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      Κάλυμνος (5/3/2006 v.1) Kalymnos (5/3/2006 v.1)

Author(s) : Koutellas Michalis , Karabatsos Vasilios , Katsioti Angeliki (7/30/2005)
Translation : Easthope Christine , Dovletis Onoufrios , Karioris Panayotis , Kalogeropoulou Georgia (11/15/2006)

For citation: Koutellas Michalis, Karabatsos Vasilios, Katsioti Angeliki, "Kalymnos", 2006,
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1. Natural environment

Kalymnos is an island in the southeastern Aegean Sea and is part of the prefecture of Dodecanese. The terrain is in its greatest part mountainous, with the exception of the valleys in Pothia - Panormo and in Vathy. It is the fourth in size and the third in population island of the prefecture. The island measures 111,14 square kilometres and has a population of 16.800 residents. To the Northwest it borders with Leros and to the Southeast with Kos. The island is seat of a province, which includes Patmos, Leros, Pserimos, Telendos, Astypalaia, Agathonissi and Leipsoi. The capital of Kalymnos is Pothia. Second in population is Chora, the oldest capital of the island. Other inhabited regions are Bathys or Vathy, Argos, Panormos, Myrties, Massouri, Arginonta, Skalia, Emporeios, Vothynoi, Vlyhadia, Lafasi and the islet Telendos.

Kalymnos is a predominantly naval island. The inhabitants are capable shipbuilders, well known since Antiquity, according to the ancient Greek poet Menander (342-290 BC). On the island runs a shipyard of traditional timbered boats in the region Lafassi in Pothia and in the harbour of Rina in Vathy.

Sponge-fishing flourished particularly in Kalymnos. The systematic occupation of the Kalymnians with the sponge was the most important factor for the prosperity of the island. The great economic development is evident in the numerous neoclassical mansions that are found scattered in every corner of Kalymnos, as well as in the imposing churches. Apart from the sponges of excellent quality, pure thyme honey is produced on Kalymnos, famous for its quality already in the Hellenistic and Roman period, according to the ancient writers Strabo, Pliny and Ovid.

2. History

The island was initially named Kalydna, but it was renamed into Kalymna in the 4th century BC. The most likely etymology of its name is from the words ‘kalos” (meaning good, beautiful) and ‘ydna’ (meaning water). This implies that the word Kalydna means island with good, beautiful water. In the Byzantine period the name Kalymna is altered to Kalymnos.

Homer in the Heliad (rhapsody B, l. 676-680) mentions that Kalymnos along with Nisyros,Kos, Kasos and the Karpathos campaigned against the Trojans, with a force of 30 boats and their leaders were Pheidippos and Antiphos, sons of Thessalos.
The earliest evidence of human presence and activity on the island dates from the Neolithic period and the Early Bronze Age.
During the Persian wars (beginnings of the 5th century BC.) the island was found under Persian occupation, until it was liberated with the aid of the Athenian fleet. Then Kalymnos joined the A’ and then the B’ Athenian League. Later, however, it came under the occupation of Mausolus and the Persians, from whom it was freed by the fleet of Alexander the Great.

The Hellenistic years were a period of prosperity, despite the fact that the island, due to its geographic position, was often involved in the conflicts among the Successors of Alexander.

In the Roman period (1st century BC- 4th century AD) Kalymnos belonged to the Islands Province. In the Early Christian period (4th century AD-beginnings of 7th century AD) a considerable number of large Christian churches were constructed. The powerful earthquake in 554 AD, in addition to the other destructions, caused the sinking of the area between Kalymnos and Telendos, which was consequently shaped into an island.

The raids of the Arabs, in the middle of the 7th century, depopulated the coastal settlements, as the residents were forced to resort to mountainous regions, where they created the fortified settlements of Aghios Konstantinos and Galatiani. In the Middle Byzantine years the castle of Chora was built.

In the beginning of the14th century Kalymnos came under the sovereignty of the Knights of Saint John battalion. In the middle of the15th century the castle of Chrysoheria was built, whereas towards the end of the same century the castle at Chora was repaired and extended.
In 1523 the Knights left Dodecanese, after turning the islands over to the Ottomans. In return, Kalymnos received autonomy and complete self-government. The next years were characterized by a relative calm and safety. In the first half of the 18th century the settlement of Chora was created, while around 1840 the harbour of Pothia was organised, the new capital of the island.

