The history of Kalymnos spans over hundreds of years. Kalymnos is one of the Dodecanese islands. It was previous called Kallimi by the Turks and Calino by the Italians. During the early ages the island was inhabited by a race called the Carians.
Throughout the Kalymnian culture, there is evidence of the Byzantine era, from the middle ages; this was after Christianity was introduced by earlier Christian Saints who came to the islands and converted the inhabitants. By the time of the 13th Century the Italians used Kalymnos or (Calino) as a naval base. In the year 1310 it fell into the possession of The Knights of Rhodes. They were attacked for approximately 50 years before being conquered by the Ottomans in 1522.
Dodecanese means 12 Islands given the name when administered byTurkey around 1522s until 1912,When the Italians fought for control in 1912, there was about 14 or so Dodecanese Islands, but apparently the number has changed over years of different administration rule.
The island has some nautical history of Kalymnos, not only because of sponge diving, but also because the brave Kalymnian people were heavily involved in helping in the Greek revolution against the Turks occupation in 1821.
In the mid 500AD Telendos was part of Kalymnos, but after an earthquake, became separated by 800 metre wide sea. In 1495 Kalymnos was all but destroyed by an earthquake. Even though there were many other invasions, of Kalymnos and other Dodecanese islands, throughout their history, Kalymnos was handed back to Greece as late as 7th March. 1947, when Italian occupants were forced to give up their reign.
Kalymnos Churches and Monasteries
Throughout the history of Kalymnos, many beautiful churches and monasteries have given a wonderful insight into the history of Christian influence on the island.
The Church of St John the Baptist
This ancient monastery overlooks Pothia, and is a very moving place to visit. It is still home to nuns and their Saint Savvas is still entombed there. Every Easter this monastery has many visitors and is still part of the Kalymnian culture.
The Church of Jesus our Saviour
This church was built by Giannoulis Halepas who was a famous Greek sculptor. At Easter time this wonderful church is the centre of Kalymnian activity.
The Monastery of Agios Savvas
This Monastery is of Byzantine architecture and is a typical monument to the history of Kalymnos. This beautiful monastery is dedicated to the islands patron saint.
This beautiful little church in the village of Emporios is whitewashed and has a little bell tower and little blue dome. The last time I was there it was the fasting time before Easter when the locals go without meat and alcohol and give thanks to God in the little church.
More beautiful and lovely churches, chapels and monasteries can be found in Kalymnos such as the Church of Agios Nikolaos, the Monastery of Saint Catherine (Agia Ekaterini), the Monastery of Analipsi and the lovely chapel of Kastelli
Kalymnos Fishing and Sponge Diving
Because most of Kalymnos is barren, apart from Pothia and Vathi, there was little chance of people relying on agriculture to earn ones living. But fishing was one of the preferred occupations throughout the history of Kalymnos. Boat building was something for some of the occupants to turn to, while fishing and sponge diving became a good way to economic fulfillment. The women of the island turned their hand to scarf painting and needle work, making lovely lace and head scarves. Vathi is a lush valley and produces olives, citrus fruits, figs and almonds.
By the end of the last century, the sponge diving no longer was an option, whether through too much sponge extraction and or, disease of the sponges underwater.
People then started to emigrate to Australia and America, (in 1925 there was 24,000 populace). Now tourism is an important activity, though the islanders still import sponges from other parts of the world, as well as some fishermen still leave in their boats each spring and sail to North Africa to collect sponges from this area. It may be 5 months before they return.