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Towering over Skala and, for that matter, over the south island is the medieval Monastery of St. John, which looks far more like a fortress than a house of prayer. Built to withstand pirates, it is up to the task of deterring runaway tourism. The monastery virtually controls the south island, where the mayor wears a hat but the monastic authority wears a miter. In 1088, with a hand-signed document from the Byzantine emperor Alexis I Comnenus ceding the entire island to the future monastery, Blessed Christodoulos arrived on Patmos to establish what was to become an independent monastic state. The monastery chapel is stunning, as is the adjoining Chapel of the Theotokos, whose frescoes date from the 12th century. On display in the treasury is but a fraction of the monastery's exquisite Byzantine treasures -- icons, vestments, rare books -- which are second only to those of Mount Athos, a monastic state. One of the icons, by the way, is claimed to be by El Greco.