In 1821 Kalymnos, despite being autonomous, followed the Greek Revolution and participated in the naval battle that took place near the island, on 29 August 1825. Then the provisional government of Greece included Kalymnos in the Greek state and send administrative and naval authorities to the island. The islands of Kalymnos, Leros, Patmos and Ikaria received the title "Complimentary islands of the department of Eastern Sporades". Later I. Kolettis was appointed delegate extraordinary. However, when the borders of the Greek state were determined, Kalymnos was exchanged with Euboea, so that it returned to the Ottomans. In 1835 its autonomy was recognized with imperial firman (similarly for Patmos, Leros and Ikaria).

In 1912 Kalymnos fell under the Italian domination. After the end of World War II, on the 7th March 1948, the island was officially and finally incorporated in the borders of the Greek state with the rest of the Dodecanese.

The recent history of Kalymnos was particularly connected with sponge-fishing, since from the end of the 18th century it was one of the most important centres of sponge-fishing in the Mediterranean. It is worth mentioning that after the World War II Kalymnos remained the only Greek sponge-fishing force, with exports to Greece and abroad.

3. Archaeological sites and monuments

Kalymnos, despite the relatively small size, presents an impressive concentration of archaeological sites and monuments, covering all historical periods. The earlier monuments are dated in the Prehistory, that is the Neolithic period and Bronze Age. Archaeological excavations in the caves of Aghia Barbara and Hoiromantres in Pothia and Daskalio in Vathy have revealed an abundance of finds.

The most important archaeological site of Kalymnos is the sanctuary of Delios Apollo, near the modern settlement of Chora. The sanctuary was the political and religious centre of ancient Kalymnos and comprised buildings dedicated not only to the cult but also to political activities. According to the archaeological discoveries the use of the place for religious purposes started in the beginning of the 1st millennium BC and lasted until the Early Christian period, when two large Christian churches were constructed, Christ of Jerusalem and Aghia Sofia.

The most important settlement of the Hellenistic and Roman period is found in Damos, where recent systematic excavations have revealed houses, workshops and shrines. Kastri at Emporeio, the acropolis at Pothia, the Fortress at Empola, Fylakes and Kastraki in Vathy are all fortification works of the Hellenistic period.

Remains of settlements dated to the Early Christian years exist in the regions Vathy, Emporeio and Kantouni. The settlement at Hellenika in the port Rina in Vathy is preserved in an impressive state. In Kalymnos there are 23 churches in total, dated to the 5th and 6th century. The most important are Christ of Jerusalem and Aghia Sofia in the area of the sanctuary of Apollo, Aghios Ioannis at Melitsaha, Aghios Nikolaos at Skalia, Taxiarhis and Palaiopanaghia at Vathy.

The majority of the Byzantine temples in Kalymnos are of small dimensions. Wall paintings of high quality are preserved in their interio. The most important are Aghioi Apostoloi at Argos, Aghios Nikolaos at Skalia, Panaghia Kyra-Chosti, Taxiarhis, Aghia Anna and Aghios Kerykos at Vathy.

In the 7th century the castles at Galatiani, at Aghios Konstantinos and at Kastelli were built. In the 11th century the castle of Chora was constructed, which after repairs and enlargement, in the end of the 15th century, became the urban centre of Kalymnos. Ten small temples are preserved in good condition at Kastro and are dated to the period between the15th century and the beginnings of the16th. Other important temples of the Late Byzantine period are the Metamorphosis of Soteros and Prodromos around the Castle of Chrysohera, Aghios Georgios at Argos and Aghios Theodoros at Vathy. In the years of the Knights Occupation, around the middle of the 15th century, the Castle of Chrysoheria was also built.

(Michalis Koutellas)
(Transl. Georgia Kalogeropoulou - Panagiotis Karioris)

4. Post-Byzantine painting

Frescoes of most churches were painted by a workshop, which painted nine of them within a 15 year period (1506-1519). These are the seven out of the nine churches of the Castle above Chora: Timios Stavros, Aghia Anna (or Aghios Georgios), Analipsi tou Christou (Assumption of the Christ), Aghios Ioannis o Prodromos (St. John the Baptist), Kimisi tis Panagias (Dormition of the Virgin Mary), Aghios Nikolaos and Metamorfosi tou Sotira (Transfiguration of the Savior). The second layer of frescoes at the church of Panagia at Argos and the painting of the Metamorfosi tou Sotira church at the castle of Chrysocheria must also have been painted by that workshop. Since most are in a bad condition, reading the dedicatory inscriptions preserved at four of them is more difficult. That of Timios Stavros reads 1506 and the Aghios Georgios (or Aghia Anna) one reads 1519. The name of the painter is also mentioned at the Analipsi church, as well as the patrons’ names at Aghios Georgios and Aghios Ioannis o Prodromos. The patrons don’t seem to have held some official position.

