The beautiful Greek island of Patmos has one major claim to fame - St John was exiled here, and in a small cave, had the visions which led to the writing of Revelations. Not such a bad place to be exiled, we thought to ourselves as we climbed steep and winding streets beneath clear blue skies, with panoramic views across the coast.
Unfortunately, photography is forbidden within the cave itself - and the silent, dark-robed Orthodox monk who guards the door looked balefully at my camera with an expression that seemed to say "you might think you can get away with a silent shot or two, if you don't use flash, but God will know and he will damn you to the end of time." I don't really believe it's likely I'd be damned to hell for my photographic sins, but I do believe in respecting the traditions of others, so I was good (sorry) and resisted the urge to sneak a few snaps.
The cave itself has been extended, and turned into a fully-fledged Orthodox shrine. I haven't had much experience of Orthodox churches, and was surprised by the tendency to cover everything in hammered silver or gold leaf. The three-part stone in the ceiling (from which the voice of God is said to have issued) remains a natural lump of rock, but the alcoves of John's pillow and hand-rest have been silver-lined, and the walls decorated with icons and crosses. Our group was split between those who "really felt something" in the cave and those who (like me) were intrigued but not totally absorbed in the experience.
At the highest point of the island, the Monastery of St John was founded to commemorate John's revelation. The monastery was also strict about photography within its chapel and museum, but the lovely courtyards presented plenty of photographic opportunities. The painted frescoes were impressive, and the museum was well-stocked, although not very informative to those of us not already familiar with the paraphernalia of the Orthodox church (it's another beautiful silver thingumy? Well, great, but what's one of those for?)
The island itself is also rather picturesque, and we enjoyed a pleasant stroll between whitewashed houses before returning to our boat.