The Monastery of the Apocalypse is built around the cave (Το Σπήλαιο της Αποκάλυψης, the Cave of the Apocalypse) in which, according to tradition, Saint John lived while he was writing the The Book of Revelation. See gallery page 10 for further details.
It is around 90 metres above sea level, 1.5 km south of the main port of Skala, on the zig-zag road up to the main village of Hora and the Monastery of Saint John.
A succession of hermit monks lived in the cave over the centuries until the Bishop Gregorios of Caesaria organized the monastery at the beginning of the 17th century. New buildings were gradually added, and further building work was undertaken at the beginning of the 18th century by Patmos-born Saint Makarios Kalogeras (Αγιος Μακάριος ο Καλογεράς, 1688-1737), who founded the Theological School of Patmos on the hill above the cave in 1713. Apart from the Cave of the Apocalypse, the buildings include the Chapels of Saint Nicholas, Saint Artemios and Saint Anne. The complex no longer serves as a monastery.
In 1981 Patmos was designated as "Holy Island" by the Greek Parliament, and in 1999 the Cave of the Apocalypse and the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian (see gallery pages 17-25) were declared a joint World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Photography is prohibited inside the cave, and ferocious monks walk around shouting "No photos! No photos!" In a way this is understandable, since this is considered a sacred place where believers come to contemplate and worship, and the atmosphere can be ruined by crowds of tourists snapping away with their cell phones and tablets.
As at many other Greek Orthodox churches and monasteries, tourists do not always seem particularly welcome, and are they shooed away promptly at closing time. Closing time is at 1.30 pm, which makes it hard work for day-trippers from nearby islands such as Samos attemping to visit the Cave of the Apocalypse and the Monastery of Saint John before the doors are shut in their faces.
On the other hand, organized groups of the faithful, particularly Greek believers and foreign "pilgrims", are afforded more hospitality and often given guided tours. For the rest of us, there appears to be no opportunity to talk with the monks or ask them about the place or their work.
To avoid disappointment or mad dashes around the island, an overnight stay on Patmos is recommended. Those who wish to explore the island further and soak up its atmosphere should try to stay longer.
The cave itself has been closed in by walls (albeit with windows - see photos on gallery pages 12-13) and decorated as a shrine in a similar way to a Greek Orthodox church, with a richly painted screen and icons. It is therefore quite difficult to imagine the space as a humble grotto where the exiled author of The Apocalypse lived like a hermit and presumably in poverty.