Blog WHS Visits

WHS #807: Island of Patmos

Patmos I found the prettiest of the Greek-islands-with-a-WHS. It does particularly well on ‘views’: of the blue sea and the surrounding islands, of that little chapel against the blue sky, of its obligatory row of windmills.  The three components of its WHS also look well cared for. Like the other islands, Patmos does see its fair share of cruise ships, anchoring in the bay outside of the harbour: in 2022, no less than 285 of them will arrive. Overall, I encountered many more 'regular' tourists than pilgrims, which took away a bit of the holy atmosphere of the island.

When you arrive at Patmos from the sea (there is no airport), you’ll immediately notice the large fortress on top of the highest mountain on the island. What looks like a castle is in reality the Monastery of St. John. It was only half past 11 when the boat delivered me, way too early to check in at the hotel. So I had a first look at the WHS. About once an hour there is a bus from the port town of Skala to Chora, the old town where the monastery is also located. The distance between them is only five kilometers, but it's a steep climb.

Many people visit Patmos as a day trip only from one of the other islands, so it is busiest around noon when the boats have arrived. Fortunately, I had two days here, so I saved the more popular sights for the other day when I could get an early start. First I wandered through pretty Chorá, a labyrinth of narrow streets and white stone houses where only the windows and doors have retained their natural color.

Then I walked down the mountain, back to Skala. Halfway through you will pass the Cave of the Apocalypse. This is the most sacred part of Patmos, said to be where the evangelist John had a vision about the end of the world around AD 95 and then penned it down in what later became a book of the Bible. Over the years, many buildings have been built around the cave, so it is initially unclear where to enter. The 'real' entrance is marked by a man selling entrance tickets (3 EUR each) and there is also a shop with pilgrim souvenirs. You go through a few more corridors, with an icon or two on the walls, and then you're in what really is "the" cave. There were a few people praying against the rock wall.

The next day I took the bus uphill again at half past eight. This time I was going straight to the monastery. There were no other visitors at this early hour except for a Greek woman and her daughter. After entering the fort and paying for your ticket, you first arrive at the church which opens into a small courtyard. The outer gallery of the church is covered with murals, but the best ones are kept inside (where unfortunately you are not allowed to take pictures). They fully cover the walls.

Another highlight of the monastery is the museum. It has a focus on icons, and many date from the time when Patmos became a safe haven for refugees from Crete fleeing the Ottoman Empire (early 17th century). That the Ottoman sultan also sometimes collaborated with the Orthodox Christians of Patmos, is apparent from an exhibited edict in which he calls for the return of 3 inhabitants of Patmos who had been kidnapped by pirates... From one of the windows of the museum, you have beautiful views of Chorá, the rest of the island of Patmos and the surrounding blue sea. 

For the rest of the morning, I walked through the old streets again - in one of the streets there were no less than 13 cats lingering around! And I visited the nunnery Zoodohos Pighi, which also has a beautiful old church full of murals. From the recently restored row of windmills, you have good views of the fortress-monastery. We have these windmills included in one of our connections (Europa Nostra Award), however, I am not sure that they are in the core zone as they lie just outside of Chorá. As often, the official site map is terrible so I can't be sure and will give them the benefit of the doubt for now.

Els - 18 September 2022

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Astraftis 18 September 2022

It looks lovely and very interesting! Nice overview, this really prompts me to finally organise a trip to the smalelr Greek islands! !