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What to See in Patmos

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THE MONASTERY OF ST JOHN

The first thing you notice on Patmos is the monastery of St John the Divine or the Evangelist. It crowns the hill of Hora. It looks like a Byzantine castle and was built like a fortress. Its presence is overwhelming. It was founded in 1088 by Ossios Christodoulos following a grant by the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I. Komnenos.
The monastery’s walls are over 15 meters high, its length from north to south is 53 meters and from east to west 70 meters. It seems even larger when you stand at the entrance, noticing its thick walls and heavily reinforced door.
Above the entrance several meters high there is a small opening from which burning hot oil, water, even lead was poured over to attack pirates and other invaders trying to break the gate, this opening was called "the killer", and was considered the last resort for keeping the Monastery safe.
The monks used to sound the bells to warn the people of Patmos to take refuge behind the fortified walls of the monastery, keeping Christianity safe as was intended by its founder, the blessed Christodoulos.
The main entrance is on the north side. There is a smaller entrance on the south side that is now closed off.
The monastery was not fully complete in 1088 and changed along with the wants and needs of the monks and the church.
The oldest parts are the eastern and northern sides; they can be distinguished by their irregular shaped walls that were constructed in haste during the first years in order to complete the protection of the area.
As you enter the gate you come to the main courtyard laid in by local pebbles and stones. Looking around you notice many different levels as a result of rearrangements and additions that have taken place over the centuries .
In the centre of the courtyard there is a round covered structure that looks like a well. It is in fact a very large jar that was once used to store wine and now contains holy water.
To your left is the main chapel, one of the first buildings to be erected in 1090.

As you face the main chapel (catholicon), there are four arched colonnade s and behind them the outer narthex that has wall paintings, the upper paintings are from the 17th century and represent different miracles performed by Saint John the Divine. The lower date from the 19th century.
To the right of the main chapel is the chapel of the Holy Christodoulos. Inside it are the skull of St Thomas, pieces of the Holy Cross and other religious relics.
Inside the main chapel you will notice the overwhelming and three dimensional carved wooden iconostasis, dating from 1820 this iconostasis replaced an older one from the 15th century, which in its turn had replaced the original marble one that Hosios Christodoulos had placed. The current iconostasis is a gift from Nektarios, the Patmian metropolitan of Sardis and was made by 12 wood carvers from the island of Hios. Its detail is astonishing and leaves visitors gazing visitors speechless.
The acoustics of the room are incredible. Listening to Byzantine hymns during mass is an unforgettable experience.
The Orthodox Church does not allow more than one ceremony per alter, per day so the monastery has 10 chapels, three of them are outside the boundaries of the monastery. At the entrance in the north is Saint Apostles, Saint George is to the east and Saint Fanourios on the west of the monastery. Inside the monastery are the chapels of Holy Christodoulos, St Nicholas, St John the Baptist, St Basil, The Holy Cross, All Saints and the chapel of the Virgin Mary.
To the right of the main church is the chapel of the Holy Christodoulos, inside are his remains as he requested after his death in 1093.
Also next to the main church, is the chapel of The Virgin Mary. The wall paintings of this room and in the main chapel date back from the 12th century and onwards. No words could sufficiently describe their beauty.
Behind the chapel of The Virgin Mary and extending to the south is the refectory where the monks ate their meals together. It is a rectangular room about 50 square meters and 8 meters high, there are two long tables covered with marble. There are niches in them where monks placed their personal items and beautiful frescos and wall paintings dating back to 1180.
Across the main courtyard on the first floor , is the old bakery, where the remains of a huge stone oven can be seen and a long wooden trough where the monks used to kneed their bread.
These were built in 1088 and are mentioned in the writings of Holy Christodoulos when he elected a man from the brotherhood, to become responsible for the running and maintenance of the room, a man he referred to as “the cellar man”.
The museum is located next to the bakery and has an entrance fee of 6 euros. It was also erected by the Blessed Christodoulos who bequeathed to it his most precious icons listed in his will. It's an amazing collection of icons, original manuscripts from the bible, objects of silver and gold, sacred relics, vestments embroiled with silver or gold threads, coloured silk threads and bejeweled with precious stones to list a few. Most of the items within the museum , have to be seen to be properly appreciated.
The Blessed Christodoulos also founded the monastery library. When he arrived on the island he brought with him his personal library including manuscripts from the monastic area of Mt. Latmos. The library is now home now to more than 3000 printed books, 900 manuscripts and 13000 documents dating back to 1073.This room is not open to the public except by special permission , usually for Byzantine and biblical scholars.
The rest of the monastery consists of 2 treasures treasuries, the monk's cells, the flourmill, store rooms, a conference room and a research room with new books and magazines. All these areas are not open to the general public.

