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The north of the island
At the north end of the bay of Skala, a road branches off the principal road to the north of the island and, following the line of the shore, climbs over a rise and drops down to the beach at Meloi― Bay. On the rise, a further right branch winds up to the monastery of the Panaghia Koumana, founded in 1748 as a ‘Seat’ of the main monastery of St John. There are many such ‘Holy Seats’ around the island; they are hermitages, often with a small farm stead attached, which, though physically separate, partake of the community of the main monastery. The church here (1780), built up against the rock, clearly occupies the site of what was once a hermit’s cave beside a small artesian well which is still in use. The low domed church has been repainted inside but conserves a particularly beautiful *icon of the Virgin and Child, said to be 12th century but which is possibly a little later given its slightly ‘Italianising’ style. The fine robes and hand of the Infant Christ are beautifully realised, and the eyes of the Virgin, slightly occidental in feel. There are unusual tiles on the floor of the narthex, with a stamped and engraved design. Wide views open out from the monastery’s burgeoning garden.
The main road north from Skala, passes the attractive sandy beach of Agriolivado, and leads to the island’s only protected and cultivated valley, Kambos (4km from Skala), with a scattered settlement, Ano Kambos, 600m inland and west of its shoreline resort below. The valley between is dotted with a number of traditional stone cuboid houses, in a landscape of igneous boulders and small breaks of vegetation. Beside the attractive plateia and modern church of the Evangelismos in Ano Kambos, a road branches left for Aghios Nikolaos, passing (left) the triple church of the Megali Panaghia, constituted of three contiguous barrel-vaulted churches, united by an attractive wide porch. The oldest unit—the central church of Aghia Triada, with its stone roof, belfry and tiled apse—dates from the 12th century, with the two lateral chapels of the Panaghia (S) and Aghios Athanasios (N), added a hundred years later, possibly over the site of a pre-existing three-aisled Early Christian basilica. There are no wall-paintings inside, but there is a fine 16th century icon of the Dormition in the south church. The even older church of Aghios Nikolaos Evdilos—said to be the oldest on the island and built in 1087, one year before the monastery of St John was begun—lies 1.5km further along the road to the west: the simple chapel, heavily buttressed to its north side, has been unfortunately re painted in recent times. It is to this remote area of the island that Chistodoulos specifically laid down in his Rule that the lay-community which had helped him build the monastery should be confined—so that their women and children, their noise, activity and barter, should not be a distraction to the monastic life, as they had been before in his community on Kos.
Leaving by the same road from Kambos, a track to the right after 500m is signed to the monastic Seat of Livadi Kalogeiron. The route is panoramic, and the simple rural life of the area through which it passes seems far from the mundanity of Skala. The monastery was founded in 1700 by monks from Mount Athos. A track from here leads east over the ridge to Lambi (see below).
At the north end of Kato Kambos, or Kambos Beach, the road divides: the right branch heads east along the promontory through a wild and beautiful landscape. The bays to the right (south) are particularly quiet and protected; the offshore islands of Aghios Giorgios (with its homonymous white chapel) and Kentronisi, the wide views of the bay of Skala, and the unusual sandbanks in the water in the bay of Livadi Geranou, combine to make this a coastal landscape of great beauty. Before the final descent to Livadi Geranoua track rises to the left, crosses the ridge and descends steeply to the Kathisma tou Apollou, or ‘Apollo’s Seat’, an attractively sited monastery, named not after the ancient divinity, but after one of its first hermitic occupants. A spring, a couple of terraces of verdure, a church and a small dwelling complex in a wild and tranquil setting, constitute the hermitage which once again is a ‘Seat’, dependent on the monastery of St John. On the small promontory below are the remains of a mill and threshing circle; the rock nearby is rich in mineral ores, visible in veins of striking colour.
The island’s most famous natural colours, however, are to be found by taking the north branch of the road from Kambos Bay, which leads over the hill to Lambi (6.5km from Skala). This is a long *pebble shore facing north and looking towards Samos . At first sight the strand and its small stones seem unremarkable, but closer inspection reveals them to be small fragments of a rock similar to ag ate, which when wet reveals variegated patterns of ochre yellow shot through with patches of translucent purple, and criss-crossed with striations of white. The mottled ef fect of the wet surfaces of these stones is of extraordinary beauty.
Patmos Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.