The iconographic programme was common in all churches and typical of single-aisled churches of that time: at the quarter-cycle of the chancel conch was depicted the Deesis with its three figures (Jesus between the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist), at the semi-cylinder of the apse were depicted the co-officiating bishops, full-length saints on the walls and scenes from the Dodekaorton at the vault. The scenes and the other figures have been awkwardly painted, while their proportions are wrong.

This workshop’s activity expanded outside of Kalymnos too, on neighboring Kos, where during the first 20 years of the 16th century it painted the second layer of Aghios Nikolaos o Ftochos and the Panagia i Gorgoepikoos in the city, the second layer of Panagia ton Kastrianon and Aghios Antonios at Pyli.

(Angeliki Katsioti)
(Transl. Onoufrios Dovletis)

5. Early Christian Basilicas of Kalymnos

Conventionally the Early Christian Period is defined as being between the middle of the 4th century AD and the middle of the 7th century AD .During that time Kalymnos belonged to the eparchy of islands that had its seat in Rhodes. Towards the end of the 7th century , with the founding of the Institution of Themes, Kalymnos, along with other islands of the Dodecanese, was included in the Theme of Karavisianon which later changed to the Theme of Kivirraioton , at the beginning of the 8th century.

As far as ecclesiastical history of the island is concerned there is not any written evidence and the Bishop of Kalymnos is not mentioned at the Ecumenical Synods of this period. Nevertheless this absence of information can be filled by looking at the large number of well- preserved Early Christian Basilicas as well as the remains of houses,thermae and very old tombs mainly found at coastal settlements.

Wherever there were ancient settlements and towns, life continued with a new vigor. Just as on other islands, the position of ancient temples and sanctuaries were taken over by good- sized Early Christian Basilicas as places of worship of saints and evangelists.

Although the central authority and Emperors supported and helped legally, morally and materially the metropolitan bishops and diocese, at the same time donors were appearing. These were both known and unknown benefactors and they provided building material, especially for the decoration of the Early Christian Basilicas.

At the Temple of Apollo Delos at Limnotisa , which is found in the middle of the island from Pothia to the western coastal region , can be found the Early Christian Basilicas of Christ of Jerusalem and St. Ann the Evangelist. They would have been built entirely from ancient building material from the ancient temples and public buildings although their floors would have been decorated with mosaics.
At Pothia where there was the Temple of Artemis a three-aisled basilica of The Annunciation was built with a marble floor in the central aisle and mosaic floors in the two side aisles.

On the western side of the island, at Melitsachas , a three-aisled basilica of St. John was built with an extension on the southern external wall in the shape of a chapel. The floor of the central and side aisles were covered with marble slabs whereas in the narthex a mosaic floor has been preserved with the inscription:
+ ΚΥΡΙΕ ΒΟΗΘΙ ΤΩ Δ ΑΝΑΤΟΛΙΩ ΤΩ ΚΤΙCΑΝΤΙ ΤΟΝ ΑΓΙΟΝ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ ΑΜΗΝ. (Lord help Donatolio the builder of St. John, amen)
This is the only inscription that has been saved in its entirety and is dated from the end of the 5th century to the beginning of the 6th century. The remains that can be found in the area of St. John’s show that there was an ancient temple of the Doric order dedicated to Poseidon.

Again on the west side, at the coastal area Kantouniou, there is, in a rather dilapidated condition , the area of the altar and a side aisle of a large three-aisled Early Christian Basilica with the name of the present day church of Zoodothou Pigis. The part of the Basilica , west of the altar, has been washed away by the sea.

Staying on the west side of the island at Skala and Emporiou the remains of two early Christian Basilicas have survived and in the same area there are quite well-developed walls belonging to buildings, indicating that there was a settlement there. Also an early Christian spa, in quite good condition and of quite a good height has been preserved to the east of the Basilica at Emboro.

