Between Kos and Leros lies Kalymnos - known as "the island of sponge-divers" but also "education lovers" - the fourth in size island of Dodecanese. There is a view that the island took its name after "good water". Ancient sources (Stravon, Diodoros Sikeliotis) indicate that the earlier inhabitants of the island were Carians. Later, the island was inhabited by Dorian settlers from Southern Greece (1150-800 BC). Kalymnos participated at the war of Troy (12th century BC) with other islands of southeastern Aegean, with 30 boats and with two kings, Feidippos and Antifanos. During the Persian domination in Southern Aegean, Artemisia 1st of Alikarnassos controlled the island. Following that, the island participated in the Athenian Coalition, to return as a victim of Antaklidios Pact (387 BC) to Artemisia 2nd. Following the fate of the other Greeks, Kalymnos was conquered by the Romans, and despite some privileges, the social and economic consequences for the local society were quite negative. The first Byzantine period brings along economic and population growth, shown in the big and luxury basilicas on the island (Church of Jerusalem, basilicas of Telendos). In 554 AD the catastrophic earthquake that levelled Rhodes, Kos and Samos to the ground, changed the island's morphology ever since and damaged its cultural entity. Tremors lasted for 14 days. At that period Telendos parted from the main land. The Byzantine period was turbulent. The island will be conquered successively by Persians (618 AD), Saracens (653), Venetians (1257-1277), Genoese, Crusaders, Knights of St. John (1200) and Turks (1522). The interim period of Italian rule (1915-1947) will leave its marks on the island, which was liberated and integrated to Greece.Pothia is the capital of the island and the most important villages are Hora, Panormos and Vathi.
HISTORICAL LANDMARKS & MONUMENTS
A remarkable concentration of archaeological and historic sites and monuments for a relatively small island.
Pothia Acropolis (north of Pothia): All that can now be seen are the foundations of the ancient fort dating from the Hellenistic period, on the rocky summit. The squared stones from the fort were used in later times by builders of houses in Pothia.
Damos (In the Dorian dialect, Damos = Dimos, the people; north of the road between Hora and Elies): A rich ancient settlement, which enjoyed its heyday from the early Hellenistic period to later Roman times. Among the well-preserved structures we can see the remains of a large baths complex, a paved road ascending in steps, houses, workshops, carved fountains, traces of a wall built using the isodomic system, chamber-type graves and graves carved into the rock, with valuable grave goods and other finds.
Sanctuary of Delian Apollo (SE of Damos, in the vicinity of Pigadia): This site was the most important official place of worship on ancient Kalymnos and served as a political and religious centre for the demes and tribes of the island. Rich finds - including inscriptions, statue plinths, figures, broken earthenware vessels etc. - demonstrate the uninterrupted cult use of the site from the beginning of the first millennium BC (Geometrical Period) to the early Christian period. Religious and political buildings were erected here in the course of the 4th and 3rd centuries BC
Temple of Delian Apollo (4th century BC): Built entirely of marble, in the Ionic order. The columns from the temple can still be seen in the Church of Panayia Keharitomeni at Hora, while plinths and other architectural fragments were used in the early Christian Church of Christ of Jerusalem, now in ruins. Between 391-435 AD the temple and sanctuary were destroyed and in their place, using their remains, were erected first the Church of Christ of Jerusalem, and a little later the Church of Aghia Sophia or Evangelistria.
Church of Christ of Jerusalem (5th century AD): Three-aisled early Christian basilica, built with materials taken from the Ionic temple of Delian Apollo. According to tradition the church was built by St. Helena or Arcadius, on their return from Jerusalem. A fine mosaic has been uncovered in the southern aisle, similar to mosaics found in basilicas on the island of Kos. The church was destroyed by an earthquake in the mid-6th century and immediately repaired, but finally abandoned, as a consequence of Arab raids from the sea, in the 7th century.
Church of Aghia Sophia or Evangelistria (close to Church of Christ of Jerusalem, late 5th or early 6th century AD): An imposing three-conch church which was destroyed in the earthquake of 554 AD and subsequently repaired. It was finally abandoned for good in the 7th century, and then in the late Byzantine period a chapel, now ruined, was erected in front of the sanctuary apse. Excavations have failed fully to uncover the remains of the church. Of the interior decoration, impressive multi-coloured floor mosaics have survived depicting fish, animals and geometric patterns.
