Patmos: The Monastery of Saint John

PatmosMapPatmos is a Greek island in the Dodecanese group, located about 40 mi. [65 km.] west of the western coast of Turkey.

It was here that John was exiled received the revelation that he wrote about in the New Testament book of Revelation (Rev 1:9).  Tradition maintains that he was exiled to Patmos during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81–96).  He was eventually released and returned to Ephesus—located about 60 mi. [100 km.] to the northeast of Patmos.

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View looking north at the Island of Patmos from Mt. Saint Elijah—the highest point on the Island of Patmos (2,900 ft.). The Monastery of Saint John the Theologian and the village of Chora are in the center of the image. Double Click on Image to View and/or Download the full size Panorama.

Notice that the island is not very wide and visible on both the right (east) and left (west) side of the image a variety of near-by islands are visible—providing a “geographical context” for the Island of Patmos.

Patmos is shaped somewhat like the letter “C”—open to the east.  It is composed of three parts connected by two isthmuses.  The larger northern part is connected to the central (main) part by a narrow isthmus.  The island is about 7 mi. [11 km.] long, and up to 3 mi. [5 km.] wide.  It is 13 sq. mi. [34 sq. km] in area and has a population of about 2,750 persons.

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The Monastery of St. John the Theologian

The most famous structure on the Island of Patmos is the Monastery of St. John the Theologian.  It was built in A.D. 1091 by the “Holy” Christodoulos who had received permission from the Byzantine Emperor Alexis I to build it.  This fortress–like monastery is situated on a prominent hill about 1.5 mi. [2.4 km.] inland from the port of Skala at an elevation of about 790 ft. [240 m.].  This is one of two places that “day visitors” visit during their brief stop at Patmos.

Click Here to view 13additional images of the Monastery of St. John the Theologian.

This past May we had the opportunity to explore some of the remote portions of the island and I will be sharing some pictures from that visit in future posts.

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A Fortress on Patmos

Although many think that Patmos was a barren Alcatraz-like island where John was exiled, this is not true (see Franz below).

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View looking west into the modern harbor of Patmos. The “mountain/hill” in the background is the Citadel of Patmos that is called the Kastelli. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

On the central portion of Patmos, the “Kastelli” (acropolis) towers over the main harbor at an altitude of 1,550 ft. [472 m.].

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View looking south at the west gate on the summit of Kastelli (the acropolis) of Patmos. Note the well-preserved exterior staircase.

The woman in the image is actually standing in the entrance–way.  The original line of fortifications is from the Hellenistic Period (third century B.C.), although this gate may have been rebuilt in more recent times.

fortification-towerView looking southeast at six courses of stone of one of the towers on the north slope of the acropolis of Patmos that is called the “Kastelli” (acropolis).  These fortifications date to the Hellenistic Period—that is about the third century B.C.  Compare the style of the well–preserved Hellenistic fortifications found at Priene and Assos—both in Turkey.

To view additional images of the Acropolis/Kastelli on Patmos Click Here.

For a helpful article describing the Patmos that John was exiled to, see Gordon Franz, “The King and I (Part 2).” Bible and Spade 12 (2000): 115–23.  It is also available on Gordon Franz’s web site Life and Land but without graphics.

How Can We Live to Please God? (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2)

Source: How Can We Live to Please God? (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2)  Long reminds us of some very important truths!  Please also take time to open 1 Thess 4 and read this passage in context.

Why Corinth?

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See the full size image below!

At the time of Paul’s visits to Corinth it was a thriving commercial city of over 200,000 people.

Corinth was situated in the northeastern corner of the Peloponnese — very near the narrow land bridge (isthmus) that connected the Peloponnese to the mainland of Greece. Its strategic location was enhanced due to its proximity to the diolkos — the stone-paved roadway that connected the Saronic Gulf with the Gulf of Corinth. By using this overland passageway, passengers and cargo avoided the difficult and time-consuming trip around the southern end of the Peloponnese.

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The Isthmus of Corinth from the air. For comments on this image, see above. To Enlarge and/or Download Click on Image.

The Greek city of Corinth had been (partly) destroyed by the Romans in 146 B.C., but the rebuilding process, as a Roman city, had begun by 44 B.C.  For a long time it had been famous for its immorality (think prostitutes associated with the Temple of Aphrodite) and its commercial character. Its two harbors were Lechaion (Gulf of Corinth) and Cenchreae (Saronic Gulf). Every two years important games were held at nearby Isthmia.

Paul spent 18 months here on his second journey and maybe three months on his third. The letters of first and second Corinthians were written to the church here, and Paul probably wrote first and second Thessalonians and Romans while in Corinth.


To view important artifacts from Corinth, including the Erastus inscription, a menorah, and others, Click Here.

Excavations have been conducted at Corinth for over 100 years. Major finds have helped us understand the history and culture of the city that Paul spent so long ministering in. See the images included in this section and John McRay’s Archaeology and the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1991.  To view for purchase Click Here.

Suggestion:  You may also be interested in the images of the Corinth Canal, the diolkos, the port of Cenchreae, and the Acrocorinth.

Absalom’s Home City—Near the Sea of Galilee

Absalom, David’s son who attempted to kill him (2 Samuel 15–18), was the “son of Maacah daughter of Talmai” who was the king of Geshur (2 Sam 3:3).  It was to Geshur that Absalom fled after killing his half-brother, Amnon, who had raped his sister Tamar. (2 Samuel 13).

