Page images

as that expressed by Renan. Writing upon this very point, he says,* speaking of the apostles in general and of the beloved disciple in particular: –

Men so heated as these sour and fanatical descendants of the antient prophets of Israël, carried their own imagination about with them wherever they went; and this imagination was so uniformly imprisoned within the sphere of the antient Hebrew poetry, that the nature which surrounded them had for them no exist ence. Patmos is like all the other islands in the Archipelago, -an azure sea, limpid atmosphere, serene sky, great rocks with jagged edges, slightly covered here and there by a scanty coating of verdure. The general appearance of the island itself is bare and barren, but the shapes and tints of the rocks, and the living blue of the sea, specked with white birds and contrasted with the reddish color of the boulders, form a wonderful picture. The myriads of isles and islets, of the most varied forms, which rise from the waves like pyramids or shields, and dance an eternal chorus round the horizon, seem to be a fairy world belonging to a cycle of sea-gods and Oceanides leading a bright life of love, of youth, and of sadness, in sea-green grottoes, upon shores without mystery, by turns smiling or terrible, sunny or dark. But such ideas as Calypso and the Sirens, the Tritons and the Nereides, the dangerous charms of the sea, with its caresses at once so sensuous and so deadly, all those refined feelings which have found inimitable expression in the Odyssey, all such things entirely escaped the imagination of this gloomy visionary. Two or three particular features, such as the prominence given to the idea of the sea, and the image of "a great mountain burning in the midst of the sea," which he seems to have borrowed from Thera,† are the only things which have any local color. Out of a little island formed to be the scene of the lovely romance of "Daphnis and Chloe," or of pastorals such as were conceived by Theocritus or Moschus, he has made a black volcano, bursting with ashes and fire. And yet, he cannot have avoided sometimes feeling a sense of the peaceful silence of the nights on these waters, when nothing is heard but the occasional cry of a seagull, or the dull blowing of a porpoise. For days together he was in face of Mount Mycale, without thinking once of the victory of the Hellenes over the Persians, the

L'Antechrist, p. 376-9, third edition.

† And Renan from Stanley; the quotation is not exact. The words (Apoc. viii. 8) are: "As it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea."

most glorious which has ever been gained, next after Marathon and Thermopylæ. Placed thus in the very midst of the greatest Greek creations, at a few leagues from Samos, from Cos, from Miletus, and from Ephesus, he dreamt about other things than the colossal genius of Pythagoras, of Hippocrates, of Thales or of Heraclitus; for him the glorious memories of Greece had no existence. The poem of Patmos ought to have been some "Hero and Leander," or an idyll in the manner of Longus, celebrating the gambols of beautiful children upon the threshold of love. But the dark enthusiast, cast by accident upon these Ionian shores, never got out of the circle of his Biblical recollections. Nature for him was the living chariot of Ezechiel, the monstrous cherub, the unnatural bull of Nineveh, an outrageous zoology which sets sculpture and painting at defiance. That curious defect which, to the eyes of Orientals, seems to change the forms of nature, the defect which causes all the figured representations that come from their hands to seem fantastic and lifeless, was at its climax in him. The disease which he bore in his bowels colored everything to his sight. He saw with the eyes of Ezechiel or of the author of the Book of Daniel; or rather, he saw nothing but himself, his own passions, hopes, and hatreds. A vague and dry mythol ogy, already Cabbalistic and Gnostic, and all based upon the conversion of abstract ideas into Divine beings, has put him outside the range of the plastic conditions of art. No one has ever shut himself out more entirely from his surroundings; no one has ever more openly renounced the sensible world, in order to substitute for the harmony of the reality, the contradictory chimæra of a new earth and a new heaven.*

As a matter of fact, the island of Patmos belongs to that class of Greek landscape which is strongly suggestive of the north-west coast of Scotland. A very fair idea of its general appearance would be formed from some of the wildest and most barren coasts of the islands, allowing only for the living sapphire of the sea, the luminous transparency of the atmosphere, and the fact that the rocks are brown

