Patmos, life on the island of the Apocalypse

Docking the port of Skala looking at the peaceful life on the island of the Apocalypse, Patmos,  is a bit like arriving in Ithaca. Eyes are drunk with blue. The foam of the waves puts endorphins into circulation. The sun on salty skin generates scents of infinity. Patmos stands there before us, once submerged in the waters, kissed by Selene, then requested from Zeus by Artemis.  Its mysteries, visions, prophecies, are all jealously guarded by the land above, in caves and in the sea.

Chora and St. John Monastery, Patmos

Every journey is a story

Every journey is a story, born from within. Places tell themselves by reflecting in our souls, filtering through emotions, vaporizing in thoughts. The journey, the one that enriches us with possessions that no one can take away from us, is the story of an intimate, close, dilated relationship between our deepest being, the place where we go, the movement and the people we meet.

“But don’t hurry the journey at all./Better if it lasts for years,/ so you’re old by the time you reach the island,/ wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,/ not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.” (Ithaca by Constantine Kavafis).

Patmos had been calling for years, it was that name put there almost at random between the first lines of the book of Revelation. It was waiting for our arrival, patiently, slowly. So we arrived after a long journey, many ferries, faces, scents, tastes, accompanied by the soul of Greece.

Life on the island of the Apocalypse, Patmos.

On every Mediterranean island, life flows differently: on Patmos it is marked by the rhythm of the last pages of Revelation. There are 365 churches and chapels on the island. In ancient times there was a famous temple dedicated to Artemis. Heroes and warriors took refuge here. St. John the Evangelist was exiled in 95 A.D. during the reign of Domitian and had the visions described in Revelation: “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” (Rev. 1:9)

In 1088 the Byzantine emperor Alexius Comnenus gave the island to the monk John Christodulus, who built the monastery, now a UNESCO  World Heritage Site. Several foreign kingdoms and dominations followed: from 1537 Ottoman rule, until 1912 with the arrival of the Italians who stayed until World War II. Today it is one of the pearls of the Dodecanese, a must-see travel destination.

Cave of Mystery

Orthodox liturgical chants are filled with mystery inside the cave of St. John. Incense mingles with paintings and the sacredness of icons. The pope repeats the sign of the cross with solemnity, crossing the thresholds of time and space. The Cave of Revelation has been a place of worship and pilgrimage since ancient times. Attending the Sunday sunrise celebrations is worth the whole trip. It is somewhat reminiscent of the grotto of Mary Magdalene in Provence at La Sainte Baume.


Everyone experiences something different inside the cave. Today we tend not to make room for mystery; it’s scary. Our society’s obsession with having everything under control dries up the immensities of the spirit. So we leave out all interpretive grids and allow ourselves to be immersed in the beauty and power of one of the messages of Revelation:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev. 21:1-4)

Strolling the alleys of Chora

A trip to Patmos is complete and well-calibrated: the fabulous Greek beaches, the amazingly good food, the pilgrimage to the cave and monastery. Mind, body, spirit. In the evening, to relieve some of the high impact of the experiences, we go for a walk in the alleys of Chora. The ancient citadel, high on the mountain, absorbs the beauty of the sunset, the white walls return the warmth absorbed during the day, craft stores open their doors. The art and craftsmanship of Greece can be found in the designers of unique dresses, in the design of one-of-a-kind jewellery, and among the works of art. Those passing by cannot fail to stop by Andreas. In his atelier, he welcomes works by 40 artists from around the world. And in the afternoon, children come to him and learn how to paint. Andreas is not jealous. The goodness of his smile, the calmness of his words, the wisdom of his hands, the best sum up the spirit of the island de mystery.

Painter Andreas Psacakos

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