Monastery of St. John the Theologian (Patmos, Greece)

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The Holy Monastery of St. John the Theologian (Local Name: Áyios Ioánnis Theológos - the Monastery of St. John the Divine), is a fortress style monastery with a monastic community for men on Patmos, founded in 1088 AD by St. Christodoulos the Blessed, who had been granted the whole island of Patmos with a golden bull by the Emperor of Byzantium Alexis I Komninos. The monastery is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; and is a Patriarchal exarchate with a Patriarchal exarch (ie. its abbot has special benefits).

Monastery Structure

The Monastery has ten chapels, four of which are located in its main courtyard. In the Katholic of the monastery, there is a temple of unique art, created in 1829, by 12 sculptors.

The Chapel of the Holy Apostles
This is a small byzantine chapel that is just outside the main gate of the monastery.
The main entrance
This 17th century Main entrance gateway has slits for pouring oil over marauders. It leads into the cobbled main courtyard.
The Main courtyard
The Katholikon
The Chapel of the Panagia
The "Hospitality of Abraham" fresco
This is one of the most important 12th-century frescoes found in this chapel. It has been painted over however it was discovered after an earthquake in 1956.
The Chapel of Christodoulos
In this chapel, the sacred relics and tomb of the Blessed Christodoulos are kept and there is also a silver reliquary of the Blessed Christodoulos.
The Chapel of the Holy Cross
This is one of the ten chapels built out of necessaty because church law forbids that mass be celebrated more than once a day in the same chapel.
The monks refrectory
The refrectory has two marble tables taken from the Temple of Artemis, which originally occupied the site.
The Treasury
The Treasury of the monastery houses over 200 icons, 300 pieces of silverware and a dazzling collection of jewels. This impressive array of religious art and treasure mainly consists of icons of the Cretan school. Among the more respected exhibits there is an unusual mosaic icon of St. Nicholas and the 11th-century parchment granting the island to Blessed Christodoulos.
The "Weeping icon of the Holy Mandylion (Napkin)" (face of Christ)
This icon of the face of Christ, is from the late 18th-century. A woman from the island was abandoned by her husband leaving her to raise two children alone. She told the children that she needed to sell the icon of the Holy Mandylion in order to buy some food. The children were very fond of the icon and wept deeply and begged her not to sell it. As they were asking there mother to keep the icon, the face of Christ began to weep also. The mother realised the significance of the miracle and took the icon to the church. Her husband was notified of the miracle returned back to Patmos, repented and took care of the family.
The icon is now in the Treasury but was originally placed in the "Holy of Holies" for a time.
The library contains 15,000 books, over 1,000 manuscripts, including fragments of the famous Codex Purpureus. Nearly 1500 years old, the Codex Purpureus is one of the oldest illustrated manuscripts in the world. Its outer appearance exhibits sheer royalty, and the purple colored parchment made the manuscript famous. Only 386 pages out of the original 800, remain. The current version includes a complete Gospel of St. Matthew and a nearly complete Gospel of St. Mark. Of great interest is the portrait of St. Mark.
The kitchen

Image Gallery

Saints and Monastics

nb. only those with articles are listed.

World Heritage Classification, UNESCO

  • Date of Inscription - 1999
  • Reference No. 942
  • Criteria: (iii), (iv) and (vi)
    • (iii) - The town of Chorá on the island of Pátmos is one of the few settlements in Greece that have evolved uninterruptedly since the 12th century. There are few other places in the world where religious ceremonies that date back to the early Christian times are still being practised unchanged. [1]
    • (iv) - The Monastery of Hagios Ioannis Theologos (Saint John the Theologian) and the Cave of the Apocalypse on the island of Pátmos, together with the associated medieval settlement of Chorá, constitute an exceptional example of a traditional Greek Orthodox pilgrimage centre of outstanding architectural interest. [2]
    • (vi) - The Monastery of Hagios Ioannis Theologos and the Cave of the Apocalypse commemorate the site where St John the Theologian (Divine), the “Beloved Disciple”, composed two of the most sacred Christian works, his Gospel and the Apocalypse. [3] [4]
  • Documentations


  1. United Nations - Copyright © 1992-2008 UNESCO World Heritage Centre
  2. United Nations - Copyright © 1992-2008 UNESCO World Heritage Centre
  3. United Nations - Copyright © 1992-2008 UNESCO World Heritage Centre
  4. Note on Criterion (iv) - A delegate of Thailand raised the question of eligibility of criterion (vi). He thought that the criterion should be applied. This recommendation was also endorsed by ICOMOS and the Committee. Delegates and observers commended the high values of the site and decided to keep the criterion.