This characteristic outburst is said to have been

written by M. Renan without ever having enjoyed the advantage of being in the island in question. He himself says that after struggling for a whole day, the state of the wind prevented his entering the port. This does not, of course, necessarily imply that he did not succeed on some other occasion; but the present writer was informed on the spot that he never had been there, and the same assurance was given to Vannutelli.

people, more money might perhaps be spent upon public works or even private enterprise, but the taxation would be, at least, not less, and they would fall under the law of universal military service, and annual calling out of the reserve, from which they are now exempt. Moreover, the ecclesiastical legislation of Greece would be only too likely to hamper the beneficent activity of the monastery, which may be called their mainstay.

rather than grey. It is extremely pictur- | lose — cantabit vacuus coram latrone viaesque, from its wild forms, but it is one of tor. Were they reunited to their own those places which, like the island of Bute, afford the best views to those who are upon them rather than to those who see them from outside. To a passer by, it presents no features so striking as the heights of Samos, which tower in view of it. But to him who has landed in it, and explores its hills and glens, it affords extraordinarily beautiful pictures, both in its own wild, though limited landscapes, and in the vast and enchanting prospect which it offers on every side. In form, it is so The natives are all Christians, and irregular, that it seems simply a group of 'Ellenes by race and language. The latter stony hills, linked together by sandy they speak with fair correctness. Of the isthmuses, and separated by deep bays, precepts of religion they seem to be most while other hills, still unjoined, rise from scrupulously observant.* The island only the sea in the form of islets around its contains some half-dozen Mohammedans, shores. The predominant feature of the who are among the officials sent by the island is sterility. The masses of rock government. The governor himself is a and stones are thinly sprinkled with small Christian. The island is distinguished by tufts of brownish herbage. The culti- the enormous number of its churches. vated land is confined to the bays and a few glens, and, except in the north, is only a small fraction of the surface. Trees, and even bushes, such as pomegranate or prickly-pear, are rare, and hardly to be found except in the scanty gardens. Such as it is, the surface of the country is streaked with stone walls, dividing the different properties. The inhabitants, about three thousand in number, are poor. The corn which they produce does not suffice for their own consumption; and the burden of £200, which, with another £100 made up by the monastery, they are obliged to pay yearly to the Porte, lies heavy on them.

It may be questioned, however, whether, in their present condition, they would be much improved in circumstances by being added to the free Greek isles, which they can see in fair weather from their shores. The Turkish government leaves them very much alone, partly owing to stipulations made when this and other islands were exchanged for Euboia, partly also, perhaps, because they have little to

* M. Guérin says that the three largest trees which he observed were in a small gien called Troas, in the north-west.

†They also make a little very good sweet wine; they fish for sponges, and the women have a considerable industry in knitting socks.

These are counted by hundreds. It is hardly possible to find any spot from which several are not to be seen at once. Indeed, in the less inhabited parts the mind receives the impression that there are more churches than houses. They stand together in couples and triplets, and in groups almost like hamlets. All of them are small. The larger have domes, but the great majority are merely small, oblong, vaulted apartments, with a small apse at the end, and incapable of accommodating more than twenty or thirty persous with comfort. Only very few of them are in ruins. They are mostly kept in thorough repair, and with great care and cleanliness. In the majority, mass is only said on the titular feast, but others are served either at regular intervals or constantly, and the popular piety manifests itself, especially on Sunday, by the burning of lamps and incense in almost all, while fresh decorations of flowers are placed upon the pictures.

