The island has been inhabited since prehistoric times. It was taken by the Romans in the 2nd century BC and used as a penal colony for political agitators and others who threatened the peace of the empire (Tacitus Annals 3.68; 4.30; 15.71). According to Eusebius, John was banished there by Domitian and released 18 months later by his successor, Nerva (HE III.18.1; 20.8-9).

satellite image of patmos with captions

Above, satellite view of Patmos. The island consists of three parts joined by narrow isthmuses. Today it is very stark in appearance but it was once covered with luxurious groves of palm trees.

approaching skala the port of patmos

Above, view from cruise ship sailing into the harbor at Skala, the commercial port of Patmos.

Cave of the Apocalypse

Above, a twenty-minute walk up the steep winding cobbled path from the port of Skala is the Monastery of the Apocalypse, built above a cave where tradition says the apostle John had his vision from Jesus recorded in Revelation.

monastery of Apocalypse mosaic

Above, mosaic over the monastery entrance portraying John dictating his visions.


Above, in the grotto wall are two recesses, one fenced off and outlined in silver, where legend says John placed his head while resting, another a supposed handhold to help the aged man stand up. Nearby is a ledge which was said to have been used as a desk by Prochoros to record John's visions.

View of Patmos from the monastery of the apocalypse

Above, view from the Monastery of the Apocalypse. From the highest point the view is inspiring, certainly conducive to St. John's vision. Of course, then he would only have seen the graceful columns of a temple to the Greek god Apollo rather than the forbidding gray walls of the monastery. John's time on Patmos left its mark on his writing. Revelation is filled with images of the sea. The word sea (Greek thalassa) occurs no fewer than twenty-five times, for example:

"The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood. (Revelation 8:8); "And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire." (Revelation. 15:2)

Monastery of st john at Chora

Above, at the end of the path, on the summit of Mount Elias, is the imposing Monastery of Hagios Ioannis Theologos (Saint John the Theologian) surrounded by the white houses of the island capital, Chora (or Hora).

monastery of st john patmso

Above, in 1088, Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos gave Patmos to the soldier-priest John, called Christodoulos (slave of Christ). The greater part of the monastery was completed three years later. It was heavily fortified because of the threat posed by piracy and the Seljuk Turks. Evidently a temple of Apollo was located here along with fortifications dating back to the Hellenistic Period (3rd century BC).

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. On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet... (Revelation 1:9-10)