Harbor on the Greek island of Patmos.

Patmos / Πάτμος

Visiting Patmos

I'm arriving at Patmos or Πάτμος, the Greek island where John the Theologian experienced his vision.

Patmos is a small island, relatively quiet in comparison to Kos, Mykonos, Ios, and Santorini.

There are things to see, but Patmos is also a nice place to relax for a few days.

The island is at the eastern edge of the Aegean Sea, close to the Turkish coast. It's between the red markers on the small map here.

I arrived on a ferry from Piraeus, the port of Athens. It was an all-day trip, about ten hours. We arrived late in the evening.

US Government map of Greece showing the location of Patmos.
Temple of

Greek myths say that the island was originally at the bottom of the sea. The hunting goddess ΄Άρτεμις or Artemis, associated with western Anatolia and the Mother Goddess of West Asia, frequently visited Caria on the nearby mainland. The Carians had erected a shrine to her at Mount Latmos.


See the map below. Mount Latmos is in what the Turks now call the Beşparmak or Five Finger mountain range, east of Bafa Gölu or Gölu Lake, near the "55". I went on a trek there, we saw ruins of monasteries dating from 600-1300 CE.

The Moon goddess Selene cast her light on the sea, allowing Artemis to see the sunken island. She got help from her brother Apollo to convince Zeus to raise the island from the sea floor. The sun dried the land, and life sprang up.

The inhabitants from surrounding areas, including around Mount Latmos, settled on the island. They named it "Letois" after Artemis, the daughter of Leto.

ONC G-3 from the Perry Castañeda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas.

Portion of Operational Navigational Chart G-3 from the Perry Castañeda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas.

The ancient writers didn't say much about the islands. The people living there identified themselves as Dorian Greeks who were descended from families of Argos, Sparta, and Epidaurus in southern mainland Greece.

During the Hellenistic period, in the 3rd century BCE, the inhabitants of Patmos built an άκρόπολις or akropolis, literally a "high city", at the 269-meter peak of the island.

During the first century CE, John the Theologian was exiled to Patmos during the rule of Roman emperor Domitian.

John wrote what is now called the Revelation of Saint John the Divine, the last book of the Christian Bible. The Romans imposed banishment for offenses of magic, astrology, and prophecy. John's prophecy with political aspects would be perceived as an obvious threat to Roman political power and order. Patmos was one of three islands in this part of the Aegean used for banishment.

I, John, your brother who shares with you in the hardship, kingdom, and endurance that we have in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and my witness about Jesus. I was in a Spirit-inspired trance on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice that sounded like a trumpet. It said, "Write down on a scroll whatever you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea."

I turned to see who was speaking to me, and when I turned, I saw seven oil lamps burning on top of seven gold stands. In the middle of the lampstands I saw someone who looked like the Human One. [or Son of Man] He wore a robe that stretched down to his feet, and he had a gold sash around his chest. His head and hair were white as white wool—like snow—and his eyes were like a fiery flame. His feet were like fine brass that has been purified in a furnace, and his voice sounded like rushing water. He held seven stars in his right hand, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword. His appearance was like the sun shining with all its power.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man. But he put his right hand on me and said, "Don't be afraid. I'm the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, but look! Now I'm alive forever and always. I have the keys of Death and the Grave. So write down what you have seen, both the scene now before you and the things that are about to unfold after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and the seven gold lampstands, here is what they mean: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches."

Revelation 1:9-20


After John's death, possibly around 100 CE at Ephesus, multiple early basilicas were built on the island. But Christian life on Patmos barely survived Muslim raids from the 7th to 9th centuries and the main basilica was destroyed.

The Byzantine Empire took control of Patmos in the 11th century, and a large monastery began construction in 1101.

Meanwhile, around 1930, Elijah Muhammed of the Nation of Islam announced that about 6,600 years earlier an evil scientist named Yakub had lived on Patmos. He created the white race through a process of selective breeding. More recently, Wu-Tang Clan members have rapped about Yakub.

Many Byzantines fled to Patmos when Mehmet the Conqueror seized Constantinople in 1453.

