Greece welcomes a large number of tourists each year eager to visit some of the holy places mentioned in the New Testament that have played a major role to the shaping of Christianity as we know it today. Besides their biblical significance, each Greek biblical site has many to offer to each visitor, in terms of natural beauty, archaeological significance, combined with general tourist attractions.
The Sacred Island of Patmos, mentioned in Revelations 1:9, as the place where St. John wrote the Apocalypse, is part of the Dodecanese island complex, situated between Ikaria and Leros.
Roman historian Tacitus states in his Annals that Patmos was gradually turned into a penal colony for political agitators. It was during this period that St. John lived on the island, according to the New Testament, banished by Emperor Domitian in 95 CE, according to Eusebius.
In 1088 CE, a Christian monk referred to as the Blessed Christodoulos (Servant of Christ), came to Patmos to devote himself to study and reflection. During his stay, he established St. John's Monastery over the ruins of the Temple of Artemis. The Monastery has high, thick walls, surrounded by battlements and boasts a total of eight chapels, while its pebbled courtyard is decorated with arches, which allow a view to the 12th century frescoes adorning the chapel entrance.
The monastery also hosts a museum housing artefacts of major historical significance, such as jewelled chalices, crosses and crowns, old writings -dating back as far as 1073- icons and religious paintings, including an original El Greco. The monastery’s library, which is not open for the public, holds more than 900 manuscripts, 2000 books and codices, as well as 13,000 documents, which the monastery secures and preserves, some of which can be viewed at the museum.
The Grotto of the Apocalypse, the cave where St. John lived for two years (95-97 AD) during his writings of the Apocalypse, was turned into a monastery in the 17th century, by Gregory of Caesarea. Upon entering the cave, frescoes on the left portray the travels and miracles of St. John the Evangelist, while the frescoe on the right side shows St. John's battle with Kynops, the priest of Apollo on the island, whom St. John threw in the water at Skala harbour, where Kynops turned into stone. A rock in the harbour is still mentioned as a local landmark of religious significance.
During his second missionary trip, St. Paul landed in 49 or 50 AD from the harbour at Neapolis to the city of Philippi, a strategic Roman garrison city in Macedonia, founded by King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. The city was located 185 km from Thessaloniki, close to today’s Bulgarian border, in the valley formed by Mr. Lekani, Mt. Phalakro and Mt. Menikio.
Philippi was the home city of the Physician Luke, who apparently joined St. Paul, Silas and Timothy in Neapolis and together continued their journey to Philippi. The arrival of the Gospel to Macedonia through St. Pauls Second Journey is recorded in Acts 16:12.
Today, the site is of major archaeological importance, boasting among others the remains of the acropolis, an impressive theatre built in the 4th century BCE and altered in the 2nd century CE, a Roman forum, a number of later Basilicas, and the Philippi Archaeological Museum.
The Greek capital is proud to host the Areopagus, or Mars Hill, a bare marble hill next to the Acropolis, where the Apostle Paul delivered his famous speech about the Unknown God, according to Acts 17. Areopagus is still very popular among travellers for its biblical connection.
St. Paul’s visit to Athens and his religious work during his visit produced important converts, including Damaris and Dionysus the Areopagite, while the succeeding Athenian church produced a number of important Christian thinkers.
The ancient city of Corinth played a very important role in the Apostle Paul’s missionary work. After his visits to the city in the 50s AD, he wrote two letters to the Christian community established in Corinth (Epistle to the Corinthians 1 and 2, New Testament)
The preaching of Apostle Paul in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki largely facilitated the spreading of Christianity in the region of Macedonia, while the city is widely mentioned in the New Testament, mainly in the First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, which he wrote during one of his visits in Corinth.
Other Greek sites of major biblical significance are the northern Greek City of Berea (modern Veria) and the island of Cos.