at the Holy Trinity Monastery in the Meteora region of Greece.
  • Despite challenges during filming, including protests from the resident monks, the film crew successfully captured the scenes at the monastery.
  • The film contributes significantly to the James Bond series, with its unique locations, historical context, and thrilling action sequences.

St. Cyril’s Monastery

St. Cyril’s Monastery is a fictional location of significant importance in the 1981 James Bond film, “For Your Eyes Only”. Situated at the top of a rocky outcrop over 400 meters high, this abandoned Eastern Orthodox monastery in Greece served as a refuge for the Greek resistance during World War II.

 

The Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Kalambaka, Greece
The Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Kalambaka, Greece

Location and History

St. Cyril’s is located in the northern mountains of Greece, perched atop a series of sheer cliffs. During World War II, it served as a refuge for the Greek resistance, including Aris Kristatos and Milos Colombo, who fought side by side against the National Socialists. The monastery is only accessible from the ground by a cabled basket.

In the Film “For Your Eyes Only”

Decades later, when James Bond is in search of the ATAC system, he is taken to St. Cyril’s by Colombo after deducing that Kristatos is there with the ATAC, awaiting General Gogol’s arrival to sell it to him.

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"For Your Eyes Only"
“For Your Eyes Only”

Behind the Scenes

Holy Trinity Monastery

St. Cyril’s was filmed on location at the Holy Trinity Monastery (Greek: Μονή Αγίας Τριάδος) in central Greece, situated in the Peneas Valley northeast of the town of Kalambaka. It forms part of 24 monasteries which were originally built at Meteora, one of the oldest still existing of the Meteora monasteries (Meteora means “suspended in the air” in Greek). Six of the 24 monasteries are still active and open to visitors. The church was constructed between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and is included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites titled Meteora.

 

Interior of the holy trinity monastery of Meteora, Greece
Interior of the holy trinity monastery of Meteora, Greece

Filming at Meteora

For the Meteora shoots beginning in October 1980, a Greek bishop was paid to allow filming in the monasteries, but the uninformed Eastern Orthodox monks were mostly critical of production rolling in their installations. After a trial in the Greek Supreme Court, it was decided that the monks’ only property were the interiors – the exteriors and surrounding landscapes were from the local government. In protest, the monks remained shut inside the monasteries during the shooting, and tried to sabotage production as much as possible, hanging their washing out of their windows and covering the principal monastery with plastic bunting and flags to spoil the shots, and placing oil drums to prevent the film crew from landing helicopters. The production team solved the problem with back lighting, matte painting, and building both a similar scenographic monastery on a nearby unoccupied rock, and a monastery set in Pinewood.

Roger Moore said he had a great fear of heights, and to do the climbing in Greece, he resorted to moderate drinking to calm his nerves. Later in that same sequence, Rick Sylvester, a stuntman who had previously performed the pre-credits ski jump in The Spy Who Loved Me, undertook the stunt of Bond falling off the side of the cliff. The stunt was dangerous, since the sudden rope jerk at the bottom could be fatal. Special effects supervisor Derek Meddings developed a system that would dampen the stop, but Sylvester recalled that his nerves nearly got the better of him: “From where we were [shooting], you could see the local cemetery; and the box [to stop my fall] looked like a casket. You didn’t need to be an English major to connect the dots.” The stunt went off without a problem.

 

FAQ:

1. What is the significance of St. Cyril’s Monastery in the James Bond universe?

St. Cyril’s Monastery holds a unique place in the James Bond universe as it serves as a key location in the 1981 film “For Your Eyes Only”. The monastery’s remote and inaccessible location, perched atop a series of sheer cliffs, adds to the suspense and intrigue of the film. It is here that the protagonist, James Bond, uncovers a critical plot point involving the ATAC system.

Moreover, the monastery’s historical significance as a refuge during World War II is woven into the narrative, providing a backdrop for the characters Aris Kristatos and Milos Colombo. Their shared history at the monastery during the war adds depth to their characters and their relationship with each other, contributing to the overall complexity of the film’s plot.

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2. How did the filming of “For Your Eyes Only” impact the Holy Trinity Monastery?

The filming of “For Your Eyes Only” at the Holy Trinity Monastery brought the location into the international spotlight. However, it also led to some controversy. The Eastern Orthodox monks who resided at the monastery were not fully informed about the filming and were critical of the production taking place in their sacred space.

The monks attempted to disrupt the filming by hanging laundry out of their windows and placing oil drums to prevent the film crew from landing helicopters. Despite these challenges, the production team managed to complete the filming by using creative solutions such as back lighting, matte painting, and building a similar set elsewhere.

3. How did Roger Moore overcome his fear of heights during the filming?

Roger Moore, who played James Bond in “For Your Eyes Only”, had a significant fear of heights. This presented a challenge during the filming at the Holy Trinity Monastery, which is located at a great height. To overcome his fear, Moore resorted to moderate drinking to calm his nerves.

This strategy allowed him to perform in the demanding and high-altitude scenes at the monastery. It’s a testament to Moore’s dedication to his role and his willingness to confront his fears to deliver a compelling performance.

4. What was the role of stuntman Rick Sylvester in the film?

Rick Sylvester, a renowned stuntman, played a crucial role in “For Your Eyes Only”. He performed the dangerous stunt of James Bond falling off the side of the cliff at St. Cyril’s Monastery. This stunt was particularly risky due to the potential fatal impact of the sudden rope jerk at the bottom of the fall.

