I must confess how little I knew about the island of Patmos before I ever visited. It may not be among the most well-known of the Greek islands but its importance as a pilgrimage site draws a huge number of visitors per year – even without the benefit a local airport!
The short boat transfer from our ship to the port of Skála in Patmos was fun and easy. Being the first stop during my two-day Greek islands' cruise experience, I was perhaps more excited about the simple fact of setting foot on a Greek island than the history of the island itself, but that changed as soon as our guided visit of the two main tourist sites started.
Chapel of St. Anne and the Cave of the Apocalypse
Our first stop was at the very top of a mountain for a visit to the Chapel of St. Anne, which houses the “Cave of the Apocalypse.” It is said that the Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelations here after being exiled to the island in 95 AD.
The small 17th century chapel sits modestly on top of the hill offering majestic views of the island and the sea below. Right before entering the small cave, our guide told us to look for three significant points on the wall of rock: the spot where John is believed to have rested his head, the natural stone pedestal where he would have placed the parchment containing the visions he received, and a crack on the wall from where the voice of God spoke to him.
Monastery of St. John the Theologian
After our short cave visit, we continued our way up to the Monastery of St. John the Theologian, a formidable fortress dating back to 1088. The walk up to the monastery was well worth the effort, offering fantastic views of Patmos and beyond. We also saw plenty of cute little shops selling Greek crafts and souvenirs, but rushed as we were to get to the monastery before closing time, there wasn’t a minute to spare browsing for trinkets to take back home.
There’s a true sense of peace that takes over the beautiful inside courtyard, with colorful flowers and antique art representations. Inside the dark halls of the monastery, ancient frescoes tell religious stories. The monastery also houses a museum featuring religious icons, sculptures, relics and Byzantine art, and a library with more than 1,200 antique manuscripts, including pages of Mark’s gospel dating back to the 6th century.
By the time we left the site, the sun had set and we needed to practically run down the hill and to our bus in order to make it in time for dinner back on the ship, so there was no time to explore any of the island’s less holy sites. Some other time, perhaps.