Earlier this year my wife and I visited the Island of Patmos. The island is well and truly on the map for Christian pilgrims, it being the home of two rather unique UNESCO sites: the Cave of the Apocalypse and the Monastery of St. John the Theologian.
We had opted in advance to join a ship’s excursion that included both places whilst ensuring that we would have a knowledgeable English speaking guide.
The fortified Monastery sits atop the hill of Hora offering a commanding presence as its over 15 metre high walls tower over the white walled houses and churches of the town of Chora. Indeed, so prominent is the monastery that it is probably the first thing that every visitor to Skala notices
The Cave of the Apocalypse is approximately half way up the hill between Skala and Chora. Both places are actually well within walking distance of the port of Skala and local buses also run a regular service between Skala, the Cave of the Apocalypse and Chora.
Discounting time spent visiting the cave complex making the journey between Skala and the hill top town of Chora would take a reasonable walker around 50 minutes.
The Cave of the Apocalypse is a most holy place, venerated by both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox churches as the site where St. John the Apostle received his visions from Christ from which he wrote the Book of Revelation
Over the years the cave has been built over and a small complex now exists. The entrance to the complex is marked by a mosaic portraying the visions of St. John…
Once inside the complex there are a number of stairs leading down to the small grotto which was the cave and which now is the chapel.
Admittance to the Chapel is permitted even during lengthy services though, quite rightly, photography inside the cave is not allowed. The nightly resting place of St.John’s head is outlined on a rock in beaten silver.
From the Cave of the Apocalypse a path follows the old Byzantine pilgrim’s trail upwards to the town of Chora.
Once Chora is reached the visitor will be taken by the narrow streets and white washed walls of both the homes, small business premises and the 22 churches that once served they community.
A zig-zag of narrow streets lead to the entrance of the monastery which was constructed in the 11th Century.
Entering into the main courtyard, which is laid with local pebbles and stone. To the left is the main chapel with four arched colonnades. Wall paintings dating to the 17th Century are currently undergoing restoration but they are said to represent different miracles performed by St. John.
To the right of the courtyard is a further chapel, that of the Holy Christodoulus. Many religious relics are kept in this chapel.
There are in fact 10 chapels linked to the monastery though three of these actually fall outside the monastery boundary.
Across the courtyard can be seen the remains of the old bakery. The Kneading trough and ovens still remain. Next to the bakery is the monastery museum. There is a separate charge to enter but in here the visitor will find some of the most amazing collections of religious icons, vestments and ‘original’ manuscripts from the bible. A collection that has to be seen to be believed.
At a rough guess we spent some 90 minutes in the monastery before we set off to explore chora itself. A veritable maze of white residential homes interspersed by the odd church (22 of them in total) and the odd square boasting a taverna.
Eventually we emerged in an area boasting a row of windmills which also heralded the start point for our descent back to Skala: this was to be via the ‘Path of Culture’. The joy of following this route down was that it afforded excellent views over Skala and its harbour, views back towards Chora and the monastery, and an opportunity to check out the flora and fauna of this lovely island.
The walk along the ‘Path of Culture’ into the centre of Skala took approximately 40 minutes. No doubt we could have knocked some time off that but the photo opportunities were too good to miss.