1. Geographical position, population and geomorphology

Telendos is situated west of Kalymnos at a distance of approximately 900 m. from the latter’s shores. It covers an area of 4.468 sq. m., has a coast line of 12,764 kms. and a maximum height of 459 m. During the winter period 25-30 inhabitants live on the island.

It is barren and rocky, apart from a plane formed at the base of the peninsular located at the island’s southeastern side, behind the traditional settlement which covers the length of the eastern-southeastern shore. Today, the inhabitants of Telendos are involved almost exclusively with tourism.

2. Name and literary references

Telendos’ name includes a place-name which suggests an area (-endos-) at the end of a long strip of land (-tel-) and this is, in fact, its shape.
According to Stylianos Emm. Lykoudis, Telendos is identified as ancient “Keleris”. The name Telendos is considered pre-Hellenic by more recent researchers.

In the maps of travelers and geographers of the late middle Ages, it is sometimes identified with the name “Agalia” or “Klarus”, sometimes its name is not mentioned at all while occasionally it is not even included in a map. In Rigas Ferraios’ Charta is it identified as “Klaros”.

Around 1420 AD, the Florentine monk and scholar Christoforo Buendelmonti was invited by the Knights Hospitaller to Rhodes in order to map the islands of the SE Aegean. He refers to the island as Telendos, characterizes it uninhabited, adds that goats and sheep live on it and describes its historical monuments.

A Greek portolan manuscript dating from the beginning of the 16th century, mentions that opposite the old castle of Gorgona (present-day Kastelli), on the western shore of Kalymnos is an elevated island called Telendos.

In 1688 the geographer Francesco Piazenza who was mapping the Aegean mentions the existence of a pine-forest on Telendos and seems to suggest that the island was uninhabited.

3. Historical background and monuments

The history of Telendos is closely connected with that of Kalymnos. The research carried out on the island has been limited and involves mainly salvage excavations. According to these, the area where the present-day settlement stands was inhabited during the Late Hellenistic period, was extended in Roman years and reached its peak during the early Christian era. The remains of a theatre are the most important of the few pre-Christian monuments.

Between the 5th and the 7th century AD, Telendos appears as an important Christian centre alongside Kalymnos. Five early Christian basilicas survive in ruins within but mainly around the settlement.

To the north of the settlement and near the beach survives the basilica of Agios Vasileios (Saint Basil); it is a three-aisled basilica with narthex, outer narthex and a polygonal externally and semi-circular internally apse on the eastern side of the central aisle. The side aisles are separated by marble colonnades which supported a wooden roof. The floor was decorated with mosaics. Three building phases have been identified (5th, 6th and 11th-12th centuries). Very near the basilica survive the ruins of early Christian baths built in two phases.

A short distance from Agios Vasileios survives the early Christian basilica of the Koimisi tis Theotokou (Assumption of the Virgin), three-aisled with three semi-circular apses to the east, narthex and atrium to the west. To the south survives a small outbuilding still used today as a cemetery church with the name Pera Panagia.

To the southeast of Pera Panagia, at a distance of a few hundred meters, is the early Christian necropolis at the “Tholaria” location. Nine domed funerary buildings survive here; they are above ground, face E-W and their entrance is, as a rule, located on the eastern side. Built, rectangular graves exist within them. To the southwest of the necropolis, at the “Pnigmenos” bay, is a long domed building with narthex which is used as a cemetery church.

To the west of the settlement, at the “Hochlakas” location is the early Christian basilica of the Agia Triada (Holy Trinity), three-aisled with three semi-circular apses to the east, narthex to the west and two outbuildings built along the side aisles. Two lines of built columns separated the central aisle from the side aisles and supported the wooden roof. The floor was covered and decorated with marble inlays.

North of the settlement and at a distance of around 500 m. at the “Potha” location, survives the western part of a three-aisled early Christian basilica with narthex. ¾ of these are in the sea.

The small-scale but important research being carried out through the salvage excavations at the settlement has brought important findings to light, mainly from the early Christian period. The destruction caused by the earthquake that hit Kos and Kalymnos in 551 or 553 AD as described by Agathias Scholastikos, is clear; this would explain the second building phase of the basilicas and the settlement’s buildings as well as the tumbling of many buildings into the sea all along the island’s eastern shore.

The settlement was abandoned around the middle of the 7th century and the inhabitants moved approximately three kilometers further north and a height of around 300 m. They built their houses with cisterns which survive to this day because of the brilliant quality of the plumbing plaster used to coat them. The settlement was walled on the side facing the sea with two gates, of which the western had a tower and a double wall. In this new settlement the inhabitants constructed a single-aisled basilica known as Agios Constantinos, with semi-circular apse to the east and built Episcopal throne with synthrono. The interior of the apse is decorated with a large stone cross at the base of which survive the remains of an inscription with large letters.

To the south of the basilica’s exterior a long outbuilding was added to serve the church’s needs and to its north a long building used as a cistern.
In the 11th century, the inhabitants of Telendos timidly returned to the coast and rebuilt part of the basilica of Agios Vasileios. The life-span of this middle-Byzantine settlement is impossible to define. It was probably short-lived, as there are no mid or late Byzantine churches on Telendos. The inhabitants relocated to Kalymnos. At the beginning of the 20th century sponge-fishers, fishermen and sailors settled on the eastern side of Telendos.