About 11km. northeast of Pothia there is the valley of Vathia. It is the most fertile area of the island due to many wells to be found there. As the valley is surrounded by high mountains it is somewhat isolated having its only opening in the east towards the sea at the harbour at Rina.For this reason it is an autonomous biogeographical area.

In this valley ten early Christian Basilicas have been found , of which five were built on both sides of the harbour. All of the basilicas are three-aisled and in two of these, the Basilica of Anastasis and that found on the land belonging to Halkiti, mosaic floors were found. The other three, the Basilica of St. George, that of St Irene and an unknown one to the east of the latter, remain unexcavated.

A very important monument is the Basilica of the Holy Cross with the chapel of St. Kipikou at the southern exterior side. From this basilica lower parts of the mosaic decoration of the narthex and southern aisle have been preserved. Of equal interest is the Basilica of St. Ann along with the small, Middle Byzantine temple of the same name. On the floor of the north aisle mosaic decoration has been preserved and the parapets of the icon screen pertain to the same type of perforated technique.

The two very important monuments on the west side of the valley are the Basilica of Archangel Michael at Embolo and the Basilica of Paliaopanagias. They have been built on a site where there were ancient temples and sanctuaries, from which the building material used for the basilicas came from. Their floors are decorated with a mosaic of very high quality and displaying a variety of subjects, mainly geometric shapes. In the Basilica of Paliaopanagias the internal decoration is mainly composed of marble capitals and parapets whereas the floor of the church and that of the three aisles are decorated with mosaics with geometric designs; both come from the two construction periods associated with the building of basilicas. On the lower edge of the columns and capitals there are engravings of the alphabet indicating that they come from the organized state quarries at Prokonisi. These basilicas date from the first quarter of 6th century AD.

(Vasileios Karabatsos)
(Transl. Christine Easthope)

6. Traditional architecture

The basic type of dwelling in Kalymnos is the monochoro or monospito (one-room house), called "katzia", which along with a variation, called anokatogo, were being built until the end of the 19th century. The monospito basically consists of a rectangular space, with the main facade usually on the long side. Internally it comprises the wooden krevvatos on the narrow side with storage space underneath and parastia on the other, used for cooking and heating. The equipment of the room is completed with cupboards, plate-racks, shelves, hangers for the clothes and a table. The anokatogo house occurs in districts with steep inclination and its plan adapts to it. It is characterized by katoi at a lower level with the auxilliary spaces (kitchen, storerooms, cistern) and the upper level, the anoi, the main residence.

The economic development of the island, which reached its peak in the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, resulted to the construction of grandiose houses, expressing a need for social display. The rooms of the houses got larger, so that they could meet the demands of the family and at the same time house the economic activities of the householders (workshops, storerooms, shops).

In Chora and mainly in Pothia there is a great variety of types of traditional houses, from simple ground floors with one or more rooms to impressive two-storey and three-storey mansions with strong neoclassical elements, popular on the island in the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The greatest number of traditional houses is found in the districts of Aghios Theologos, Aghios Nikolaos, Aghia Triada, Aghios Mammas, Ypapanti, Evangelistria and Patithries. The large two-storey and three-storey houses, decorated with elaborate architectural features, belonged mainly to wealthy captains and merchants of the island.

The uncontrolled and unorganised building activity in the period 1960-1980 resulted in the alteration of the unique local architecture and structural planning of Kalymnos.

7. Museums

7. 1. Archaeological Museum

It is in Pothia, the capital of the island, in the district of Aghia Triada. Here unfolds in thematic units the history and culture of Kalymnos from the Prehistory up to the Post Byzantine years, through the presentation of great number of bronze and marble sculpture, pottery, figurines, tools, coins, religious objects, artefacts and weapons.

7. 2. Vouvalis Mansion

It is adjacent to the Archaeological Museum. It was the residence of Nikolaos Vouvalis family, the most eminent sponge merchant and benefactor of Kalymnos. The Vouvalis Mansion (end of 18th century) is a characteristic specimen of neoclassical urban architecture in Kalymnos. Here the visitor can admire the central European household and furniture of the mansion.

7. 3. Nautical and Folklore Museum

It is located on the esplanade of Pothia, in the building of the old Vouvalis Technical Faculty. The nautical tradition of the island is presented, the history and the methods of sponge diving, as well as many finds from ancient shipwrecks. The exhibits are items connected to the profession of sponge fishing and the treatment of sponges. In the same building the Folklore Museum of Lykeion Ellinidon is housed, displaying significant items of the popular culture of Kalymnos.