MONASTERY OF THE REVELATION

96AD: in a grotto on Patmos the beloved disciple of Jesus, St. John the Apostle had a vision, a vision of the world to come. His student, Prohoros, wrote down this vision by order of the Lord, and it is known as the 27th and final chapter of the Holly Bible.
The spot around the cavern was the one initially chosen for the monastery of St John. Upon his arrival Osios Christodoulos decided, to build it instead on a higher point (current position) making it less vulnerable to raids.
Wanting to fulfil his wishes, he built a hermitage, covering the cave at its core. He started off by closing off the cave with the building of a chapel, he named it St Anne after his mother, the Virgin Mary's mother and the mother of emperor Alexios I. Komnenus, who was called Anne Dalassini and it was she who advised her son to cede the island of Patmos to Ossios Christodoulos.
Entering the cavern you realize its natural positioning and why the Lord picked this particular place in the world to reveal the Apocalypse. The rock formation is volcanic and rare, taking 100's of years to cool off, it shines at some points from the water that was trapped in it without vaporizing.
To the right there is the sacred cave and church of Saint John the Divine. In the centre between the cave and the chapel the low rock ceiling reaches out in clear threefold split, the sign of the Holly Trinity, it is also the sign that the orthodox pilgrims shape their fingers into to make the sign of the cross starting from their foreheads.
Looking closely at the three - part rock you will notice that it is very odd that a rock should split in three like that, there is no logical explanation of the shape of the rock except that it was through there that God communicated with Saint John giving him the vision of the Apocalypse.
In the back of the cave there is a fenced off section were a niche in the rock shows were the saint laid his head to rest. To the left if you look closely you will see a relief of a Greek cross that locals believe was not done by human hands.
A little higher to the right there is another niche, where he held on to the rock to raise himself up from his resting place and to lean against while dictating the words of god to his pupil Prohoros who stood next to him, on a natural rock desk that can still be seen.
Continuing right and close to the entrance, a narrow channel in the rock that miraculously provided water to the both of them, from a spring that cannot be found to date.
There is a monk and/or spiritual leader that will guide you through the cave awaiting you at the entrance, although it is recommended to sit on one of the stools and sink in the energy of this miraculous cave that some believe is one of the great mysteries of the world. In the monastery complex there are also two more churches, one of St. Artemios (18th century) and St. Nickolaos, monk cells, and other facilities as would be expected in a monastery, most of which were built by Osios Christodoulos and his men in 1088
According to historians St. John and Prohoros stayed 18 months on Patmos, and then returned to Ephesus, the place they were exiled from for preaching in the Lord's name. There, they wrote the 4th book of the New Testament.