The Ottomans controlled Patmos for centuries, but granted privileges including tax-free trade by the monastery. Italy took control of Patmos and the rest of the Dodecanese in 1912, at the end of the Italo-Turkish war. Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943 and Germany took over. Patmos became autonomous at the end of World War II, then joined Greece in 1948.

TPC G-3B from the Perry Castañeda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas.

Portion of Tactical Pilotage Chart G-3B from the Perry Castañeda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas.

The main settlement on Patmos is Χορα or Hora, meaning "the Town", at the peak in the original akropolis. Σκαλα or Skala is the port.

Skala is near a narrow isthmus that joins two parts of Patmos. Like other Aegean islands, Patmos is a peak, actually a triple peak, of a nearly submerged volcanic mountain. It's mostly rocky and rugged terrain.

The ferry from Piraeus arrived at Skala late in the evening, where it was met by people offering rooms in domatia. This was in 1999, when Lonely Planet was still aimed mostly at budget travelers. I started walking south toward a vaguely described place to stay.

A diminutive woman who spoke very little English latched on to me, with repeated offers of a place to stay. She had a brochure that named the place and showed the outside. The same area, lower price, and of the two vague descriptions her place seemed a little better. Well, why not?

She was Popy Grylli, of Pansion Popy Grylli. She rented me a very nice room, a double rented as a single, with a large and clean toilet and shower down the hall. Just 4000δρ or US$ 13 a night.

Here's the view toward Skala from the balcony outside my room the next morning.

View of Skala, the harbor on Patmos, from my pension.

And below, from the upper level balcony. It's about a kilometer and a half to the ferry dock. A large cruise ship has pulled in, occupying most of the dock space.

That's the Hora and the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian on the horizon, near the island's highest point.

View of Skala, the harbor on Patmos, from my pension.

Check ferry schedules and buy tickets:

The Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos ruled from 1081 to 1118. He gave permission to the monk Christodoulos to establish the Monastery of John the Theologian.

The cave where it is believed that John experienced his visions is below the peak. The monastery was built further up, in a location selected because it was the former site of the ancient altar of the goddess Artemis.

The monastery was built like a castle, with ramparts and retaining walls surrounding a cathedral and other smaller structures including monastic cells. Families began building homes near the monastery wall, so they had a nearby sanctuary when pirates approached the island.

My pension was just outside the port town of Skala in a village called Netia. It was about a kilometer from the pension to the north end of the beach, then a half a kilometer along the beach into the center of Skala.

The beach at Skala, the harbor on Patmos.
Boats at Skala, the harbor on Patmos.

Down by the fishing boats I can see the monastery.

The Cave of the Apocalypse is small, more of a horizontal crevice in a steep slope, nearly a cliff face. A church has been built around it.

The monastery's library has a significant collection of manuscripts. Although the monastery was established soon after the East-West Schism of 1054, the library contains material from before the schism.

Fishing nets laid out for repair at Skala, the harbor on Patmos. The Monastery of Saint John the Theologian is on the hilltop beyond.
The United Methodist Church in Paoli, Indiana. Paoli

The Codex Petropolitanus Purpureus is a 6th century Greek New Testament book containing the four Gospels with many lacunae or missing segments. It was created in the imperial scriptorium in Constantinople in the 500s. The western Crusader forces who sacked Constantinople in the 12th century cut it apart and the pieces were scattered all over Europe. Czar Nicholas II of Russia purchased the largest part of it for the Imperial Public Library in Sankt-Peterburg in 1896. Of the 231 extant folios of the manuscript, 182 leaves are in the National Library of Russia in Sankt-Peterburg and 33 are in the library of the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian on Patmos. Then there are 6 in the Vatican Library, 4 in the British Library in London, 2 in the National Library of Austria in Vienna, 1 in the Byzantine Museum in Athens, 1 in the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki, 1 in the Morgan Library in New York, and 1 in a private collection in Italy.

The monastery's library also contains, among other significant documents, Uncial 0150 and Uncial 0151, two 9th century codexes with the Pauline epistles, and the Miniscule 2464, a 9th century manuscript with the Acts of the Apostles, the Pauline epistles and the general epistles of the New Testament.


From Patmos I moved on to Kos. Many more people stay on Kos, and there are boats bringing them to Patmos on day trips. I got a ticket to ride one of these day trip boats to Kos.

Where next?