The Holy Isle of Patmos, one of the smaller Dodecanese Islands, occupies a narrow strip of land with numerous rocky hills and scant vegetation. It is sparsely populated with mostly shepherds and fishermen. There are only two main villages, Chora and Skala. Their white-washed houses front Skala harbor or are scattered over the hillsides. The island's mild, healthy climate, year-round sunshine, delightful bays and coves and numerous chapels combine to form a picture of unique beauty. Although the early history of Patmos is unknown, it can be traced to Dorian and Ionian settlers who established a sanctuary to worship the goddess Artemis. During Roman times Patmos was used as a place of exile. Between 95 and 97 A.D. the Apostle John was banished here; he wrote the Book of Revelation, containing his prophetic description of the Apocalypse. In 1088 the Abbot Christodoulos arrived from Asia Minor and established a monastery. Through rich donations and extensive privileges the monastic island grew wealthy and influential. Living under its own strict rules, it survived 250 years of Turkish occupation unscathed, subject only to the annual payment of tribute. In the 18th century the famous Patmian School was founded, stressing the island's role as an intellectual and religious center. The school is located near the Cave of St. John.
Since 1946 the whole island has been under statutory protection as an ancient monument. Exploration of the island should include a trip from Skala harbor to the island's tiny capital, Chora (also known as Patmos Town), a visit to the Cave of St. John and to the stunning fortress-monastery located at the highest point at Chora.