NUNNERY OF THE ANNUCIATION

The convent of the Annunciation or Evangelismos is situated on the southwest side of Hora overlooking the Bay of Kypos (gardens) and is about a 15 minute walk from the bus station.
The convent started off as a small chapel with a hermitage until 1613 when Nikiphoros, an abbot from the monastery of St. John the Divine, renovated the building and dedicated it to Luke the Evangelist.
The hermitage was then supplemented with new buildings in 1937 by the monk Amphilohios Makris thus founding the Convent of the Annunciation.
The sisterhood is home to over 40 nuns who apart from praying, occupy themselves with social welfare, gardening, beekeeping and Byzantine embroidery called the"spitha" (spark).
The same stitch was used to make embroidery for aristocratic Byzantine families from the time of Hosios Cristodoulos.
The convent consists of the church Evangelistra (our lady of the Annuction) connecting with the side chapel of Agios Loukas (St. Luke) and the chapel of Agios Antonios (St. Anthony) situated in the tower of the convent.
The icons in the church date back to the 15th, 16th and 17th century.

ZOODOHOU PIGIS

Zoodohou Pigis is a womens' convent in Hora that was founded by the abbot of the monastery of St. John, Parthenios Pangostas in 1607.
It’s a 5-minute walk from the monastery and not touristy making it peaceful and fulfilling.
Even though it's under renovation (and will be so for a while due to lack funds), the little you see of the convent is enough to make it worth the effort.
The courtyards are filled with bougainvilleas and other flourishing flowers well taken care of by the nuns.
There are two churches inside, Zoodohou Pigis and St. John the theologian, both have icons of the 16th to the 18th century.
Apart from philanthropic work the nuns also make incense and sow or embroil religious garments.

CHORA

The island's capital Patmos or Chora (Hora) is built 3 km southwest of the harbour (Skala).
It spills under the walls of the monastery of St.John like roots of a tree. Many islands have villages called Hora. They are usually the main village s and first settlement s making them the oldest developed areas on their island.
Hora of Patmos is many times been referred to as the queen of all Hora's, not only because of the monastery, but for the Byzantine residences that are unique to the island and said to be the strongest built in the Aegean .
Whitewashed houses, mansions, captain's residences, narrow streets and alleyways, all of which date back to the 15th century, are one of the reasons why this Hora is evidently one of the most expensive areas in Europe. Bought out mainly by foreigners the houses in Hora are in high demand.
Walking in Hora during a sunny mid day would not be recommended, the whitewashed houses reflect the sunlight making it tiring and straining for the eyes and skin. The afternoon and morning sunlight really give the alleyways a more Byzantine aura and a night walk is considered very romantic.
There is a donkey track going from Skala to Hora build in 1794 by the metropolitan of Sardes, Nektarios. It starts about 1 kilometre in from the port, and takes about 25 minutes to walk up to Hora . We recommend you take a bus or taxi up and walk your way down the donkey track through the pine forest to the cave of the Revelation and then to Skala. Otherwise it's a 4.5km drive on asphalt road lined with eucalyptus trees and pine forests.

HISTORY AND HOUSES OF HORA

The first dwellings were built around 1130 when the monastery monks called upon the remaining inhabitants (mostly builders of the monastery and their families) to take up resident close to each other and the monastery walls forming anouter wall, so when invaders came they could seek refuge behind its walls keeping the community and Christianity safe.
The houses were built in rows, their thick walls were much higher than the roofs to discourage climbing over them. Inside the walls five doors locked interconnecting passageways. Other islanders near and around Asia Minor flocked to Hora to escape from the Turks for centuries to come.
As more came to seek refuge a new outer wall of houses had to be made, this meant the breaking up of some of the old homes, into smaller ones to accommodate more people.
Extension of the passageways and two more locked doors also had to be made. As time went by and the fear of pirates died away, homes and mansions turned into ruins and locals relocated taking remainders of the old buildings (stone and wood) to new locations reforming Hora into what it is today.
One of the oldest buildings still standing in Hora would have to be the Sophouliou mansion (1522), it was built as a self sufficient complex with large ovens, storage rooms and rooms for security personnel . Another traditional Patmian home is the Simandiri mansion, which today serves as a museum.

