The Island of Patmos is home to a monastery and the cave where St. John (aka John the Revelator) is said to have received his visions for the Book of Revelation while in exile on the island. Visiting the cave and the monastery is a sacred pilgrimage for many Christians.
Entrance to the Cave
The Cave of the Apocalypse is a sacred site for Christians the world over, especially Orthodox believers. It is also a popular destination for people from other religious traditions who have been touched by the last book of the Bible.
When Saint John of Patmos, whose full name is Ioannes or Agios Ioannis, was exiled to this island by the Roman Emperor Domitian in AD 95, he spent much of his time here in the small grotto that became the center of his earth-shaking visions. These visions eventually became the Book of Revelation, the last book in the Christian Bible. The book’s importance is so great that the Monastery of Saint John and the Cave of the Apocalypse have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Today, the cave is encased within a shrine and surrounded by a monastery complex. It is one of the most sacred places for Christians, and visitors are welcomed with open arms (although they may have to pay an entrance fee).
Most travelers who visit Patmos on a cruise or with an organized tour will trek uphill from Skala, the main port, to the cave and monastery. The trek is fairly easy to navigate and the views from the top are spectacular. If you’re not a religious person, the cave and monastery are still a wonderful place to be.
Inside the Cave
Located on the mountainous island of Patmos, Greece, this mystical grotto is said to be where Saint John the Apostle wrote both his fourth Gospel and the Book of Revelation. UNESCO has listed it as a World Heritage Site, and it remains the top tourist draw on the island to this day.
After his preaching at Ephesus incurred the wrath of Emperor Domitian, St. John was banished to Patmos in 95 AD. Here, he stayed in this cave and received the visions that would become the last book of the Bible. Today, the monastery that surrounds the Cave of the Apocalypse—To Spelaio tes Apokalupses—is a major pilgrimage destination for Christians around the globe.
This small, dark cave—whose walls are carved with a series of cracks symbolizing the Holy Trinity—is one of the most sacred spots in the Christian world. It is believed that God Himself dictated the text for The Revelation (or the final book of the Bible) to John here, and it has since been a vital source of comfort and guidance to believers.
Even for those who do not believe in the details of the Cave’s legends, this is a place of peace and meditation. The cave’s enclosing darkness and sense of isolation can serve as an analogy to the innermost chamber of one’s heart—a place that yearns for the Beloved.
On a small island that’s only 13 square miles and surrounded by the sea, the Monastery of St. John the Theologian occupies a prominent position, dominating the landscape as it has for millennia. This medieval religious complex stands at the site where it is believed that St. John received the revelations he recorded in his Book of Revelation.
A mosaic above the Cave of the Apocalypse depicts John and his scribe Prochoros. It is believed that the saint wrote a letter to churches across Asia, which later became known as the Book of Revelation, which is considered the last book of the bible.
Saint John had incurred the wrath of Roman Emperor Domitian by preaching the word of Christ at Ephesus. His imprisonment on Patmos in the 1st century AD was part of a larger campaign against followers of Jesus, who were considered heretics by the Romans. Banishment was a frequent punishment for those who practiced magic, astrology, and prophecy, which were all viewed by the Empire as threats to their power.
Halfway between the port city of Skala and the monastery in Chora, the Cave of the Apocalypse is a popular stop for both tourists and pilgrims. The site recently underwent restorations, and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is one of the most visited sites in Greece, a top destination for religious pilgrims and a major draw for cruise ship passengers.
The Cave of the Apocalypse is one of the most sacred sites in Christianity. It is believed that this is the spot where John of Patmos received the visions recorded in the Book of Revelation, the final book in the Bible. The Apostle, also known as Saint John, John the Divine, and John the Revelator, had been banished from Ephesus for his belief in Jesus Christ and teachings of the Apostles. This banishment was common during the 1st century under the Roman Emperor Domitian as the faith of the early Christians was considered a cult that could challenge the Empire.
The Holy Cave, as it is called in Greek (Iero Spelaio tes Apokalupses), and the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian were recently declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This has made them a major draw for tourists and pilgrims alike who visit Patmos to see the Cave. It is located about a half a mile from the port at Skala and is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the Dodecanes Islands.
Visiting the Cave is a wonderful way to experience the history of the faith as it unfolded in this remote island. Whether you are on a cruise ship or traveling by land, this spiritual journey is sure to leave you moved and inspired.