During his exile on the rugged island of Patmos, St. John experienced earth-shaking visions that he would later document in his Book of Revelation. Today, the cave where he slept with a rock for a pillow draws visitors from around the world.
The cave is located within a religious complex that includes a church and monastery. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
How to Get There
The Cave of the Apocalypse is one of the most important destinations for Christians around the world and also a major tourist attraction on Patmos. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, it attracts a large number of visitors every year. It’s located about halfway between the port town of Skala and Patmos Town.
It was here that Saint John of Patmos received his visions for the Book of Revelation during his exile on the island. The Book of Revelation is the last book of the New Testament and the text that brought about a major change in Christian theology.
Today, the Cave of the Apocalypse has been turned into a religious complex and is part of the Monastery of St. John the Theologian. Initially, it was a simple natural cave but was later transformed into a shrine by the founder of the monastery, Osios Christodoulos. Once you enter the entrance of the Cave of Apocalypse, you’ll first walk through a small temple that’s attached to the cave.
From here, you’ll be able to see a mosaic on the wall above the entrance that depicts, according to tradition, Saint John the Theologian receiving his visions from God. There is also a niche in the rock that’s traditionally thought to have served as the bed where Saint John slept.
What to Expect
As you approach the Cave of the Apocalypse (To Spelaio tes Apokalupses in Greek) you’ll see a monastery and church on the top of a steep hill. The cave is a short distance away and is the place where Saint John supposedly received the visions and voice that were recorded in the Book of Revelation.
The low, rock ceiling is ragged and split into three parts which is the symbol for the Holy Trinity. It is also the shape that orthodox pilgrims form their fingers into when making the sign of the cross starting at their foreheads.
Once inside the cave you’ll see a niche in the rock that many believe was where Saint John rested and the opening through which he was given the words of Revelation. The clifftop where the cave is situated is fortified with strong walls that once made it defensible against Turkish pirates.
This is now a shrine that is visited by thousands of Christians from all over the world. It is a sacred place and the monks that run it do not welcome all visitors with open arms. They have their own schedule for when they allow tourists to enter and shoo them away at closing time. Organized groups of Greek believers and foreign pilgrims are treated with more respect and hospitality, and they are often given guided tours of the Cave and the monastery.
The Cave of the Apocalypse is an important pilgrimage destination for Christians in general and Orthodox Christians in particular. It’s also a must-see attraction for anyone interested in the history of Christianity and religion as a whole. As such, the UNESCO world heritage site attracts visitors from all over the world who want to see the place where Saint John the Theologian received his vision that eventually led him to write the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible.
The small cave where the saint received his vision is now a carefully preserved shrine that’s surrounded by a temple-like structure with walls and silver lamps hung throughout. It’s hard to imagine that the space was once a humble grotto where the Saint lived like a hermit, enduring ascetic conditions in order to focus on writing his religious text.
Inside the sanctuary, you can see the spot where the Saint slept, as well as the rock that still rests there now, a ragged surface with three fissures that symbolize the Holy Trinity. You can also see the spot where God appeared to the Saint and dictated to him what would become the final chapters of the Book of Revelation.
The sanctum is located between Skala and Chora on the island of Patmos and it’s best reached by foot. Most people make the journey to this sacred site in combination with a visit to the Monastery of St. John whose fortress walls once protected the city of Chora from Turkish pirates and invaders.
Patmos is a religious and cultural destination that attracts visitors from all over the world. It’s a place heavy with history and ripe with Greek religious culture, including the famous Cave of the Apocalypse where St John the Apostle reportedly received his visions which became the Book of Revelation.
It’s a small island, but there’s plenty to see and do on Patmos, including the famed monastery and the Cave of the Apocalypse which are both listed as UNESCO Heritage sites. There’s also the picturesque capital town of Chora, and secluded beaches where you can get away from it all.
The cave today is closed in and decorated like a shrine, making it hard to imagine it as the humble grotto where Saint John lived as a hermit for two years during his exile on the island. Nevertheless, it is still considered a sacred spot where many believe that the Book of Revelation was written.
The cave is located along a winding road between Skala and the monastery in Chora. It’s a little difficult to find, but it’s worth the effort if you’re interested in visiting this holy site where Christians believe that St. John received the Book of Revelations. It’s awe-inspiring to stand in the same cave where he supposedly heard the voice of God and experienced his apocalyptic visions.