Apocalypse link draws Christian pilgrims
PATMOS — With war, pestilence and natural disasters filling the news, it could be time for the biblical Book of the Apocalypse to make a comeback. Written on Patmos at the end of the first century AD, the Book of Revelation and its author, identified as John, have been responsible for a steady flow of Christian pilgrims to the island that has continued down the centuries.
Local tradition holds that God revealed a vision of the end of the world, characterised by a terrifying battle between good and evil and the second coming of Christ, to St John the Evangelist, in a cave where the apostle was living after being exiled to the inhospitable island by the Roman Emperor Domitian.
The Cave of the Apocalypse, now a Unesco site, contains a triangular crack in the rock through which the voice of God is said to have addressed the prophet. An indentation at ground level shows where St John rested his head to sleep and another provided a hand-hold for the elderly saint to pull himself to his feet. Both are now picked out in silver.
The author reveals his identity in the first chapter. “I John, who also am your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ,” he declares.
The story of St John’s presence, though questioned by modern historians, led to the construction of a monastery on the island’s tallest hill in 1101 AD. Under Ottoman rule, the sound of the monastery bells was not allowed to penetrate beyond its walls. The monks responded by developing an ingenious system of wooden beams that were beaten in order to call the faithful to prayer more discreetly.
Difficulty in gaining access to the remote island and the influence of the Orthodox Church over local affairs has preserved the island from the development of mass tourism, at least until recently.
In his account of the last things, John describes the destruction of the great city of Babylon and how its wealthy merchants have been brought low: “And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buys their merchandise any more.”
An early warning against the excesses of capitalism and overtourism, perhaps?
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