Sylvester’s performance in this scene is a highlight of the film, adding a significant element of suspense and thrill. His contribution to the film underscores the importance of stunt performers in creating the high-stakes action sequences that are a hallmark of the James Bond series.

5. How does the film depict the accessibility of St. Cyril’s Monastery?

In “For Your Eyes Only”, St. Cyril’s Monastery is depicted as being accessible only by a cabled basket from the ground. This adds to the sense of isolation and inaccessibility of the monastery, enhancing its mystique and intrigue. The cabled basket journey up the sheer cliffs to the monastery is a visually stunning sequence in the film, heightening the suspense as James Bond makes his way to the monastery.

The depiction of the monastery’s accessibility also serves to underscore the bravery and determination of the characters, who must undertake this perilous journey to reach their destination. It’s a testament to the lengths that the characters, particularly James Bond, are willing to go to in their pursuit of justice.

6. How does the film incorporate the history of St. Cyril’s Monastery?

The film incorporates the history of St. Cyril’s Monastery by referencing its use as a refuge during World War II. This historical context adds depth to the film’s narrative and provides a backdrop for the characters of Aris Kristatos and Milos Colombo. Their shared history at the monastery during the war contributes to the complexity of their relationship and their respective character development.

By incorporating the monastery’s history into the film, the filmmakers were able to add a layer of historical authenticity to the narrative. This not only enhances the film’s plot but also pays tribute to the real-life history of the location.

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7. What is the ATAC system that is mentioned in the film?

The ATAC (Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator) system is a critical plot device in “For Your Eyes Only”. It is a fictional piece of military technology that controls the Polaris nuclear submarine’s ballistic missiles. In the film, the ATAC system is lost when a British spy ship sinks, setting off a race between various parties, including James Bond, to recover it.

The ATAC system is eventually revealed to be at St. Cyril’s Monastery, in the possession of the character Aris Kristatos. This revelation is a key turning point in the film’s plot, leading to the climactic confrontation at the monastery.

8. What is the significance of the Meteora region where the Holy Trinity Monastery is located?

The Meteora region, where the Holy Trinity Monastery is located, is of significant historical and cultural importance. It is home to one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, second in importance only to Mount Athos. The six monasteries are built on immense natural pillars and hill-like rounded boulders that dominate the local area.

The Meteora region is included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. The filming of “For Your Eyes Only” at the Holy Trinity Monastery brought international attention to this unique and culturally significant region.

9. How did the film crew manage to film at the Holy Trinity Monastery despite the monks’ protests?

Despite the monks’ protests and attempts to disrupt the filming, the film crew managed to successfully shoot the scenes at the Holy Trinity Monastery. They achieved this through a combination of creative problem-solving and technical solutions.

The crew used back lighting and matte painting to work around the disruptions caused by the monks. They also built a similar scenographic monastery on a nearby unoccupied rock, and a monastery set in Pinewood. These solutions allowed the crew to capture the essential scenes at the monastery, contributing to the film’s visual appeal and narrative impact.

10. How does the film “For Your Eyes Only” contribute to the James Bond series?

“For Your Eyes Only” is a significant contribution to the James Bond series. It is notable for its unique locations, including St. Cyril’s Monastery, and its incorporation of historical elements into the narrative. The film also stands out for its thrilling action sequences, including the scenes at the monastery.

The film’s plot, which revolves around the race to recover the ATAC system, adds a layer of suspense and intrigue to the series. The characters of Aris Kristatos and Milos Colombo, with their shared history at St. Cyril’s Monastery, add depth to the film’s narrative. Overall, “For Your Eyes Only” is a memorable and distinctive entry in the James Bond series.

Conclusion

The inclusion of St. Cyril’s Monastery in “For Your Eyes Only” showcases the James Bond series’ ability to weave historical and cultural elements into its narratives. The monastery, with its dramatic location and historical significance, adds depth to the film and provides a unique setting for some of its most suspenseful scenes. Despite the challenges faced during filming, the scenes at the monastery are a testament to the creativity and resilience of the film crew.

The film “For Your Eyes Only” is a significant entry in the James Bond series, and St. Cyril’s Monastery plays a key role in its appeal. Whether you’re a fan of the James Bond series, a film enthusiast, or someone interested in historical locations, the story of St. Cyril’s Monastery offers a fascinating glimpse into the intersection of film and history.

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References

  1. Exotic Locations. For Your Eyes Only – Ultimate Edition, Disk 2: MGM Home Entertainment.
  2. Inside For Your Eyes Only. For Your Eyes Only – Ultimate Edition, Disk 2: MGM Home Entertainment.
  3. Bond in Greece. For Your Eyes Only – Ultimate Edition, Disk 2: MGM Home Entertainment.
  4. (2001) Kiss Kiss Bang! Bang!: the Unofficial James Bond Film Companion. Batsford Books, p.138. ISBN 978-0-7134-8182-2.
  5. Glen, John (August 1981). “The director talks about For Your Eyes Only”. American Cinematographer.
  6. Double-O Stuntmen. The Man with the Golden Gun Ultimate Edition, Disk 2: MGM Home Entertainment.
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