These churches of Patmos present some local peculiarities. The arrangement of the eikonostasion, or image-screen, which

M. Guérin observes that, as far as his temporary residence afforded him an opportunity of observing, the public morality is very good, and marriage held in the highest esteem and respect.

shuts off the sanctuary from the body of the church, is somewhat peculiar. It is always of wood, and generally slight, whereas, elsewhere, it is often of stone or marble, and the upper part is here, in some cases, left very open, almost like a Western chancel screen. Elsewhere it has usually three doors, viz.: the holy doors leading directly to the altar, and others on the north and south, leading to the prothesis, or credence, and the diakonikon, or vestry, respectively; here there is no door to the diakonikon. The three divisions are never here, as often elsewhere, separated by walls pierced with doors, behind the screen. Elsewhere, the doors in the eikonostasion are very often closed by painted shutters; here by veils. In ordinary cases, the picture of Christ, which occupies the panel of the eikonostasion to the south of the holy doors, has next to it a picture of the Baptist, and that of the Blessed Virgin, on the north side, has next to it the picture of the patron saint, or of the subject of the titular feast; here there are rarely more than three pictures on the main line, viz., those of Christ and his mother, and that of the patron, in the place usually occupied by that of the Baptist. The standard candlesticks before the screen, which are generally of wood, are often of an interesting Byzantine, if not classical, design, resting on four feet and consisting of four thin, clustered shafts, intertwined in the middle.

The southernmost division of the island of Patmos consists of an uninhabited and singularly barren group of hills, of which the highest point (789 ft.) is called Mount Prasson. From the south point of this group, there runs into the sea one of those curious masses of jagged rocks with which the waters immediately around the shores of the island are often broken, and which in this case bears a remarkable resemblance to the Needles of the Isle of Wight. This southern division of the island is almost cut off from the rest by the deep bays of Port Stauros on the west, and of Tragos on the east. They are separated by a low, sandy isthmus, in the midst of which, on an incidental hillock, stands the Church of the Holy Cross (Stauros). There is here a little cultivated ground, and two or three cottages. In the bay of Tragos lies the uninhabited island of Tragónesos, in somewhat the same way as, upon a much larger scale, the Holy Island lies in the Bay of Lamlash.

The division of the island which next follows is that which contains most of the

places and objects of interest. On the summit of its central hill rises the great monastery, with the white houses of the town clustered under the shelter of its fortress-like walls, and presenting the main object which strikes the eye on approaching the island, the whole group quaintly flanked by a row of four large windmills on the east and another isolated windmill on the west.

To this division belongs, in the bay of Tragos itself, an extremely curious isolated rock, united by a narrow strip of sand to the coast at its north-west corner. This great rock, which was split by lightning about twelve years ago, and thus suffered great alteration in shape, bears many traces of the hand of man which are stated to be of classical times, and strongly resemble similar marks, of a very early period to be seen elsewhere in Greece. Towards the sea, regular flights of steps have been formed, going up to the summit, where there is a deep cutting, opening towards the land, but ending, in the midst of the rock, in a well or cistern now nearly filled up. The peculiar cuttings among which the steps ascend have the appearance of places prepared for the fixing of votive offerings or tablets. The most probable explanation seems to be that here was some ancient pagan shrine, perhaps of the sea-sprung Aphrodite, as there are at the base some ruins of a small church of the Blessed Virgin under the title of Phylattoméne, "the Protected." There is said to have formerly been an hermitage on this rock.

From the shore at this point a valley runs inland, which imperfectly divides the southern portion of this group of hills from the northern, where stands the monastery. In the bottom and sides of this valley there is a certain amount of cultiva tion and a few houses. The chief feature in the southern half-district is Mount St. Elias, the highest hill in the island (874 ft.) which rises on the western side. It is the highest point of a group of hills which ascend abruptly from the waters of Port Stauros. On the summit of the highest peak is a group of buildings, comprising a small court, a terrace, a few chambers, and the Church of St. Elias.† This church

The south-western extremity, called Mount Kr nops, and which is almost as high as Mount St. Elas with superstitious dread as the former dwelling of is said by M. Guérin to contain a cave still viewed Kynops, a magician who is stated by the legend to have opposed St. John.

