You cannot fail to see the imposing Byzantine fortress like structure of the Monastery guarding over Chora - it dominates the island. It was founded in 1088, by Ioannis Christodoulos. Its position atop the hill and its walls are testament to the danger of invading turks. The town of Chora huddles around the base of its walls. The monastery consists of interconnecting courtyards, chapels - ten in total, 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.
To the eastern side of Chora is Zoodochos Pigi (means “life giving source”) and is the second most populous convent on the island, after Evangelismos.The Convent of Zoodochos Pigi, was founded by the monk Parthenios Pankosta, under the patriarch Timothy the 2nd in 1607 and is located southwest of the big Monastery. There are two churches, Zoodohou Pigis and St. John the theologian, both with icons dating from the 16th to the 18th century. It is sometimes open the public but we didn't go inside - just into the courtyard. 15 nuns occupy themselves with the art of needlework and embroideries of clerical vestments in the convent of Zoodochos Pigi. They are also involved in social welfare activities. Celebration on the Friday after Easter is a notable ritual in this convent.
Take the bus from Skala to the old town of Chora and visit the monastery - its free to enter but please respect the dress code - no shorts and skimpy tops allowed. Apart from its Christian connections the building of the monastery is lovely to see and its many beautiful frescoes, representing the miracles performed by Saint John. It has a double portico courtyard. In total, the monastery houses ten chapels, and the view from the balconies above are well worthwhile. The museum upstairs with its artifacts does have an entrance fee though - 6 euros in Oct 2008.
Our visit co-coincided with the end of a service (Jacob our hotel guide had planned this on purpose) so we could see the religious artifacts - the most precious being the skull of St Thomas - which are not on display otherwise. Also chunks of bread (apparently presented like a big birthday cake and then sliced) and a sweet sort of seed was being handed out to everyone. The monastery resembles more of a fortress from its exterior - built to ward off marauding pirates.
A second visit to the monastery the following day it was virtually empty and serenely peaceful. A few religious visitors were present talking to the priest and we sneaked a look into the dining room, beautiful set out for a meal and walls lined with paintings.
Monastery opening times:
Opening times are from 8am. to 1.30pm everyday and afternoons 4 - 6pm. Tues, Thurs. and Sunday.
Instead of taking the bus back walk down and vist the cave, some 2.5 km from Skala - half way down the hill from the monastery. An old stone donkey path goes down to the Cave of St John and carries on down to Skala - a great way to see the island views. The Cave is where the apostle John received the Revelation from which he wrote the last book of the bible. Some 43 steep step descend to the cave - several monastic buildings have been built around in on the hillside. Inside to the left is a Greek Orthodox chapel of St Anna whilst to the right is the actual cave - now with the usual shrines of Greek orthodox. The cave is quite large but low, so you can easily touch the ceiling. There is the triple cleft in the rock through which John is said to have heard the voice of God. The area where John laid down is marked off with metal surrounding where his head would have been and also a handhold in the rock which he would pull himself up on. Many groups visit here to pray and the atmosphere of peace is prevalent and moving. Photography is not allowed inside- so I have scanned a postcard for that.
Chora is the old town of Patmos, some 4.5km above Skala - dominated by the monastery. Take time after a monastery visit to wander around the narrow alleyways with traditional architecture and the odd donkey. There are a few shops and cafes up here and tucked away you'll find more snowy white chapels and smaller monasteries with flower-filled courtyards and as always photogenic bell towers.
A small main square has the town council building.
The old cobbled donkey path linking the Chora with the Cave of St John is just one of several old paths on Patmos - they make a pleasanter detour from the road as some pass through pine trees and give wonderful views. We met several dutch walkers who had come to Patmos to walk these paths to reach outlying parts of the island - Patmos is good for a walking holiday - still a bit too hot for my liking though to be trailing over hills - we just opted for the one from Chora to Skala. They are not well marked so forehand knowledge and itineraries would be helpful. We looked for the path from Chora to Grikos but gave up- we did see it signposted once we were in Grikos though. There are 17 paths according to a Patmos guide I found.
Halfway up to the monastery is the Cave of the Apocalypse, where reputedly St John wrote the book of Revelations. Doesn't take long to see (esp if on way to see Hora and the Monastery, and it's the reason why Patmos has been a religious centre for 900 years. Interesting to see, but wear reasonable clothing - a bikini/microskirt combo isn't going to go down well.
In Hora, eat lunch at Vagelis in the square - recommend the giant beans in tomato/oregano sauce to kick off. The square's easy to find - just wander around the windy narrow streets for long enough and you'll stumble into it.
