Kalymnos Island, Greece.
On the sponge trade:
Bitter Sea: The Real Story of Greek Sponge Diving, by Faith Warn (2000); and,The Bell stone
Greek Sponge Divers of the Aegean, by Michael Kalafatas (2003).
Kalymnos Travel Guide
Hellenistic and Early Christian remains in the centre of the valley
Inland of Rina is a network of lanes between high white washed walls, stately stone houses, and gardens bursting with pomegranate, olive, citrus trees and vines, and punctuated with rose-bushes and cypress. Eight hundred metres in from the harbour-front, to the right of the road on the lower slopes of the hill, just above the line of cultivation, are the remains of a remarkable structure known as ‘Phylakes’. It is constructed of massive rectangular blocks of the local sedimentary stone measuring as much as 190cm x 75cm, which create a chambered structure about 10m x 6m. There is evidence of cutting in the bed rock in the area behind and to the east side, where more huge blocks are visible. The position is good for surveying the surrounding cultivations, and the walls must rep resent what remains of a heavily fortified farmstead of the late Classical or Hellenistic period, probably endowed with a surveying tower originally. From here, it is possible to cross the fields to the west via the church of Aghios Panteleimon, to the site of the fine 5th century remains known as ‘Palaiopanaghia’—though an easier route to it lies by going further inland along the road and to the right at the first junction. There are substantial remains here— both of the building’s lower walls (occasionally plastered and painted), and of the floor mosaics. From their simple bold geometric designs, executed in four main colours (two reds, two whites, two blues, and black) these would seem to be the work of the 5th century ad. Where there is no mosaic, there are marble flagstones. The main basilica is a spacious building with three long aisles, once delineated by slender columns (one example in Proconnesian marble lies to the west, adding to the impression of the expensive materials lavished on this early church.) To the north is a large baptistery with a cruciform stepped font, clad in marble, sunk into the floor: the base of a ciborium can be seen on its east side. A curiosity here lies in the unusual antechamber to the baptistery which has a quatrefoil plan and a mosaic floor. The step in the passage between this and the north aisle of the main basilica, is made of a piece of carved marble templon screen from an earlier building, and suggests that this room was added or rebuilt at a later date.
Five hundred metres further to the west is the open square of the village of Platanos, with a cafe, plane trees and an old water-fountain at the eastern exit of the square. A short distance to its northwest is the valley’s richest site—the *ancient fortress of Empola and its early churches—which comes into view on top of a low ridge, accessible by a track to the right of the road. The rise is crowned by a long stretch of 4th century bc walls in isodomic masonry composed of rectangular blocks of a kind of ‘pudding-stone’, or conglomerate, similar to that used at Phylakes. The southern stretch, which is encountered first, may have been added in a later enlargement to the principal area to the north, which includes the size able Hellenistic tower standing a little to the west of the Early Christian church. Tracing the lines of the walls in the surrounding fields gives a sense of the imposing size of the original 4th century bc structure. The 6th century ad basilica within it, which incorporates both the ancient walls at its east end and the ancient tower in its narthex to the west, is commensurately grand, and once again endowed with clearly patterned mosaic floors. The ancient spolia here are of particular interest and suggest that, in Antiquity, there may have been more here (a temple, and/ or a cemetery) than just a fortified building: in the curve of the apse, lies (on its side) the carved marble doorway of a Hellenistic monumental tomb which, perhaps be cause of the incidental central cross-design created by its doors, has suggested itself for later Christian use; below where the templon screen would have stood is a long, half buried, section of the entablature of a sacred building, with both the triglyphs on the front, and the precise recesses for the metal clips that linked one block to another on the top, still clearly visible. Against the exterior of the whole length of the north wall of the basilica has been added a long narrow vaulted chamber, whose purpose— if not for storage—is obscure. The south aisle of the basilica is today occupied by the 14th century church of the Taxiarchis Michail, whose simple interior conserves beautiful wall-paintings—some of which (the Pantocrator and Evangelists of the apse) are contemporary with the foundation, and others (the fine Entry into Jerusalem, Nativity, and Saints) date probably from 200 years later.
Two hundred metres to the east of this area, still on the plateau, can be traced the floor-plan of another 6th century church (dedicated to ?Aghios Demetrios) amongst a quantity of fragments of Antique limestone blocks and Byzantine capitals. The tiny 12th century chapel of Aghios Antonios to the south of the modern church has wall-paintings in poor condition in its simple, vaulted chamber.
Kalymnos Island is part of the Dodecanese Island group
Pothia, the Vathys Valley, and the south of the island. Hellenistic and early Christian remains in the Centre of the valley.