Kastelli (in the district of the same name): Byzantine fort built to overlook the sea between Kalymnos and Telendos, in an area of exceptional natural beauty. The fort (which remained in use up until the 9th or 10th century) stands in an exceptionally good strategic position, using the natural division of the elevation into two different levels as a defense against attacks from land or sea. There are gateways in the exterior wall, and cisterns to ensure a supply of water.
Hora Castle or Megalo Kastro (late 15th century): The Knights' Castle as we see it today rises on a natural elevation 255 metres above sea level, with just one entrance gateway, although human activity on the site dates back to prehistoric times. The earliest fortifications date from the 11th century. Then the great earthquake of 1492 intervened, and in 1495 the Neo Kastro, or New Castle, was completed. In the middle of the eastern wall there rises a complex of towers, which once housed cannon. Two coats of arms set into the wall with the date 1519 attest to its origins during the period of rule by the Knights. The castle was occupied also under the period of Turkish rule (1513 - 1912), but from the mid-18th century the dangers began to recede and the inhabitants built themselves homes in the district of Hora. Yet the fortified area continued to be occupied, if less densely, until the mid-19th century. The Kastro district was broad and densely built-up (1200 - 1500 inhabitants). Among the surviving structures, apart from a fair number of dwellings, of particular interest are two large cisterns, a stone basin from an olive press and part of the stone olive-crushing cylinder. Ten small churches have survived in good repair within the Kastro, most of them painted by artists from a local workshoplayer I 14th century, layer II early 16th century), Aghios Nikolaos (early 16th century), Prodromos (14th - 15th century, renovated in early 16th century), Aghios Georgios & Aghia Anna (early 16th century), Analipsi (early 16th century), Aghia Paraskevi (early 16th century), Stavros (early 16th century), Metomorfosi (early 16th century), Aghios Nikitas (early 16th century) and Aghios Georgios (early 16th century).
Flaska Roman grave (50m north of Kalymnos Stadium, to the west of the Flaska district): Funerary monument of the Roman period (1st Century AD), aboveground, with eight burial chambers, preserved in good condition. The monument was in use up until early Christian times, but its contents were looted long ago.
Pera Kastro or Kastro tis Chrysoherias (half-way between Hora and Pothia): The site has been in continual use since the Neolithic era. It looks down from a natural elevation over Hora and Pothia. During the rule of the Knights (mid 15th century), because of increasingly frequent raids on the islands by the Turks, the governor of the islands Cos, Kalymnos, Leros and Nisyros, Fantino Quirini - on the orders of the Grand Master Jean Bonpart de Lastic - compelled the inhabitants to build a new castle for his own use. It consists of a perimeter wall, two circular towers, two entrances and a rampart. The few structures within are preserved in good condition; there is a food store, partly dug into the rock, partly constructed of masonry, and two small churches, the more recent dedicated to Aghios Georgios and the older to the Virgin. The castle was finally abandoned in the late 15th century, partly because of the continual raids by the Turks, partly because its small size meant it could not meet the needs of the population, but mainly because the large castle at Hora was completed in 1495.
Three stone windmills (NE of the castle): Visible from the harbour, these are the ¡trade mark' of Kalymnos.
Fortified settlement of Aghios Konstantinos (northern Telendos): Inhabited from the first half of the 7th century AD, up until the end of the 10th century. It is surrounded by walls with an interior perimeter corridor and an entrance gateway. The interior housed an extensive Byzantine settlement with a variety of buildings, a large cistern and the remains of a single-cell basilica, of which only the sanctuary apse remains standing. The apse has been converted into the Chapel of Aghios Konstantinos and Aghia Eleni. There is a cross decorated with precious stones fresco on it.
Early Christian necropolis (Telendos, 500m SW of Tholaria settlement): An early Christian cemetery with funerary structures above the ground, of which nine have survived.
Settlement of Kastella (Vathy, north of Metochi): An important ancient settlement of about fifty structures of various dimensions, rectangular in ground plan. The site was inhabited from prehistoric times up until the classical period. Exceptional finds indicate that the inhabitants of Kastella, probably Carians, traded with the coastal cities of Asia Minor and the nearby islands. The settlement was abandoned suddenly after a raid in the first half of the 5th century BC. In the upper part there may have been a sanctuary or the home of the ruler of the settlement; there are no traces of fortifications.
Fortified acropolis of Embola (Vathy - second half 4th century BC): An imposing wall built to the isodomic system can still be seen, forming a fortified area with a great gateway to the east.
