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The Monastery of St. John is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Patmos, second only, perhaps, to the related Cave of the Apocalypse. It draws crowds from all over the world and is a common Christian pilgrimage because of its ties to John the Apostle and the last book in the Christian Bible, Revelation. Like the rest of Patmos, the Monastery of St. John has a richly preserved history, and it should be one of the first things on your list when you reach Patmos.
Sometime during the reign of Nero, John the Apostle was exiled to the isle of Patmos, where he spent his days in a cave. One day, he was given a vision from God–a vision of the end times. His student, Prohoros, recorded everything John saw in his vision in the Book of Revelation. As Christianity spread, Patmos became known as the temporary home of John, and the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. John was built in his honor.
The Monastery was built on a hilltop in the center of Chora, surrounded by a sturdy fortress, to protect it from pirates, Turks, and anyone else who might wish to invade. Some followers of Artemis also claimed that Christians tore down a temple to Artemis and erected the Monastery of St. John on top of it.
How to Get There
A massive structure in the center of the Patmos capital of Chora, the Monastery is easy to see but harder to reach. If you take a bus to Chora, you will find a kiosk near the bus station, and to the left of the kiosk, a steep, paved road. You can take the bus into Chora, but it should be noted no driving is allowed in Chora itself. On the way uphill, you’ll pass places to eat and gift shops, some Christian, some not. When you reach the Artemis gift shop, you’ll see a set of stairs leading to the Monastery. Pat yourself on the back for making it all the way up the hill. Anyone entering the Monastery, male or female, should have their shoulders and knees covered.
What to See In the Monastery
The eastern and northern sides of the Monastery are the oldest and can be distinguished by their irregular construction, as if they were hastily thrown together. It’s an interesting sight for those most interested in the history of the place. The courtyard is beautifully tranquil for quiet reflection. The main chapel holds famous religious relics such as the skull of St. Thomas and pieces of the Holy Cross. Next to the main chapel is the chapel of the Virgin Mary, where you can find paintings displayed all over the walls, many dating back to the 12th century. You can also find the museum near the bakery, which has an entry fee of 6 euros.
Once you’re finished at the Monastery, you can walk down the Old Path to reach the Cave of the Apocalypse.
Where to Stay
When it comes to accommodation, Patmos has several hotels to choose from. However, Chris Hotel provides a commitment to quality service that’s difficult to find anywhere else. It’s located in Skala, the main port of Patmos, close to the bus, shops, and grocery stores. It has beautiful room views of the sea, the mountains, or their own courtyard. The staff are all very knowledgeable, so feel free to ask them any questions you might have about visiting the Monastery of St. John.