Patriarchal Exarchate of Patmos

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The Patriarchal Exarchate of Patmos consists of the entire Island of Patmos(Greek Πάτμος), Leipso, Agathonesion and Arkioi and its constituent monasteries and churches, belonging to the Church of Constantinople under the Venerable Patriarchal and Synodical Act and Statute 1155/81. Patmos island is also referred to as the Jerusalem of the Aegean Sea, since it is the island of ascetic austerity.

The Patriarchal Exarch and Abbot of the Monastery of St. John the Theologian is His Grace Archimandrite Andipas Nikitaras.


Patmos is the northernmost island of the Dodecanese and is populated with churches and communities of Orthodox Christians. During the period of Roman rule, the island fell into a decline and the population decreased and the island became a place for banishing criminals or political and religious troublemakers.

In 95 AD, St. John the Theologian was sent into exile on the island as a religious troublemaker. He remained on the island for eighteen months during which he lived in a cave below a known temple, at the time, dedicated to Diana. In this cave, he narrated a vision he was having of Jesus that is the Book of Revelation which describes the details of the Apocalypse but is more a description about the "the Church" - outside of time. Revelation was also written as an exhortation to the Christian believers to stay true to their faith during the persecutions near the end of the first century.[1]

In 313 AD, Christianity was recognised by the Roman Empire and this also spread to the Dodecanesse. The empire of the Byzantium exercised control of Patmos and the other islands and by the 4th century the temple to Diana had been removed. Directly over this temple a church dedicated to St. John the Theologian was built but this was destroyed later between the 6th and 9th centuries during a series of raids by various Arab groups.

The island remained deserted until 1088, when the Emperor granted Patmos to the monk Christodoulos. His intention was to establish a monastery and built this monastery over the remains of the little church built over the remains of the temple to Diana. The monastery, has since been in continuous operation for over 900 years.

During the 11th and 12th centuries, the island of Patmos was also subject to raids by the Saracen and Norman pirates, which were the catalyst for the fortified walls surrounding the monastery giving it the modern day castle-like appearance. The small town (Chora) within the "castle" was probably established during the middle of the 17th century and has a labyrinth style street arrangement. [2]

During the Turco-Italian War of 1912, Patmos was captured and controlled by the Italians. The island remained under their control until the end of World War II, when it was returned to Greece.

The whole island is dominated by the two monasteries, built in his honour and memory, and Chora, the island’s historic center, are all declared World Heritage sites by UNESCO in 2006.

The God-Trodden island

The tradition of the church holds, that the Lord himself stepped foot on the island of Patmos using the following account as reference:

In the Book of the Revelation (Apocalypse, Chapter 1:12-18) a detailed description of the appearance of Christ in His glory is given by the Apostle ... "His countenance was as the sun shineth in its strength" (Rev. 1, 16). St. John continutes by describing his actions to this ... "he fell at His feet as dead" (Rev. 1, 17)

For the church, this proves that Christ's feet were touching the floor of the cave for if it had been a vision in heaven, he would not have been able to fall at His feet. This wondrous bodily presence of the Lord in the cave is reason ascribed to the great earthquake that made the rock in the Cave of the Apocalypse split in three forming a witness to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

To the church, this is the only location in Europe that God has walked making it the most sacred destination in Europe, followed by Mount Athos.

Monastery of St. John the Theologian

See Main Article: Monastery of St. John the Theologian (Patmos, Greece)

The Monastery of St. John the Theologian was founded 1088 AD by St. Christodoulos the Latrinos, who had been granted the whole island of Patmos with a golden bull by the Emperor of Byzantium Alexis I Komninos. The monastery belongs to the Ecumenical Patriarchate; and is therefore a Patriarchal exarchate with a Patriarchal exarch, its abbot had special benefits.

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

Cave of the Apocalypse

See Main Article: Cave of the Apocalypse

The Cave of the Apocalypse is situated between Skala and Chora. This is where St. John saw visions of fire and brimstone and dictated the Book of Revelation to his disciple Prochoros. A pilgrim can easily see the rock and exact location where the Book was written and also the indentation the Saint left where it is said, he would rest his head during his exile in that cave.

The view from the cave and the mysticism of the atmosphere are incredible. There are 12th cenutry wall paintings and icons from 1596 of St. John and the Blessed Christodoulos the Latrinos written by the Cretan painter Thomas Vathas.

It is said the the voice of God could be heard coming from the cleft of a rock that is still visible today. The rock is divided into three which is symbolic of the Holy Trinity.

List of Churches and Monasteries

  • Chora, Patmos
    • Parish of the Great Panagia
    • Parish of Our Lady of the Cemetery
    • Parish of the Ipapanti of Christ
  • Skalas, Patmos
    • Parish of St. John the Baptist
    • Parish of St. Nicholas
  • Netia, Patmos
  • Parish of Apostle Thomas
  • Kambos, Patmos
    • Parish of the Evvagelismos of the Virgin-Mary
  • Island of Leipso
    • Parish of St. John the Theologian
  • Island of Agathonision
    • Parish of St. George
  • Island of Arkioi
    • Parish of the Transfiguration

Saints and Monastics

Theological School of Patmos

See Main Article: Theological School of Patmos

The Theological School of Patmos was founded by the deacon Makarios Kalogeras in 733 AD.

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. [3]
    • (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. [4]
    • (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. [5] [6]
  • Documentations


  1. P. N. Tarazi, The New Testament - Introduction, Vol. 3 - Johannine Writings, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, New York, 2004 ISBN 0-88141-264-3
  2. Labyrinth style street designs are common on the islands purposely arranged to create a sence of confusion to pirates or threats intent on raiding the towns.
  3. United Nations - Copyright © 1992-2008 UNESCO World Heritage Centre
  4. United Nations - Copyright © 1992-2008 UNESCO World Heritage Centre
  5. United Nations - Copyright © 1992-2008 UNESCO World Heritage Centre
  6. 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.

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