Monasteries, hermitages, and religious caves of Patmos
The appeal of the island of Patmos does not dwell only on its Chora, a magnificent whitewashed village dominated by the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian. It also lives in its secluded hermitages, solitary churches, and green landscapes. Whether you are interested in religious tourism, historical landmarks or magnificent beaches, Patmos is an island made of variety. Choose the trail that most appeals to you and visit the Island of the Apocalypse: Patmos Revelation.
Religion and closeness to God seem to be the key mindset to have if you visit Patmos. And, to be honest, this is quite the norm in every place; the same as Crete is the island of the Minotaur, Patmos will be the island of John. Like it or not, believe it or not. Bearing that in mind, get ready to visit significant religious monuments that attract thousands of pilgrims from all over the world. This turns Patmos, the island of the Apocalypse, into one of the most visited Christian places of worship.
Also known as the Jerusalem of the Aegean, Patmos is not a secret place, still it has been wise enough to limit the assault of massive hordes of tourists which can be found on more popular Greek islands. With a mild climate and safe beaches, Patmos is also a wise destination for beach life lovers all year, not just during the high season.
The Holy Cave of the Apocalypse
The Orthodox tradition has defined Patmos with the term Theovadis, which means Walked by God. The spiritual center of the island is the Cave of the Apocalypse, a sacred grotto where John the Evangelist lived while in exile, in 95 AD. Christian tradition says that John the Evangelist was John the Apostle, a historical figure, one of the original twelve apostles. During his exile in Patmos, John is said to have had a Revelation that inspired the Apocalypse, or Book of Revelation. For the sake of precision, however, and for many scholars, this is still a matter of debate.
At the entrance of the cave, around which a chapel was built, an inscription gives a fair warning: How terrible is this place! This is no other but the house of God, and the gate of heaven, a quotation from the book of Genesis [28:7].
The interior of the cave, as narrow as it is, shines with golden icons and candle holders. There is a subtle fragrance of incense that pervades the atmosphere. And almost as carved on the rock, it is still possible to see the triple crack made by God when he spoke to John.
Should the austerity of the place become too oppressive, it is enough to let your eyes escape through the windows of the chapel. The candid domes mix with blue deep skies. Everything looks peaceful, serene.
Monastery of Saint John the Theologian
This giant of stone oversees in silence. It was built on the ruins of a Paleochristian church, over the ruins of a pagan temple. More like a medieval fortress than a Monastery, you will see it from your boat before docking at the port of Patmos.
Its austere profile incites awe mixed with a tip of constraint. Yet, it also remains a mystic promise of the grace sheltered on the island. Immediately down the fortification, the white Chora. Declared World Heritage Site, it falls from the top of the hill making a striking contrast between the dark facade of the Monastery and the white walls of the houses. Most of them Byzantine residences, unique to the island and considered the strongest built in the Aegean.
Once past the imposing entrance gates, the narthex appears as the vibrant heart of the place adorned with colorful flowers. The main church shows a golden wood iconostasis and a magnificent fresco of Christ Pantocrator. Enchantment goes on with a visit to the museum, which houses historic manuscripts and liturgical valuable objects.
Then, there is the library, one of the greatest of Orthodoxy, sadly not open to the public.
Its immeasurable value lies on the manuscript codices, (some of them are papyrus),
and in over 13,000 documents related to the history of the monastery and the island.
The oldest one, the “Purple” code, dates back to the 6th century.
Both the Holy Cave of the Apocalypse and the Monastery of Saint John reveal the most sacred face of the island. However, they are not the only holy places you can visit. Patmos has as many churches, chapels and worship places you could expect to find on such a sacred land.
Among the most beloved holy seats of Patmos is the Hermitage of the Prophet Elias, proudly stands 269 meters above sea level.
Almost on every Greek island, there is a place called Prophet Elias. This is a toponym indicating the highest of places, the one closest to the sun. On this island, it is also a spiritual Zenit.
Even when it is hard for visitors to find the place open, the hike up to the area is well worth the effort.
You will reach the entrance gate after a winding flock of stairs. There the horizon opens boundless in every direction you look. Blue skies and cobalt seas in clear contrast with the whitewashed walls of the shrine.
Patmos is also home to three female monasteries, one of them is Evangelismos, the Holy Monastery of the Nuns of the Annunciation. The convent was renovated in 1613 and dedicated to Luke the Evangelist.
As many of the monasteries on Patmos, Evangelismos resembles more to a fortification than to a church of the Aegean. The complex dominates the bay of Kipos (Garden) or Kipi to Hosiou (Gardens of the Blessed One). Inside, it houses the Church of Evanghelistrias, and a chapel inside a tower. Gardens full of blossomed flowers, frescoes and icons invite to a pause to admire the landscape.
Currently, the sisterhood is home to over 40 nuns that dedicate their life to gardening, beekeeping as well as prayer. Their most curious activity, though, is an embroidery technique of the Byzantine tradition that goes under the name of spitha (spark).
The landscape and skies of Patmos are covered with stunning little chapels, white churches, and beautiful domes. I got carried away taking pictures of them, but I promise I won’t inflict them upon you here. If you are curious, however, take a look at my Instagram feed! 😉
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The Island of the Apocalypse: Patmos Revelation
If you visit any of this sacred places, remember to dress accordingly to the character of the places. Avoid shorts or miniskirts, and prefer a long dress and a light scarf to cover your shoulders.
Disclosure: The visit to more distant places on Patmos was made much easier thanks to Patmos Rent a Car
Do you want to discover Patmos on your own…? Clic on the picture to buy your Digital Travel Guide to Patmos