Peristeria Hill (Vathy, opposite Daskalio): A very important archaeological site. A prehistoric settlement was located here, as demonstrated by surface finds (fragments of obsidian, pottery shards, stone tools, etc.). The oldest of these date from the Neolithic period, although the site was inhabited up until early historic times. The name of the settlement comes from the cave of the same name on the side of the hill.
Early Christian settlement of Rina (Vathy, harbour of Rina): A densely occupied and well-organized settlement which flourished in the 5-6th centuries AD and was probably abandoned as a result of repeated Arab raids. It contains seven early Christian churches, some remarkable dwellings and some cisterns (at Ellinika). The settlement was inhabited again in the 10th century, as indicated by the construction of the small Church of the Dormition of the Virgin and of Aghios Kirikos. The area seems to have enjoyed something of a renaissance, to judge by the many Byzantine churches with their wall paintings.
Stimenion Cave (Vathy): The cave has an aperture in the roof serving as an entrance and to admit light. Around the cave early Christian and Byzantine ceramic ware has been found, as well as ancient stone architectural fragments and the ruins of dwellings.
Hoiromantres Cave (southern slope of Pothia, below the Monastery of Aghion Panton): Neolithic finds and shards dating from as late as the early Christian period indicate the site was in continual use as a place of habitation and worship. The collapse of the vaulted roof has ruined the original form of the cave.
Cave of Aghia Varvara (Troutsoula hill, on the Flaska-Hora road): The cave has two main areas, which communicated with each other through a narrow passageway. Rare finds indicate that the cave was in use as far back as the early Bronze Age. It takes its name from the little church nearby.
Daskalio Cave (Vathy, Rina harbour, access by stone-built steps):
Ceramic ware found on the surface demonstrates that the cave was in use for habitation and for cult purposes from the Neolithic up to the early Christian period; there have been other impressive finds. Particularly important are the vessels, phials and the stone axe from the Neolithic period, stone wine jars from the early Bronze Age, a disc-shaped, stone lamp from the Meso-Minoan I-II period and a bronze cult figure from the later Palace period.
Church of Aghioi Apostoloi (Argos plateau - 12th or 11th century AD): Probably founded by the Blessed Christodoulos, this is the largest church in the monastic complex, which includes the Osios Christodoulos Chapel and the Chapel of Panayia Kyra. Part of the painted decoration in the interior has survived, including the imposing, full-figure depiction of St. Peter with a staff, from which the keys to paradise are hanging (2nd half of 12th century). As was customary in the early Byzantine period, the plinth of the communion table is a cylindrical, stone funerary altar from the Hellenistic period, with relief bucrania and goat's head decoration and an early Christian Ionic capital. Various architectural fragments incorporated in the structure and found scattered in the vicinity strengthen the impression that there were older structures on the site, including an olive press.
Chapel of the Blessed Christodoulos or Aghios Ioannis Theologos (plateau of Argos): A small single-aisle, vaulted structure incorporating features from early Christian and Hellenistic buildings, such as the communion table made of a cylindrical, marble, Hellenistic funerary altar, like that in the Church of Aghion Apostolon, with a stone slab above it. The chapel abuts on the Church of Aghion Apostolon and must be later in date.
Church of Panayia Kyra (plateau of Argos): Single-aisle, vaulted church with a narthex with Byzantine and post-Byzantine wall paintings by the same artists who decorated the Churches of Megalo Kastro and Metamorfosis. The sanctuary is separated from the main part of the church by a painted wooden screen dating from 1785.
Church of Aghios Petros (east of Monastery of Aghion Panton): Small monastic complex, probably formed part of a larger group of buildings in the early Christian period.
Church of Aghios Georgios (On Aghiou Georgiou headland, at Pezoules): Small monastic complex built on site where there probably once stood a Temple of Poseidon, and later an early Christian basilica. To judge from the various architectural fragments found dispersed around the area and incorporated in the building, the basilica and its auxiliary structures must date from the 5th century AD. North of Aghios Georgios there are the remains of another complex of buildings, with a large, rectangular, vaulted structure still in good condition, perhaps a tomb.
Church of Aghioi Theodoroi (in vicinity of Voukolia): Small church of the free cruciform type with dome. It appears to have been built in the mid-Byzantine period on the site of an early Christian basilica.
Aghios Ioannis (on the shore at Melitsaha, next to the Chapel of Aghios Ioannis Prodromos - 5th century AD): Remains of a large, three-aisled early Christian basilica. On the site of an ancient Doric structure, probably built for religious use. The surviving parts of the church and the architectural fragments found scattered in the vicinity reflect the aesthetic and stylistic trends of the period. There is also a mosaic of fine quality at narthex.
