Castles of Greece


Chora, Patmos, Dodecanese,South Aegean

Monastery of Patmos

or Monastery of St. John the Evangelist  
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Monastery of Patmos
Chora of Patmos island, Dodecanese
Region > Prefecture:   Greek Map
South Aegean
Municipality > Town:
City of Patmos
• Chora
Elevation ≈ 210 m 
Time of Construction   Origin
Castle Type   Condition
Very Good

The monastery of Patmos was founded in 1088 by Ossios Ioannis Christodoulos following a grant by the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos. The greater part of the monastery was completed by Christodoulos in just three years. Its heavily fortified exterior was necessitated by the threats of piracy and Seljuk Turks.


Patmos is mentioned in the Christian scriptural Book of Revelation. The book's introduction states that its author, John, was on Patmos when he was given (and recorded) a vision from Jesus. Early Christian tradition identified this writer John of Patmos as John the Apostle. As such, Patmos is a destination for Christian pilgrimage. Visitors can see the cave where John is said to have received his Revelation (the Cave of the Apocalypse), and several monasteries on the island are dedicated to Saint John.

After the death of John of Patmos, possibly around 100 , a number of Early Christian basilicas were erected on Patmos. Among these was a Grand Royal Basilica in honour of Saint John, built c. 300-350 at the location where the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian stands today.

Early Christian life on Patmos, however, barely survived Muslim raids from the 7th to the 9th century.[citation needed] During this period, the Grand Basilica was destroyed. In the 11th century, the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos gave Reverend Father Christodoulos the complete authority over the island of Patmos, as well as the permission to build a monastery on the island.

The spot around the cavern of Saint John was the one initially chosen for the monastery. 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.

Population was expanded later by infusions of Byzantine immigrants fleeing the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, and Cretan immigrants fleeing the fall of Candia in 1669. The island was controlled by the Ottoman Empire for many years, but it enjoyed certain privileges, mostly related to tax-free trade by the monastery as certified by Ottoman imperial documents held in the Library.

Structure, Fortification & Buildings

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.

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 monastery consists of interconnecting courtyards, chapels, stairways, arcades, galleries and roof terraces. Hidden in the walls are fragments of an ancient temple of Artemis that was destroyed in the 11th century. The main chapel is lovely, as is the adjoining Chapel of the Theotokos, whose frescoes date from the 12th century.

The Treasury has an impressive array of religious art and treasure, mainly consisting of icons of the Cretan school. The star exhibits are an unusual mosaic icon of Agios Nikolaos and the 11th-century parchment granting the island to Christodoulos.

About halfway up (or down) the cobbled path that leads here is the Cave of the Apocalypse, the very place where St. John is believed to have received his revelations.


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Road map to Monastery of Patmos

Approach to the monument:
Its entrance is on the main road between Hora and Skala (the island’s port). It is 1,5km from Skala and 1.6 km from Hora.
Daily 08:00-13:00 and also 14:00-16:00 on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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