AD 95 marked the beginning of the end after Roman emperor Domitian exiled the apostle John—by then an old man—to a small volcanic island off the coast of Greece. John the Revelator (perhaps most fittingly called St. John the Erupter), would use his time alone as a prisoner on Patmos Island to pen the apocalyptic Book of Revelation.
Visitors to Patmos today might find the island an ironic place to write about the end of the world and all its dire predictions of the moon turning blood red, stars falling from the sky, and collapsing mountains. With its pristine, often almost empty beaches, whitewashed buildings, small, lush forests, and azure waters, Patmos is, in a word, stunning. It’s so breathtaking that Forbes Magazine recently named Patmos as “the most idyllic place on earth to live.”
But as much as it is beautiful, it’s also beatific—meaning “imparting holy bliss”—arguably rivaling any other sacred site. Dubbed the “Jerusalem of the Aegean Sea,” Patmos is ranked as one of the top holy destination sites in the world. (It is, perhaps, no coincidence that Patmos became a part of Greece in 1948—the same year Israel became a nation.) The Grotto of the Apocalypse, where the faithful can pause and ponder the apostle John’s life and legacy, is just one attraction for Christians.
Besides the grotto, there is also the ancient stone marvel, the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. John, established back in the 10th century by the monk, Saint Christodoulos. The monastery, an exemplary example of Byzantine architecture, is fortified with tall, thick walls, towers, and ramparts. It also features frescoes that symbolize the miracles performed by the apostle John. Modern-day pilgrims, especially laymen and visiting Bible scholars, will revel in the extensive library (housing over 2,000 books and 13,000 historic documents) as well as the fascinating museum located on the premises.
Just as notably, the charming town center of Chora is one of the few settlements in Greece where religious ceremonies that date back to early Christian times are still being practiced unchanged. It is for this reason, among others, that in 1999 all three sites were designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
Patmos is not an easy island to get to, but worth the effort. Visitors to the island must travel to this magical, mystical island by boat or cruise ship as there is no airport. That is just fine with its 3,000 residents who fight diligently to keep it from becoming a tourist trap.
When people do land at the island’s harbor and look up to the hills, they will spy three historic and iconic stone windmills, two of them operating nonstop for centuries. Now completely restored, the windmills may no longer be relied upon for survival for Patmos’ residents, but they do serve both a utilitarian and an inspirational purpose. One windmill is used for grinding flour, the other for wind power and the third for water.
Collectively, the windmills serve as a constant reminder to island residents of their rich and varied history that each year draws thousands of visitors to their shores—both the fervent faithful looking for some fresh revelation of their own, and the sun-worshipping lovers of unspoiled beauty. On this jewel of the Aegean Sea, travelers blessed to be able to visit Patmos, can have both.
Travel to the island where the apostle John penned the Book of Revelation, and visit other holy sites, while enjoying the most “idyllic place on earth.”
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