SKALA

Around the 16 th century Skala was one of the most important commercial ports in the Mediterranean it was originally made up of warehouses and maintenance facilities for local and incoming ships. The buying and selling of loot from pirates and the making and export of woman's stockings and embroidery were the major economical assets to the island and its people. At sunset everyone would return to their protected homes in Hora via the steps (skala).
The first homes were built in the beginning of the 19th century when European ships chased off the pirates of Turkey, Arabia and other countries. The Greek government under military dictatorship in 1972 built the current port.
Skala is now the most populated and visited place on the island. It offers most of the public services and being the island's only port it has a selection of supermarkets, gift shops, restaurants, hotels, cafeterias, bars and everything you would expect to find in a commercial harbor .
Skala has taken the role of "the city of Patmos" while at the same time it preserves a warm island atmosphere as would be expected from such a historic port. The mix of people you see is a show of history repeating itself, and although you won't find any pirates, you will meet people from all over the world coming either for spiritual enlightenment, relaxation and/or a good time.
About 200 meters from the port is the beginning of the beach Agios Theologos (Saint Theologian). It is a sandy beach which is very popular on weekdays with the locals because they can take a quick dive, refresh themselves and go on with the ir daily duties.
There is a row of snack bars along the beach making it very convenient for tourist s on cruise boats, or day trippers from nearby islands who don't have a lot of time: they can swim eat and leave.
At the end of the beach there is fenced of section with a sign saying that this was the spot that saint john baptized the first Christians on the island in approximately 95AD, apparently there is a spring that runs under the beach to the sea, making that section of the beach extra refreshing.
Five meters onwards you will find the church of St John (on the other side of the beach) . This is where the new marina begins.
All roads lead to Skala on this island so chances are you will be passing through Skala several times a day, everything you need to see and do is within walking distance so park in one of the 3 free parking spots, the less traffic, the better for everyone.

GRIKOS

Grikos bay is situated in the southeast. It is approximately 4.5 km from the port in Skala. The road runs parallel to the coast making walking to and from Skala very beautiful and popular especially for joggers.
The bus stops by several times a day leaving you 50 meters from the beach.
There are taverns, a rent-a-bike with a cafe, hotels and apartments, a kiosk and heaps of sand to lay your towel on.
Grikos is a popular settlement during the summer because it is quieter than most towns around the island, especially during high season (August). Its beach is the longest in island with crystal clear waters and tamarisk trees for shade.
Tragonissi ("ram island") populated only by goats and a goat herder, faces the bay protecting it from bad weather (except SE winds) and making it perfect for yachts and boats to stop by or moor on the jetty that has a depth of 2 meters.
Most of Grikos has a view of Petra or Kalikatsou (as most locals know it). It is a landmark and sits like a monument of Grikos.

KAMPOS

Kambos is approximately 6 km from Skala. There is an upper (Ano) and a lower (Kato) Kámbos also known as Kambos Beach.
Ano Kambos is built around a picturesque square with a beautiful church on one side and tasty taverns, a kiosk and a cafe on the other.
The church of the Annunciation (Evangelismos) was built by the villag ers in 1937, they are very proud of it and celebrate there everything from Easter to weddings keeping a very tight community, but at the same time keeping an open mind to tourists who have built homes around this little expanding village.

AG. NIKOLAOS

This locality is where the craftsmen and artists that built the monastery lived with there families.
The church of Agios Nikolaos (St.Nicholas) that the bay was named after, is one of the oldest on the island, it was built in the 11th century for and by the craftsmen and their families.
It has a very old icon of St Nicholas that was brought to Patmos by workers from Trebizond in Asia Minor, and is believed to perform miracles.
In the Greek orthodox faith St Nicholas is the guardian of the sea and seamen. You will notice that a lot of boats and caciques have been named Agios Nikolaos in order to keep them and their men safe at sea.
It is believed that the bay and town are named so because when approaching by sea a light guides you towards the safety of the bay.
There is a long beach that is fairly rocky, it will take you about 15 minutes to walk down, even though there is a dirt road it is not recommended to ride or drive down.
The water is very clean and clear as would be expected by the Icarion Pelagos, but rubbish often gets washed up which discourages most people to swim.

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