7. 4. Traditional Kalymnian House

It is found in the southern outskirts of the monastery of Aghioi Pantes, in the region Vothynoi. It is a private Folklore Museum with objects of popular culture and household items of old houses. Here the visitor has the opportunity to see the way life was organised in a traditional urban house towards the end of the19th and beginning of 20th century. The Traditional Kalymnian House has been rewarded recently by Hata 2004.

7. 5. The Sea World Museum

It is found at the coastal village Vlichadia. It is a private museum, with exhibits related to sponge fishing, a big variety of sea plants and sea animals and a collection of trade amphorae and other finds from ancient shipwrecks.

8. Popular culture - popular art

Kalymnos is primarily a naval island. Thus, its history, culture and tradition are directly connected to the sea. Kalymnians are able shipbuilders, well known since ancient, according to the ancient Greek poet Menander (342-290 BC On the island runs a shipyard of traditional timbered boats in the region Lafassi in Pothia and in the harbour of Rina in Vathy.

Kalymnos is known as "the island of Arts and Letters", because great poets, painters, sculptors, teachers, professors, doctors and other scientists were born. The grandiose churches of Kalymnos are decorated with works of art made by important Kalymnian painters of the 19th and 20th century, namely Sakellaris Manglis, Georgios Oikonomou, Michael Alahouzos, Timotheos Kourounis, Nikolaos Mangos, Sakellarios Pizania, Emmanouel Houlis, Theofilos Billiris and others. The esplanade of Pothia is adorned with marble and bronze statues, works of the sculptors Michael Kokkinos and his daughter Eirini Kokkinou (20th century).

Throughout the year various cultural events take place in Kalymnos, such as traditional dances, songs, feasts, religious festivals and revivals of customs. The most important is the unique custom of dynamites fired on Easter Sunday from the mountain tops around the harbour, the representation of the farewell to the sponge-divers, the dance of the "mechanic", which represents someone who suffers from the "diver disease", the festival of tsampouna, the feast of honey, the dancing events of Lykeion Hellinidon and the celebrations on Prophetes Helias day (20 July), on Aghios Panteleimon day (27 July) and on the dormition of Virgin Mary day on the 15th of August.

9. Sponge fishing

Kalymnos and sponge are two interrelated senses. Kalymnos is widely known as the ‘island of the sponge divers’, due to the particular occupation of Kalymnian people with the fishing, treatment and trade of natural sponges. The sponge diving industry has flourished since the 18th century and has brought to the island acme and prosperity.
Methods of sponge fishing (older and modern):

The ‘Kagava’. This is a specifically equipped trawler that allocated trailed tools, which were used to extract sponges off the sea bottom and gather them inside a mesh bag.

The Harpoon. This is fishing for sponges on a small boat, using harpoons with extensions depending on the depth in which sponges were found.

The Skin Diving. Based only on their breathing and carrying the ‘skandalopetra’ (a flat stone) to take them down to the bottom quickly, the divers went down to great depths, up to the 60-70 metres, and remained under water for a period of 3-4 minutes.

The ‘Skafandro’. This was the standard diving suit, complete with a suit, a helmet, a copper corselet and metal shoes. A manually operated pump sent natural air in the airtight suit of the diver via a pipe.

The ‘Ferneuse’. Respiratory mechanism which combined the advantages of skin diving with the diving suit. The equipment included a small airbag on the back of the diver, the mask and a regulator providing natural air from an air pump.

The ‘Nargiles’. In the 1970’s all the older methods were replaced by this system. The diver wears a neoprene suit and a mechanic compressor provides air from the boat.

Commercial sponges are distinguished in five categories: ‘Kapadika’, ‘matapades’, ‘lagofyta’, ‘tsimouhes’ and ‘melathia’. Their treatment begins immediately after their harvesting. With repeated tread, thump, washing with seawater and immersion in hydrochloric acid, their exterior membrane and all the unnecessary particles (sand, stones, shells) are removed. Sponges are then snipped and classified in categories, depending on their size and quality. The appearance of the sponges is improved by immersing them in hydromanganese acid, a solution of sulphuric acid and caustic soda, so that it becomes whiter and softer.

(Michalis Koutellas)
(Transl. Georgia Kalogeropoulou - Panagiotis Karioris)




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