Roman farmers, a hermit and his cave, plundering pirate hide-outs, a quarantine hospital, wild boars and rabbits... there's a lot more to this tiny isle than meets the eye!
Pauline Dingli - viewingmalta.com
Comino's history is somewhat intriguing. For long periods of time it has either been sparsely populated, privately owned, or abandoned entirely (or so it appeared).
St Mary's Tower
Gregory Iron - viewingmalta.com
In 1618, the Knights of Malta built a tower on Comino to serve as an early warning system in case of invasion, and to deter plundering pirates from using the island as a hiding place. The tower formed part of a chain of defensive towers located at vantage points along the coastline of the Maltese islands, and greatly improved communications between Comino's two sister islands.
Some knights who had committed petty crimes were sentenced to the isolated and perilous task of manning this tower.
From Roman Times to WWII
There is evidence that the small island was inhabited by farmers during Roman times. The earliest record of a chapel on Comino dates back to the 12th century, and can be seen in a navigational map of the period.
During the time of the Order of St John, the knights used Comino as hunting and recreational grounds. This was at a time when wild boar and rabbits freely roamed the island, which the knights were extremely protective of - so much so that if anyone was caught hunting them, they were liable to a penalty as a galley slave. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the island served as a place of imprisonment or exile for lawbreaking knights.
A small Roman Catholic chapel was built on the island during this time, which was deconsecrated and reconsecrated at least once in its history, when Comino was devoid of residents.
In 1716, St Mary's Battery was built to face the South Comino Channel, and included four six-pound iron cannons.
During the French occupation of Malta (1798-1800), Comino served as a quarantine and existing buildings served as an isolation hospital. St Mary's Tower served as a prison for suspected spies.
Then, in 1829, the British Military abandoned St Mary's Tower until WWI when it was used for active service.
Comino's caves have lured many throughout the ages. From 1285, Comino was the home of the the exiled prophetic cabbalist Abraham Abulafia. It was in the caves of Comino where the recluse wrote Sefer ha-Ot (The Book of the Sign), and his last work, Imre Shefer (Words of Beauty). Later, pirates would use the caves to hide, temporarily dwell, and as staging posts for raids of boats crossing between Malta to Gozo.
Now, St Mary's Tower serves as a lookout and staging post to guard against contraband and the illegal hunting of migratory birds at sea.
Comino offers some amazing camping sites, walks, pristine water swimming areas, as well as the Comino Hotel, where there is nothing else to do but unwind.
The small island has also featured in popular films, such as Troy and Swept Away. St Mary's Tower doubled as the Château d'If in The Count Of Monte Cristo.