Patmos, Monastery of the Apocalypse
Patmos affords one of the few exceptions which are to be found to
the general beauty and fertility of the islands of the Aegean Sea.
Its natural advantages, indeed, are very few, for the whole of the
island is little else than one continued rock, rising frequently into
hills and mountains. Its valleys are seldom susceptible of
cultivation, and scarcely ever reward it. Almost the only spot,
indeed, in which it has been attempted, is a small valley in the
west, where the richer inhabitants have a few gardens. On account of
its stern and desolate character, the island was used, under the
Roman Empire, as a place of banishment; and here the Apostle St.
John, during the persecution of Domitian, was banished, and wrote the
book of the Revela tions. The island now bears the name of Patino and
Palmosa, but a natural grotto in the rock is still shown as the place
where St. John resided. "In and around it," says Mr.
Turner, "the Greeks have dressed up one of their tawdry
churches; and on the same site is a school attached to the church, in
which a few children are taught reading and writing."
Patmos used to be a famous resort of pirates. Dr. Clarke, after
describing with enthusiasm the splendid scene which he witnessed in
passing by Patmos, with feelings naturally excited by all the
circumstances of local solemnity, and "the evening sun behind
the towering cliffs of Patmos, gilding the battlements of the
Monastery of the Apocalypse with its parting rays; the consecrated
island, surrounded by inexpressible brightness, seeming to float upon
an abyss of fire, while the moon, in milder splendour, was rising
full over the opposite expanse," proceeds to remark, "How
very different were the reflections caused upon leaving the deck, by
observing a sailor with a lighted match in his hand, and our captain
busied in appointing an extraordinary watch for the night, as a
precaution against the pirates who swarm in these seas." These
wretches, as dastardly as they were cruel, the instant they boarded a
vessel, put every individual of the crew to death. They lurked about
the isle of Fouri, to the north of Patmos, in great numbers, taking
possession of bays and creeks the least frequented by other mariners.
After they had plundered a ship, they bored a hole through her
bottom, and took to their boats again. The knights of Malta were said
to be amongst the worst of these robbers. In the library of the
Monastery, which is built on the top of a mountain, and in the middle
of the chief town, may be seen bulls from two of the Popes, and a
protection from the Emperor Charles the Sixth, issued to protect the
island from their incursions.
Though deficient in trees, Patmos now abounds in flowering plants
and shrubs. Walnuts and other fruit trees grow in the orchards; and
the wine of Patmos is the strongest and best flavoured of any in the
Greek islands. The view of Patmos from the highest point is said to
be very curious. The eye looks down on nothing but mountains below
it; and the excessive narrowness of the island, with the curious form
of its coast, have an extraordinary appearance.