Church of Aghios Athanasios (close to Kastro Chrysoherias): A single-aisled, vaulted structure with an entrance on the western side and two masonry buttresses on the northern and southern sides. The sanctuary is separated from the main part of the church by a masonry screen and the communion table stands on a reversed, early Christian column plinth. The church is decorated with wall paintings in western style from the time of the Knights (late 15th - early 16th century), with an inscription in Greek. It stands next to the more recent church.
The churches at Vathy which have survived in good condition include:
Early Christian basilica of Taxiarchis (northern part of the ancient fort of Embola, second half of 6th Century AD): A large three-aisled basilica, this was built using material from the fort, with a vaulted side aisle. It has three external entrances, a narthex, synthronon and annex. The floor of the central aisle, which formerly had a wooden roof, is covered in multi-coloured mosaics. As was usual at the time, architectural fragments (triglyphs, metopes, etc.) were taken from ancient buildings, specifically from a Hellenistic, Macedonian-type tomb. During the mid Byzantine period, the interior of the church was used as a burial place, particularly the main area and narthex.
Byzantine Chapel of Taxiarchis (in southern aisle of Taxiarchis basilica): A small church with various whitewashed, early Christian architectural fragments in the sanctuary and wall decoration painted in four phases (13th and 14th century) in the original eastern structure.
Church of Palaiopanayia (between the Embola fort and the Fylakes guardhouse, early 6th century): The largest basilica at Vathy, with sections of wall paintings, mural and floor mosaics, a semi-circular apse, a large communion table, the remains of a synthronon, a baptistery complex, a diaconicon, masonry steps, cistern and various auxiliary buildings. From the first half of the 7th century to the mid-Byzantine period the site was used for burial purposes. NW of the Palaiopanayia there are two early Christian funerary structures and the early Christian stone base of an olive press.
Church of Kyra Hosti (SE of Rina, between Aghia Sophia and Stavro): The Byzantine Church of the Koimisi tis Theotokou (Dormition), known since the time of the Arab raids as Kyra-Hosti. It consists of three parts: rich painted decoration has survived in the eastern part. There are various early Christian architectural fragments incorporated within and outside the church, probably taken from the adjacent basilica.
Church of Aghios Ioannis Theologos, or Theologaki (on road from Pothia to Vathy): Small, single-aisled, vaulted Byzantine church. Just one figure has survived from the painted decoration- a depiction of Deisis - Prayer- by Christos Pantocratoras, on the pendentive of the apse, holding up His right hand in blessing and in His left hand holding the Gospels (13th century AD). The church is built on the ruins of an early Christian basilica.
The most important modern churches of the island (late 19th and early 20th century) include:
Metropolitan Church of Christ (1861): With a dome in the island style, elaborate pebble work, a screen, the Halepa Clock and paintings by important local artists.
Church of Aghios Nikoloas (1860-1880, Marasi, Ag. Nikolaou): A splendid church built with donations from seafarers. With valuable ecclesiastical implements and paintings by important local artists.
Church of Aghios Stephanos (beginning of 20th century, Marasi, Ag. Stephanou): Built with donations from seafarers, with silver domes in the Russian style.
Church of Panayia Keharitomeni (1794, Hora): Impressive three-aisled church of great cultural value; this was the centre of revolutionary activity in Kalymnos. The line of columns supporting the right-hand side of the central aisle were taken from the marble Temple of Apollo. The church has some rare moveable icons.
Church of Aghios Savvas o en Kalymno (dominates the Stavros hillside): A newly-constructed, opulent church with stained glass and marble. The rich interior paintings combine free religious subjects and portraits of saints and holy men with scenes from the life of Aghios Savvas; the painter's technique is the product of a syncretism of styles. It is said that one of the bell towers is the largest in the Balkans. Pilgrims come from all over Greece to worship the relics of the saint.
Some of the monuments of Telendos most worth seeing:
Church of Panayia (Telendos): Built and decorated with donations from seafarers at the beginning of the last century.
Baths (Telendos, Louloudia): Complex of buildings with communicating chambers, dating from early Crhistian times.
Baths of Aghios Haralambos: Consisting of three main chambers.
Chapel of Aghios Haralambos: Small, early Christian church with just one aisle.
Church of Aghios Vasileios (early 6th century - 554 AD): The largest and best preserved early Christian church on Kalymnos, a three-aisled basilica with six-sided apse, narthex and auxiliary structures. The church is evidence of the prosperity of the large early Christian community of Telendos.
