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Mosaic of Saint John the Theologian above the entrance to the Cave of the Apocalypse.
|The mosaic shows Saint John the Theologian (known in Greek as Ιωάννης ο Θεολόγος, Iannis o Theologos) standing outside his cave and dictating The Book of Revelation to his amanuensis (secretary, scribe) Prochoros (Προχορος) .
Read the story of the Book of Revelation below.
The modern work is has been signed in the bottom left-hand corner by F. Mavridis. The composition appears to be modelled on a Byzantine illustration of the scene from an 11th century manuscript painted on parchment: an illumination of the Revelation.
John's head is to turned to his left, towards the Hand of God which appears from Heaven, suggested by the edge of a bright blue circle. His left hand is held up as if he is gesturing "Halt!", while his right hand appears to be indicating Prochoros. It as if he is saying, "Could you go a little slower, please? My secretary can't keep up." Prochoros himself doesn't look too happy. Is he frowning at the burden of his labour or the truly awful content of the Apocalypse?
For opening times of the monastery,
see gallery page 9.
See another mosaic of Saint John at the Monastery
of Saint John on gallery page 22.
See below for links to other photos of mosaics
on My Favourite Planet.
The hand of God guides John's work.
|photos and articles:
© David John
Saint John the Theologian dictating The Book of Revelation to his scribe Prochoros outside the cave.
The Book of Revelation, is also known as The Revelation of Saint John the Divine and The Apocalypse, from the Greek aποκάλυψης (apokalypsis), meaning unveiling or revelation, which is the first word in the work.
Nothing is known for certain about the date or circumstances in which this book was written or the identity of the author. It claims to be an epistle (letter) written to the Seven Churches of Asia (Asia Minor, or Anatolia, then part of the Roman Empire, today part of Turkey), which were among the first and most important early Christian communities outside Israel.
After a preamble in the form of a short explanation of the epistle and greetings to its intended recipients, the author tells us that his name is John and that while he was on the island of Patmos because of his Christian faith, he received a vision from God who ordered him to write down what he saw and send the result to the Seven Churches.
"I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: 'Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamon, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.'"
New Testament, Book of Revelations, chapter 1, verses 9-11.
John then goes on to recount his vision in a series of vivid and mysterious images about a future both dark and glorious, prophesying nothing less than the end of the world in a dramatic and horrifying last stand-off between the forces of good and evil. Scholars have been scratching their heads over and arguing about the meanings of the many details and the work as a whole for almost 2000 years.
The work has been dated by some scholars to the middle or end of the 1st century AD, and many believe it was written around 95-96 AD, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD).
If this was really an epistle addressed to the Seven Churches, there may have been at least seven copies of it sent to the early Christians of Anatolia. And if the Christians there accepted its authenticity and its message, presumably further copies of it would have been made for circulation among believers. All this would have been done in secrecy, as the Christians were at that time being persecuted by the Roman authorities.
The book was eventually officially accepted as part of the New Testament canon of 27 books by the Orthodox Church in 419, after Christianity had become the established religion of the Roman Empire, although some Church leaders and theologians rejected it.
Because of the secrecy of early Christianity and the scarcity of surviving contemporary evidence, many orally transmitted legends about events and personalities circulated. Often several very different accounts concerning the same event or person existed, and the diverse versions were written about often centuries later. Many have become accepted by various branches of Christianity in various ways, either as historical truth or as traditional narrative.
The tradition concerning John was that as a Christian he was sent into exile on Patmos and that the island was one of several used as penal colonies by the Roman authorities. Other stories tell of the Romans forcing John to work in a copper mine and attempting to boil him in oil.
Another tradition is that he was John the Apostle, the Galilean fisherman who became one of the original twelve disciples of Christ, and also John the Evangelist, who wrote the Gospel of John and the Epistles of John in The New Testament. According to this legend, John the Apostle left Jerusalem to accompany the Virgin Mary (Christ's mother) to Ephesus where there was already a Christian community. At some point he wrote his gospel and epistles. After Mary's death he was imprisoned on Patmos and wrote the Revelation. It is a neat story and appears to tie up a lot of loose ends.
However this narrative has been challenged on several grounds, and many scholars have argued that the apostle, the gospel author and the writer of the Revelation must have been three separate people. Thus, the John who penned the Apocalypse is usually referred to as John of Patmos or John the Theologian, presumably because the book reveals its author's broad knowledge of The Old Testament, and is also known as John the Revelator and John the Divine.
Unfortunately, this leaves us with the loose ends. Who was the John whose grave is said to lie in the Basilica of Saint John in Ephesus, and who is also referred to as John the Theologian? And how can John the Apostle have lived with the Virgin Mary in Ephesus when other accounts relate that she died and was buried in Jerusalem?
See also the photos and article about the Basilica of Saint John
in Selçuk, near Ephesus on Selçuk gallery 1, pages 5-13.
||Notes, references and links
1. Saint Prochoros (Άγιος Προχορος)
Because of his Greek name, Prochoros, which could mean either "leader of the chorus" (or dance) or "he who prospers", it is believed that he may have been a Greek.
A Prochoros is mentioned in The New Testament (Acts, chapter 6, verse 5) as one of seven members of the Christian community in Jerusalem after Christ's crucifixion chosen to administer the charity given to widows and the poor.
According to Church tradition he then travelled with the Apostle Peter, who made him bishop in the city of Nicomedia (Νικομήδεια), Bythinia, northwestern Anatolia (today İzmit, Turkey). Following the death of the Virgin Mary (in Jerusalem or Ephesus?) he was imprisoned with John on Patmos, where he wrote down John's vision of the Apocalypse. Later he became Bishop of Antioch where he was martyred.
|More photos and information about mosaics|
on My Favourite Planet
Hellenistic mosaics in Pella, Macedonia, Greece
A mosaic of Dionysos and "Sleeping Ariadne" from Ephesus,
now in the Izmir Archaeological Museum, Turkey:
Selcuk photo gallery 2
The "Alexander Mosaic" from Pompeii, depicting
Alexander the Great in battle with King Darius III:
Alexander the Great
in our People section
A Hellenistic mosaic, signed by Hephaistion, from Pergamon,
now in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Germany:
Pergamon photo gallery 2
Ancient mosaics depicting the Gorgon Medusa
Mosaics from Pompeii signed by Dioskourides of Samos
Mosaics at Dion Archaeological Site, Macedonia, Greece:
Dion: garden of the Gods
at the Cheshire Cat Blog
Choklakia pebble mosaics on Kastellorizo island, Greece:
Kastellorizo photo gallery
Modern mosaic commemorating Saint Paul
the Apostle's visit to Veria, Macedonia, Greece:
Veria photo gallery
See also a mosaic mural made by the author of this guide:
|Maps, photos and articles: © David John,
except where otherwise specified.
Some of the information and photos in this guide to Patmos
originally appeared in 2004 on davidjohnberlin.de.
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