M. Guérin cites the legendary work of pseud » Próchorus for the existence of a temple of Zeus in the island. It may possibly have been on this height, s

As the traveller returns up the narrow watercourse from this garden, he finds before him, on the left side of the valley, the considerable and ancient Church of the Blessed Virgin under the title of the Panagia Kyria Eleousa, the "All-holy Merciful Lady," immediately above which scattered houses imperceptibly increase in number, until they touch the steep walls of the nunnery, and pass into the town clustered round the monastery.

belongs to the domed and rather larger | is closed on the landward side by a cliff, class, and has a very handsome carved partially clad with prickly pear and other wooden eikonostasion, entirely gilded. herbage, and crowned by a small fortress, The view from Mount St. Elias offers a consisting, like those of the Borders, of a lovely panorama of the islands of the tower and walled enclosure, within which Archipelago both on the European and stands the Church of the Annunciation — the Asiatic side. The sea can be seen the Evangelistria the "Good-tidingsextending entirely round Patmos itself, bringer." except where a few peaks here and there rise above the line of sight and touch the distant landscape of some neighboring island. Even within the nearer range of vision, Mount Mykale rises from Latmos on the north-east, and comes close up to Samos, and then the sea stretching towards Chios is broken by Ikaria, while farther to the west appear Tenos, Delos, and Mykone; to the southward, Naxos, Amorgos, Astyphalaia, and, coming again to the Asiatic side, Kos, Kalymnos, Leros. The view is one of those such as are afforded by few regions upon earth except the Egean Archipelago. The senses are enchanted by its beauty, and the thoughts ennobled by the historical memories with which it is instinct, but deeper feelings are stirred in the Christian, as, standing in the island hallowed by the power of his living religion, he gazes upon those which were once revered as the sanctuary of 'Era, the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, and the scene of the union of Dionysos and Ariadne.

This great monastery of St. John the Evangelist is the principal institution of the island. It was founded in the last quarter of the eleventh century, by a monk named Christodoulos,* with the favor and assistance of the emperors Nikephóros and Aléxios Komnenós. This Christó doulos was born of wealthy parents in Bithynia, about the year 1020. His bap tismal name was John. He originally retired to a monastery on the Mount Olympus, near Prusa, but, after the death of his master, made a pilgrimage to Rome, and thence to the holy places in Palestine, The western end of the valley of which where he entered the monastery of St. we have spoken, sinks through the rocky Saba. Mohammedan Arabs having taken bed of a winter torrent into a small narrow the monastery and murdered a number of delta. This is the most fruitful spot in the monks, the survivors fled for a while, the island. Closed in to the north, east, and Christodoulos returned to Anatolia, and south by crags, above which, to the where he entered a monastery of the most south, towers Mount St. Elias, this little rigid observance, of which he rose to be strip opens westward to the sea. It is superior, and afterwards became a sort of called the kêpos tou ostou, "the garden provincial of the district. His monastery of the venerable," i.e., Christodoulos, the having been destroyed by pirates, he was founder of the monastery. The south invited to be superior of the community side is really a wooded declivity, and the of Kos, but, believing, after a while, that whole few acres offer a little expanse of the monks were hopelessly corrupted by kitchen garden, and fruit-trees, in great wealth, he withdrew with his disciples, contrast to nearly every other spot in the and petitioned the emperor to grant him island. Here is the well said to have been Patmos, which had then become desert. called up by Christodoulos from the rock; He obtained this wish, after he had, at the water is slightly, though not disagree the emperor's request, attempted to disably, brackish. In this favored spot is charge the duties of superior over the a farmhouse, to which is attached the monasteries of Zagora, where, however, Church of the Holy Anargyroi— the the monks refused to accept his reforms. "Unmercenary" physicians Cosmas and The difficulties he experienced in Patmos Damian, who, after attending the poor were almost insurmountable, and in the gratuitously, gained the crown of martyr-end he was forced by the ravages of pidom under Maximian. This little valley

his temples, as lord of heaven, are sometimes placed on hilltops.