Church of Palaia Panayia (early 6th century - 554 AD): Large three-aisled, early Christian basilica with three apses, narthex, baptistery, cistern and auxiliary structures (stairway, prothesis, diaconicon etc.).
MUSEUMS, EXHIBITIONS, LIBRARIES
Vouvalis Museum (Aghia Triada): The Museum was a luxurious house of the great benefactor Nikolaos Vouvalis, built in central European architectural style. It includes few exhibits from 19th and 20th century. The new Archaeological Museum under construction will exhibit rare findings such as "the girl of Kalymnos" and the hellenistic torso of Asclepios, as well as a lot of other statues.
Marine and Folklore Museum (Pothia, opposite the City Hall, Vouvalios Technical School building): Here, the age-old naval profession as well as many items of naval art and sponge diving are exhibited.
Valsamidis Museum of Marine Findings (Vlyhadia): It exhibits rare marine species, tools and sponge diving equipment as well as archaeological findings of particular value from wreckages, most of them collected by the owners.
House of Kalymnos (road to Vlyhadia, before Vothinoi village): A privately-owned exhibition hall that accommodates a lot of items, both for everyday use and of popular art, and reproduces the interior of a traditional house at the end of 19th century.
Anagnostirio (Reading Hall) "The Muses" (established in 1904): One of the oldest literary establishments of this kind in Greece, it is located in a modern building with Ionian front and today houses the Municipal Library with a lot of rare books.
Art Multiuse Hall Victor Hugo (Theologos): It exhibits true copies of famous creations of world painting, posters and exhibitions of local and other artists as well as remarkable photos.
Local Artists' Exhibition (Pothia, Vouvaleio Girls School): It is recurrently organized by the Artists' Association with paintings, sculptures, ceramics, art objects made of glass etc.
The unplanned and tasteless constructions between the 1960's and the 1980's damaged the characteristic island architectural style of Kalymnos to the extent that it is now difficult to talk about homogenous traditional built-up areas. Despite that, there are still several traditional buildings both at Pothia and Hora.
Pothia: The capital of the island exhibits perhaps the biggest concentration of neo-classic houses per square kilometer in Greece. Most of the houses are big, with two floors and tiled roofs, with architectural and decorative elements of exquisite style and belonged mainly to wealthy ship owners and merchants. Most of them are still inhabited. In the less wealthy neighborhoods of Ag.Triada and Ag.Mammas, Ag.Nikolaos and Hora we can see the traditional two-floor house. The bright colors and the characteristic house and road arrangements of Marasia (poorer neighborhoods on both sides of Pothia) show wisdom in planning and economy in materials and land.
The most important religious festivals and events on the island are: Festival of Aghios Savvas of Kalymnos (5/12), of Aghios Constantine and Helen (Telendos, 21/5), of Aghios Panteleimonas at Panormos (26 & 27/7) where visitors from all over Greece are gathered and participate in the traditional all night ceremonies, the festival of Panayia Kira Psili (15/8), of Panayia at Arginontas (15/8) with food, drinks and traditional music, of Panayia at Telendos (15/8) and Christ Square at Pothia (Easter day) with recreation of customs from traditional sponge diving, mainly the farewell of sponge divers by their families.
Traditional shipyard (Pothia-Vathi road, next to Electric Power factory): One of the very few remaining traditional shipyards in Greece, where experienced boat carpenters that have been taught their craft from their father, construct with technical proficiency even big open sea dragnet boats, with techniques that go back to the Homeric years!
Home manufacturing is developed to a lesser degree (weaving, kerchiefs, shepherd's crooks, buskins, music instruments, boat miniatures etc.)
The honey has been produced in Kalymnos since at least the classical era and has been mentioned by Pafsanias as one of the best honeys of antiquity for its thyme flavor and its therapeutic qualities.Other characteristic products are the traditional barley bread roll (an ancient product that is the base of the famous "mirmizeli" salad), fresh cream cheese made of milk from local sheep and goats, produced at picturesque Vathis, at picturesque Vathis and rural Argos, the sweet red wine that tastes like visanto, Laura's wine at Ag. Mammas and the excellent olive oil.
This section is still under construction.
RENT A CAR
Gaidourorahos, Gr.85200, Kalymnos
T: + 22430 47330
Periochi Anastasi, Gr.85100, Kalymnos
T: + 30 22410 24123
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