The first thing you notice on Patmos is the monastery of St John the Divine or the Evangelist. It crowns the hill of Hora. It looks like a Byzantine castle and was built like a fortress. Its presence is overwhelming.

It was founded in 1088 by Ossios Christodoulos following a grant by the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I. Komnenos. The monasterys walls are over 15 meters high, its length from north to south is 53 meters and from east to west 70 meters. It seems even larger when you stand at the entrance, noticing its thick walls and heavily reinforced door.

Above the entrance several meters high there is a small opening from which burning hot oil, water, and even lead was poured over to attacking pirates and other invaders trying to break the gate, this opening was called the killer and was considered the last resort for keeping the Monastery safe.

The monks used to sound the bells to warn the people of Patmos to take refuge behind the fortified walls of the monastery, keeping Christianity safe as was intended by its founder, the blessed Christodoulos.
The main entrance is on the north side but there is a smaller entrance on the south side that is now closed off.

The monastery was not fully complete in 1088 and changed along with the wants and needs of the monks and the church. The oldest parts are the eastern and northern sides; they can be distinguished by their irregularly shaped walls that were constructed in haste during the first years in order to complete the protection of the area.

As you enter the gate you come to the main courtyard laid in by local pebbles and stones. Looking around you notice many different levels as a result of rearrangements and additions that have taken place over the centuries.
In the center of the courtyard there is a round covered structure that looks like a well, it is, in fact, a very large jar that was once used to store wine and now contains holy water. To your left is the main chapel, one of the first buildings to be erected in 1090.

As you face the main chapel (catholicon), there are four arched colonnades and behind them the outer narthex that has wall paintings, the upper paintings are from the 17th century and represent different miracles performed by Saint John the Divine. The lower date is from the 19th century.

To the right of the main chapel is the chapel of the Holy Christodoulos. Inside it is the skull of St Thomas, pieces of the Holy Cross, and other religious relics. Inside the main chapel, you will notice the overwhelming and three-dimensional carved wooden iconostasis, dating from 1820 this iconostasis replaced an older one from the 15th century, which in its turn had replaced the original marble one that Hosios Christodoulos had placed. The current iconostasis is a gift from Nektarios, the Patmian metropolitan of Sardis, and was made by 12 wood carvers from the island of Hios. Its detail is astonishing and leaves visitors gazing visitors speechless.

The acoustics of the room are incredible, listening to Byzantine hymns during mass is an unforgettable experience.
The Orthodox Church does not allow more than one ceremony per altar, per day so the monastery has 10 chapels, three of which are outside the boundaries of the monastery.
At the entrance in the north is Saint Apostles, Saint George is to the east, and Saint Fanourios on the west of the monastery. Inside the monastery are the chapels of Holy Christodoulos, St Nicholas, St John the Baptist, St Basil, The Holy Cross, All Saints, and the chapel of the Virgin Mary.

To the right of the main church is the chapel of the Holy Christodoulos, inside are his remains as he requested after his death in 1093, you will also see in class casing the skull of St Thomas and pieces of the Holy Cross of Jesus Christ.

Also next to the main church, is the chapel of The Virgin Mary. The wall paintings in this room and in the main chapel date back to the 12th century and onwards. No words could sufficiently describe their beauty.
Behind the chapel of The Virgin Mary and extending to the south is the refectory where the monks ate their meals together. It is a rectangular room of about 50 square meters and 8 meters high, there are two long tables covered with marble. There are niches in them where monks placed their personal items and beautiful frescos and wall paintings dating back to 1180.

Across the main courtyard on the first floor, is the old bakery, where the remains of a huge stone oven can be seen, and a long wooden trough where the monks used to kneed their bread. These were built in 1088 and are mentioned in the writings of Holy Christodoulos when he elected a man from the brotherhood, to become responsible for the running and maintenance of the room, a man he referred to as the cellar man.

The museum is located next to the bakery. It was also erected by the Blessed Christodoulos who bequeathed to it his most precious icons listed in his will. Its an amazing collection of icons, original manuscripts from the bible, objects of silver and gold, sacred relics, vestments embroiled with silver or gold threads, coloured silk threads and bejeweled with precious stones to list a few. Most of the items within the museum, have to be seen to be properly appreciated.

The Blessed Christodoulos also founded the monastery library. When he arrived on the island he brought with him his personal library including manuscripts from the monastic area of Mt. Latmos. The library is now home now to more than 3000 printed books, 900 manuscripts and 13000 documents dating back to 1073.
This room is not open to the public except by special permission , usually for Byzantine and biblical scholars. The rest of the monastery consists of 2 more treasuries, the monk`s cells, the flour mill, store rooms, a conference room, and a research room with new books and magazines. All these areas are not open to the general public.

Most frequent asked questions

To get to the monastery; follow the steep uphill paved road to the left after the kiosk that is near the bus station. You will pass a couple of restaurants and gift shops. At the end of the uphill and next to Artemis gift shop , at your left there are stairs that lead you to the Monastery. As shown on this picture. The bus service runs regularly from Skala, Hora, Grikos and Kambos. Check the timetables for details. If you choose to drive, parking will not be a problem , but do have in mind that no driving or riding is allowed in Hora itself. In the afternoon do consider taking a bus to Hora and walking down the Old Path to the Cave of the Revelation and to Skala.