Osios always means a monk, as opposed to agios, which is applicable to any saint.

rates to retire to Euboia, where he died in the Lent of the year 11OI. Before his

That is, "servant of Christ," the same as the Gaelic Giollachrist, or Gilchrist.

death he besought his disciples to bring back his body, along with certain objects, to Patmos. They did so, and there, in accordance with his wish, he now sleeps.* The monastery stands upon a height (over six hundred feet), almost in the centre of the island, and the principal church occupies the site of the Temple of Artemis, the foundation of which was ascribed to Orestes. The building, as has been already observed, is the most prominent feature on approaching the island, and has, from a distance, somewhat the appearance of a medieval castle, faintly re calling, on a very small scale, the effect of the papal palace at Avignon. The principal town of the island is gathered round it on the hilltop. Both town and monastery, however, appear larger from a distance than when seen close at hand; the town, in especial, is little more than a very large village, though built of handsome stone houses of several stories. The monastery is now occupied by about forty-five inmates, and the abbat, as in ancient Iona, enjoys the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the whole island. A retired bishop resides in another part, but is only called in for the doing of those things which are special to the episcopate. The state of discipline in this monastery is what would be considered in the West extremely relaxed. The monks are left very free in the disposal of their own time. The community life has been abandoned to such an extent that the refectory is disused; they eat alone or unite to form messes, where and when they please, and are said to be allowed to add to the commons served out to them, and even to possess property. They are mostly, if not exclusively, natives of the island. Divine service is celebrated in the great church daily, from 6 to 10 A.M., and for an hour in the afternoon at a varying time, but only the superiors, some of the juniors, and a detachment told off, week by week, are obliged to take part in it;

many, however, do so voluntarily. This laxity of monastic regulation is not, how. ever, accompanied by the least indication of anything like luxury, dissoluteness, or idleness. The house, which is a model of cleanliness, is distinguished by a quiet severity of living, almost amounting to hardship. The income of the community is believed to be now about £1600 a year, as they have considerable property in other places, outside the island. The abbey seems to be the providence of the population. Besides providing for the service of the churches, the monks largely support a monastery of about thirty nuns, who are charged with the care of the female education, for which they support two schools. They keep up three schools for boys, for which they employ four schoolmasters. They also support two physicians, who are provided with an excellent chemist's shop. Lastly, they voluntarily contribute about £100 annually, a third of the taxation required from the island by the Turkish government. Nothing can exceed the kindness with which they receive strangers, to whom they habitually offer the ungrudging hospitality of their house, and to whom they are most courteously willing to show the artistic and historical treasures in their keeping. In this respect, however, they are but at one with the rest of the islanders, whose unaffected civility is very striking, and forms one of the most agreeable features which meet a traveller. It is to be regretted that the monastery is not to a greater extent the home of historical, antiquarian, and artistic study.

The interior of the monastic building, which is remarkable for the scrupulous care with which it is kept, presents a complicated labyrinth of courts, stairs, pas sages, and terraces. Its belfry is provided with some fine bells, partly Russian and partly Venetian. It has eleven churches, of which, however, three, named respectively in honor of the Holy Apostles, St. George, and St. Onuphrios, The writer gratefully acknowledges his obligation for are outside the main precinct. These are his [earliest] information concerning St. Christodoulos, and on several other points, to the Dominican friar, very small, as are also those within the Vannutelli, in his little book intituled "Un quinto walls dedicated in honor of the Cross, of squardo all Oriente - Patmos." (Rome, 1884.) The the Forerunner, of All Saints, of St. Basil, book itself is rather an account of the author's journey and observations than a description of the island. This and of St. Nicolas. The Church of the work, and its four preceding sguardi "La Pales Blessed Virgin and that of St. Christó tina, "Monte Athos," "La Morea," "Costantinodoulos are united in one block with the poli," -are of great merit in themselves, and offer a striking instance of how a man with very strong convic-great Church of St. John, which is comtions of his own is able, in the love of Christ, warmly monly called the Katholikón. This great

to recognize good in those who differ from him. [The biographical notice of Christodoulos in the work of M. Guérin, from which that in Vannutelli's pamphlet seems probably derived, is much fuller. It was taken by M. Guérin from the contents of a MS. in the library of the monastery].

One of the reasons for the multiplication of churches in Greek monasteries is the rule against more than one mass being said upon any one altar upon the same day.

« PreviousContinue »