Chryssocheria Castle | Kalymnos | The Madonna with the Golden Hands
Updated: Sep 13
George P. Papadellis | SG Head
Nestled atop a rugged spur overlooking the serene village of Chorio on the picturesque island of Kalymnos, Chryssocheria Castle, often referred to as Pera Castle, stands as a testament to medieval Frankish architecture. Its construction in the 14th to 15th century was a response to the pressing need to safeguard the island from relentless pirate invasions. Commissioned by the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, Jean de Lastic, and built under the stewardship of the Knight Fantino Guerini, Chryssocheria Castle was intended to be a formidable defense, yet it also carries a captivating history that extends beyond its military purpose.
Name "Chryssocheria Castle"
The distinctive name "Chryssocheria" owes its origins to the church of Panagia Chryssocheria, which predates the castle's construction. The church housed a remarkable icon that depicted the Madonna with her hands adorned in golden leaves, giving rise to the moniker "Madonna with the Golden Hands". This ethereal connection to the divine lends a touch of mystique to the castle, and the legend surrounding it has captivated generations.
Exploring Chryssocheria Kalymnos
Chryssocheria Castle's structure is a testament to medieval engineering and fortification techniques. Perched on the spur, it encloses an area of roughly 80 meters from northeast to southwest and 40 meters from northwest to southeast. Crafted from chalk quarry stone, the enceinte (the outer wall) is irregular, seamlessly blending with the natural contours of the land. Unlike some other castles, Chryssocheria doesn't feature traditional towers but boasts tower-like structures and a protective barbican on its northwestern side, which has now been reduced to sparse remnants. These architectural features showcase the pragmatic yet innovative approach taken by its builders.
One striking aspect of the castle's enceinte is the presence of numerous escutcheons, each bearing the coats of arms of prominent figures in its history. However, none of these escutcheons date beyond 1479, marking an end to the castle's active use for defense. The identities include Fantino Querini, Adimaro Dupuy (Governor 1464-1466), Jaume de la Geltrú (Governor 1466 and 1479), and the Knights Hospitallers' Grandmaster Jean Bonpart de Lastic, who ruled during the pivotal years of 1437 to 1454. These escutcheons provide a tangible link to the castle's history, even though the original colors have faded with time. Inside the castle's enceinte, one can discover the enchanting Panagia tis Chrysocherias chapel, which serves as a spiritual heart within these ancient walls. Another chapel and a cemetery offer poignant glimpses into the castle's multifaceted history. To the east of Chryssocheria Castle, three windmills stand as silent sentinels, their exact origins lost to the annals of time.
From Ancient to Medieval
Chryssocheria Castle isn't just a medieval marvel; it also conceals the echoes of an ancient past. Beneath its imposing structure, traces of an ancient settlement from the Mycenaean era have been uncovered. Mycenaean sherds, artifacts from a distant time, bear witness to a civilization that once thrived here. Tombs discovered in the torrent bed below the castle contain relics dating back to the LH IIIB-C period, with some of these artifacts now residing in the British Museum. Other Mycenaean and later relics found in the Pothia Museum likely hail from the vicinity of Chryssocheria Castle, further emphasizing its historical importance.
The Rise and Fall
In the year 1445, Fantino Querini, who had held the position of Knights Hospitallers' Governor of Kalymnos, Kos, and Leros since 1436, embarked on a mission to compel the Kalymnians to support the construction of Chryssocheria Castle. Despite the inhabitants' objections and their appeal to the courts in Rhodes, they ultimately lost the case. It was a longstanding duty for the residents of the Hospitallers' islands to contribute to the construction and maintenance of castles, and the castle was erected accordingly. Over time, it served as the Governor's residence, becoming an integral part of Kalymnos' historical fabric.
A Timeless Gem Awaits
Chryssocheria Castle Kalymnos, perched majestically between Chora and Pothia, stands as an enduring symbol of history, faith, and architectural ingenuity. From its medieval origins as a protective stronghold to its rich connections to ancient civilizations and the Madonna with the Golden Hands, the castle has a story to tell at every turn. As visitors explore its well-preserved enceinte, chapels, and the enchanting cemetery within, they are transported to a bygone era where knights, legends, and the whispers of the past still resonate. While Chryssocheria Castle may have succumbed to the ravages of time and the Ottoman pirates in the 15th century, it remains an indelible part of Kalymnos' heritage, inviting all who venture here to unlock the secrets of its storied past. Explore the history, admire the architecture, and embrace the mystique of Chryssocheria Castle Kalymnos – where the golden legacy endures.