The Island of Patmos in the Bible is rocky, with a modest altitude. And is characterized by an irregularly undulating course of the territory. Conditioned by two narrow isthmuses that divide it into three almost discontinuous blocks. Unlike other Greek islands with more tourist crowds, a sense of peace prevails here on its pristine beaches facing the sparkling Aegean Sea and from its scenic green-stained hills.
The origins of the Island of Patmos in the Bible are not immune to the Greek myth. Which wants the island once relegated to the bottom of the sea. Its emergence from the waters was due to the will of Zeus. But only because of a complex intertwining of divine intentions manifested by Selene, Apollo, and above all, Artemis. In ancient Greece, the goddess of hunting was at the center of deep-rooted cults between the Dodecanese and the Anatolian coast.
In the Island of Patmos in the Bible, the sense of the divine is declined above all in a Christian key since tradition attributes the writing of the Book of Revelation to the Apostle John in a cave present here. And the object of pilgrimages by the faithful from all over the world.
Table of Contents
History of the Island of Patmos in the Bible
The Romans used the island of Patmos in the Bible as a place of deportation. Thus, in 95 AD, Emperor Domitian exiled the evangelist John, who wrote the Apocalypse there. From the 4th century, the Island of Patmos in the Bible began to attract Christian pilgrims. Still, in the 7th century, the Saracens flooded the Aegean islands, and Patmos was deserted like many other islands. It remained uninhabited until the 11th century.
In 1088, Christodoulos, a hegumen (Orthodox abbot) leading a rigorous monastic life, had the monastery of Saint John the Theologian built, with the help of the Byzantine emperor Alexios 1st Komnenos, on the site of a temple of Artemis (goddess of the hunt). With the external appearance of a medieval fortress, this monastery will become an important spiritual center in the following centuries. It also houses a remarkable collection of manuscripts, icons, objects, and liturgical works.
The monastery, which depends on the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, was once populated by 1700 monks but only has around 25 today. However, his land holdings remain significant as he owns most of Patmos and properties on other islands. Against the surrounding wall of the monastery nestles the town of Chora (or Hora) with its whitewashed houses.
Representation of Apostle John on the Island of Patmos
The Island of Patmos Under the Venetian reign
In 1207, Patmos came under Venetian rule before being conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1537. The Turkish occupation lasted until 1912. And Italians, Germans, and British occupied it until it was annexed to Greece in 1946. To the north of Chora, halfway between the city and the central port of Skala, is the Cave of the Apocalypse, a sanctuary believed to be the place where the Apostle John is said to have written the Apocalypse. This cave dug into the rock is the basement of a small monastery.
Nothing in the Bible allows us to affirm that John received the visions of the Apocalypse in a cave. And how much one can wonder about the human tendency to transform a historic place into a place of reverence. The slightest hollow or crack in the rock is interpreted as a sign from heaven.
Indeed, going down into this cave, we would see the bunk where John slept. The stone where he rested his head in a sort of rounded hollow. A small oval hole on the right wall where John would have placed his fingers when he prayed. And a triple crack in the ceiling would be proof of the Trinity! This Cave of the Apocalypse, an essential place of pilgrimage, has become a place of awe.
The Cave of Apocalypse
The Cave of the Apocalypse, in which the evangelist would have received his ecstatic visions, is located between the two main towns of the island of Chora and Skala. It has been a place of worship for almost 2000 years and has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1999.
This visit can be an exciting experience regardless of faith due to that inexplicable phenomenon of energy saturation. This is sometimes perceived in more than one place considered sacred. The cave is flanked by a whitewashed sanctuary on which tower bells and from which you can enjoy a breathtaking view. It can restore a heavenly sense of peace and harmony to anyone.
About half an hour’s walk from the cave towards Chora, you reach the imposing Monastery of San Giovanni. It dates back to 1088. This massive Byzantine structure stands out in a raised position on a typical grouping of white houses. And is striking for an aesthetic impact, more like a military fortress than a place of prayer.
Does the island of Patmos still exist?
As is known, the island of Patmos in the Bible, in the archipelago of Greece, is linked to the exile of John the Evangelist, the Author of Revelation. The Island of Patmos in the Bible still exists nowadays. Today, the island of Patmos in the Bible is detached with a nearby people of 3,000, those probing for an ethical encounter.
The revelation of the visions of the Apocalypse on the island of Patmos
The Apostle John presents himself as a writer and gives the island of Patmos the place where the book of the Apocalypse was written. It was there that Emperor Domitian exiled John in the year 95. Indeed, Domitian launched a period of persecution of six to eight months in 95. Which was very violent and extensive geographically: Rome and all the Orient were concerned. It was on Patmos. While in exile, John had the immense privilege of receiving the visions of the Apocalypse that he wrote down so that all humanity could take cognizance of them.
The writing of the Apocalypse would be around the year 96. John is freed under Emperor Nerva (96-98), Domitian’s successor of the Antonine dynasty. After that, he went to Ephesus, where he would still have written his gospel and his three letters (1 John, 2 John, and 3 John) around 98 AD (a little later, according to other sources).
According to tradition, John died in Ephesus around the year 100, during the reign of Emperor Trajan (98-117), while Christianity remained forbidden.
The small island of Patmos (34 km2) belongs to the Dodecanese, an archipelago in the Aegean Sea. Not far from the Turkish coast, which includes more than 160 islands and islets, most of them uninhabited. The Dodecanese means “twelve islands.” Because of the 12 main islands of the archipelago of which Rhodes is also a part.
The island of Patmos in the Bible is shaped like a seahorse. It is sometimes nicknamed “the Jerusalem of the Aegean Sea” for its atmosphere of contemplation.
Most of the island’s economy is based on cultural and even religious tourism, due to the presence of a historic center ( Chorá ), with the monastery of Saint John the Theologian and the cave of the ‘Apocalypse listed as World Heritage by UNESCO in 1999.