The city of Geshur, capital of the kingdom, is well–identified with the site of et–Tell that is located 1 mi. [1.5 km.] north of the Sea of Galilee, slightly to the east of the present course of the Jordan River.  It is a large 22-acre [9 ha.] mound that has been excavated since 1987 by Rami Arav.  Almost all of the structures of et–Tell were constructed of black basalt (volcanic) stone.

It appears that Geshur, despite its nearness to Israel, was a semi–independent kingdom until its destruction by the Assyrian king Tiglath–Pileser III during his campaign in the area in 732 B.C.—during the days of Ahaz and Isaiah.

Iron Age II City Gate at et-Tell/Geshur

The remnants of this massive four–chamber city gate are located on the southeast side of the Tell.  This view is from the east, from the plaza outside the four–chamber gate, looking west.  Note the two chambers on the right (north) side of the central passageway, the two standing stones (massevoth) at the sides of the entrance, and on the right (north) side of the gate the High Place.

High Place at City Gate with: Standing Stone, Stepped Approach, and Basin

A high place, for the worship of a deity, is located on the right (north) side of the gate.  Note the staircase that leads up to a hollowed out basalt stone into which liquids could be ritually poured and the upright standing stone (massevah) on the left side of the high place.  This standing stone may have been inscribed, but it more probably represented the presence of a (pagan) deity.

Et–Tell’s identification with New Testament Bethsaida is possible, but not certain.  Bethsaida was the home of Philip, Andrew, and Peter—disciples of Jesus, and there Jesus performed a number of miracles including the healing of a blind man and the feeding of the 5,000.

To view more images of et–Tell/Geshur/Bethsaida Click Here.

Did Paul Visit Albania?

On his Third Missionary Journey Paul wrote the following to the Church in Rome.

Rom. 15:18–19 “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.”

AlbaniaMapPart of the heartland of Illyricum included modern day Albania.  When would Paul have visited Illyricum—such a visit is not mentioned in Acts?  Possibly on his Second and/or Third Missionary Journeys.  How would he have gotten there?  It seems logical to assume that he would have traveled  on the via Egnatia—as he did on his Second Journey from Philippi to Amphipolis, to Appolonia, to Thessalonica, etc.  And from Thessalonica he could have continued on the same road west to Illyricum.

In May of 2015 my wife and I had the privilege of joining a group led by Dr. Mark Wilson that traced the route and stopping points along the via Egnatia—the Roman road that led from Dyrrhachium and Appolonia on the shore of the Adriatic Sea to Byzantium.  The construction of the via Egnatia began in the second century B.C. and it eventually reached a length of 696 miles.

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View of the remains of Ad Quintum (“At Five [miles]”)—a place where riders would change their horses (mutatio). The row of arches in the center of the image are evidently remnants of a monumental water fountain (nymphaeum) that was built into the hill. On the left, with some protective covering, is the area where there was a Roman Bath.

A Roman bath at Ad Quintum, a change–over station (mutatio) on the via Egnatia, is very well–preserved. It was discovered after a landslide in 1968. It was listed in the Bordeaux Itinerary of A.D. 333.   Although “change-over stations” (mutatio—where horses were changed by official couriers) are well­–known from literary sources, but only few have been identified archaeologically.  Ad Quintum is located a few miles west of the modern Elbasan (ancient Scampis) in Albania.

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View of the remains of the interior of the Roman Bath at Ad Quintum (“At Five [miles]”)—a place where riders would change their horses (mutatio). Note the frescos on the wall, the steps, and the terra cotta brick work of the arches above the doors.

The current ancient constructions at Ad Quintum are thought to date to the 2nd–4th centuries A.D. (Note from Dr. Mark Wilson).  To view additional images of the remains at Ad Quintum Click Here.

EgnatiaAramcoThe above map of the via Egnatia is from a wonderful article in AramcoWorld.

To view a Roman Bridge on the via Egnatia Click Here.

 

Via Egnatia (Peqin, Albania)

Paul probably traveled on this road on both his second and third missionary journeys, as he traveled between Philippi and Thessalonica.  The current issue of Aramco World has a wonderful article on this road—describing it from west to east.  It includes some pictures, a video and a helpful map.

The Via Egnatia is the name of a Roman Road that connected ports on the Adriatic Sea with Byzantium.  From west to east, a traveler from Rome (Italy – not on map) would head southeast overland to Brundisium (a port on the east coast of Italy).

ViaEgnatia01From there they would sail east, across the Adriatic Sea, landing at either Apollonia or Dyrrhachium (both on map).  They would head east, overland, on the “Via Egnatia” toward Byzantium — via ThessalonicaAmphipolisPhilippi, and Kypsela.

Although completed in stages, it was begun in the second century B.C. and it was expanded and repaired by the Romans in subsequent centuries.  It is named after the second century B.C. Roman proconsul of Macedonia, “Gnaios Egnatios.”  Its length varied according to the period, but Roman milestones suggest it was 535 Roman miles long (= 493 English miles [790 km.]).

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View looking east at a portion of the Via Egnatia near the Albanian village of Peqin. Here the roadbed is being used for local rural traffic!

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Carl and Mary Rasmussen on a Roman Bridge that supported the Via Egnatia near Peqin (Albania)

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View looking northeast at a bridge of the Via Egnatia near the Albanian village of Peqin. Here local traffic is diverted to the right of the bridge.

HT:  Drs. William Burlingame and Mark Wilson.