A trip to a sacred destination: Chora & the Cave of St. John

A trip to the Cave of St. John was for sure on my top three wish list of this year. From the moment I had read about this sacred place I just knew I had to visit it. I showed Ben the map and told him that we were absolutely going to visit this place. Since Ben definitely wanted to visit Rhodes, we decided to plan a trip through the Dodecanese islands with Patmos as our last destination.

Patmos island is just beautiful. The island itself is already worth the time to spend some travel hours. It overwhelmed me with its peaceful and blissful atmosphere, the relaxing and quiet beaches, its beautiful nature and its inspiring history. In any case the island is great to get some rest and completely relax.

However, the main reason to visit this interesting place was because of the Cave of St. John. The cave where the beloved disciple of Christ was exiled and wrote the Book of Revelation. Currently the cave is enclosed by the Monastery of Saint John. A beautiful Mediterranean Monastery with cute white houses, a beautiful main church, dozens of small churches and friendly monks walking around.

For a visual impression of Patmos, click on the picture below:

Patmos

Highlights of Chora and the Cave of St. John

As the Monastery of St. John is pretty high and we only had two days to discover Patmos, Ben and I decided to rent a car to drive upwards. Our first stop was the Cave of St. John. I had read about the cave and thought it was some kind of museum these days. This wasn’t exactly the truth. Although the entrance looked like the entrance of a museum, the cave itself is a holy place where the Greeks worship God and St. John. The cave is an unique example of a traditional pilgrimage. The place is very small and full of people at the time we visited the place.

There seemed to be a specific ritual, where people were walking path through the cave and kissed all the holy paintings and other objects. The priest was sitting at the end of the path where people talked to him and kissed him goodbye. For me this was completely new and I felt a bit uncomfortable as I didn’t want to be disrespectful. However, the Greek people are very hospitable. They could see that Ben and I were not used to this and tried to explain us what we were supposed to do. I felt really welcome and although it wasn’t what I expected, this memory will forever have a special place in my heart.

After our visit to the Cave of St John we drove to Chora. The white circle around the impressive Monastery of St. John. From Chora you will have an amazing view on the blue sea, the lovely beaches and the incredible nature Patmos has to offer. After Ben and I admired this beautiful view we started our walk through the labyrinth of small streets and courtyards. This place is one of the most picturesque and photogenic towns I have seen so far. Traditional houses and blooming gardens are everywhere. You will see old lamps, inscriptions and carvings and of course churches everywhere. While walking through Chora I felt like I was in a different world with purity, kindness and faith.

From Chora we walked right into the monastery of St. John. The monastery is the first thing you see when entering the Island of Patmos at Skala. Highly located, prevailing the rest of the island, it is impossible that it will not catch your eye. To be honest, the monastery only becomes more impressive once you have entered it. The main entrance can be found at the north side of the walls, consisting of two towers.

After a short walk we walked into the courtyard, one of my favorite courtyards. The center of the monastery is laid with pebble stones, the surrounding grey and white walls are beautiful, flowers are everywhere and it is decorated with arches. The courtyard is also where the main church is located. The outer galille of the main church is beautifully decorated with fresco’s and four arches. You will see the monks walking around and making sure everyone is entering this place with respect.

The main church is the perfect example of a traditional Greek Orthodox Church. The place still has a Byzantine atmosphere. Unfortunately but understandable, it is not allowed to take pictures in this sacred place. The monastery received a lot of gifts and, in my opinion, the most impressive once can be watched here. Sacredotal gifts are kept in the old sacristy. In the side-chapel you can find impressive fresco’s.

As I already mentioned, the monastery received many gifts. Most of them are displayed in the museum. Very valuable and artistic ornaments, made of beautiful fabrics and gold are saved here. Furthermore you can admire gold and silver decorations, old documents (the oldest dates from 1073) and other treasures of the monastery.

Historical Highlights

John the apostle was exiled on Patmos 95 AD. In the cave where he lived that is currently named “the Holy Cave” or “the Cave of St. John” is where he wrote the book of revelation, the last book of the Bible. You can currently still see the slit were St. John heard the voice of God.

During the fourth century the religious freedom, thanks to Constantine the Great, made the cave become a place of pilgrimage, but unfortunately the Island was plundered because of a fight between Byzantium and the Saracens during the seventh century.

In 1088 Hosios Christodoulos founded the Monastery of St. John. The island Patmos began to flourish and the Monastery received many offers and gifts. Patmos was occupied by the Venetians in 1207 after the first fall of Constantinople. The monks created a special relationships in order to save their important documents.

The monastery did not really suffer from the Turkish occupation (1523-1912). Actually during this period many churches where build and the monastery was doing pretty well as the Ottomans reduced the number of pirate incursions.

The Main Church of the monastery was completed around 1090 and the frescos in the main chapel date from the twelfth century.

Useful information

Special ticket package: €4,-
Includes a visit to the Monastery, the church and the museum

Prices for food: Restaurants will cost about €20,- (without alcoholic drinks), A cheap meal will cost about €10,- and a Gyros lunch will cost about €3,-.

Getting there: The only option to visit Patmos is by boat. We booked our ticket with Direct Ferries, I have put the link at the end of my blog. When you are in Skala there are many places to rent a car or scooter, which I highly recommend you to do for your way upwards to Chora.

Rent a car: €40,- to rent a small car (Hyundai I10) for 24 hours, depending on your needs and requirements you can rent a bigger car which will be more expensive.

How much time you need: Ben and I spend about 5 to 6 hours to visit the Cave of St. John, Chora and the monastery. After our visit to Chora and the Cave of Saint John Ben and I decided to explore the rest of the island. If you are planning to see and explore more of the island (which I highly recommended) you will need at least two days.

Map of Patmos: 

Bonus Tips

Be respectful, the people you, like everywhere on Patmos, are very kind and helpful. However, the cave of St. John and the monastery are sacred place for them. It’s important to thread this place with respect. It might be helpful to do some research about the history of this place. However, this place has a very blissful atmosphere which I noticed immediately, and made me walk around in quietness and admiration.

Wear covering clothes, this is actually in addition to my previous point. It is important that you cover at least your knees and shoulders.

Finding a rental car is pretty easy, you will find Car rentals everywhere in Skala, especially close to the harbour. Ben and I just asked around until we had found something that met our requirements.

Do your research, a visit to this place is so much more valuable if you know its history.

Take your time, do not be in a hurry, but feel the atmosphere of the island of Patmos and act like the locals, relax. Also, Patmos has much more to offer. I loved everything about this beautiful and peaceful island. I can highly recommend you to stay a few days and experience the great atmosphere. You can find more information about the island in my previous blog.

Useful links

Official Website of the Monastery

Another Interesting Blog Post about Patmos

Practical information

Direct ferries

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