If you're planning to walk up to Hora, wear sensible shoes - the old road (nice to walk up) is a stone path, and can be a bit uneven.
We toured the island on our clapped out motorbike, which just about lasted out the hire duration.
We had a look at Kampos, north of Skala. There was a bit of development here and we had a couple of slices of expensive chicken and spinach pie at a taverna run by a Dane. The beach was ok as Patmos beaches go. Patmos wasn't a place for great sandy swathes, more small, gritty or stony coves.
This was another place ripe for development.
Another place we visited was Lampi, a very wild, stony beach supposedly made up of many different coloured stones. I wondered whether we had got the wrong place as there didn't appear to be anything of the sort. The beach just seemed grey and spectacularly wild.
Again, we were unlucky with the taverna. We were served a drink and then the place closed around us!!!
One strange place we stopped at was Lefkton, an unexciting weedy, shingly beach edged by trees and the most peculiar, out of place house. It reminded us of the Adams Family house.
Looking at a map of Patmos today, there are so many more places to get to. The roads have been surfaced and even new ones built. Places we could get to on the coast really were very limited without venturing onto some dirt track of unknown quality.
I suppose I should give a tip here on visiting the monastery but as we never got to visit I don't feel qualified to. I'll just say it's open from 8am. to 1.30pm and 4 - 6pm. Tues, Thurs. and Sunday.
If you decide to walk the winding 4km. to the monastery ,you will pass through Chora, a large and sprawling, typical Greek Island hill town. It's an attractive place to wander, with it's white-washed mansions and empty narrow alley-ways. I remember sitting here, admiring the superb views down over the island.It's worth visiting Chora for the views alone. There was a magnificent yacht anchored in the deeply indented, blue, blue bay and it remains etched in my memory.
There weren't any cruise ships visiting Patmos in the time we were there and Chora was particularly deserted which made it even more picturesque. Unfortunately, this meant nowhere was open for lunch, so it was back down to Skala for some cheese pies, a speciality of Patmos.
In 1985, Grikos was probably the closest thing to a resort. The English company, Timsway, had discovered this pleasant little place and had shown great interest in developing it as an upmarket package destination. New buildings were very much on the up and we could see that in a few years, it would be well on it's way to having "arrived". How right we were!!
I only remember one taverna and as usual, food was not being served at lunchtime.
It was built over 900 years ago and looked more like castle to me. In fact, it is said that it was used as defense against pirates. They have a treasury with religious artifacts but we didn’t think it was worth the 8 Euro to go in and see it. We saw a small tub and then thought back to the latrine we had just seen in Ephesus. We then joked about how many priests could fit into that tub. The tub was actually used for kneading bread. There are many religious icons and mosaics on the walls to see. The views from this height are spectacular.
Instead of taking the ships tour of Patmos, we instead decided to take a cab to the cave of Revelation. The ships tour cost about 46 euro while we would pay less than 5 euro each. It is said that St John was banished from Ephesus to Patmos for preaching about Jesus. Here, St John continued his work. The cave was a holy place and a place to getaway from the hot Mediterranean sun in those days. St John had a vision of Jesus telling him something through a crack in the cave. The first part of the vision was about seven touches and seven angels holding seven churches. It stated that the churches were deviating from the path and should correct themselves before all is lost. The second part of the vision is about the apocalypse which will happen if the churches do not change their ways. For 9 centuries, people from all over the world have come to see this cave. We kind of joked how the crack looked like someone’s behind. Costa had seen some sort of room in the building near the cave. Costa spoke in Greek to one of the priest in the cave and asked him if this was a secret room. The priest kind of looked upset and told him not to ask about it again. We all went back up and followed Costa to the room he had seen. It looked like a tool shed, but based on the priests reaction there must be some sort of real secret room there;)
According to tradition, this is the cave where St. John received the Revelation. A monastery has been built up around it, but the actual cave itself is very small. The cave functions as an Orthodox chapel, with a small iconostasis in one end. This is a special place--not to be missed on a visit to Patmos. Outside of periodic tour groups, the cave is a very quiet space.
The Orthodox monastery of St. John has been on Patmos since the 11th century and has a commanding view over the island. I enjoyed visiting the monastery church, as well as the archives, where many of the monastery treasures are exhibited. A 4th century codex of the Gospel of St. Mark was particularly impressive.
Hora village surrounds the monastery of St. John on Patmos. The village is typically Greek--whitewashed stone houses; narrow, twisting passageways; incredible views over the Aegean; small sidewalk cafes, etc. All in all, an interesting village to poke around in.