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Comino (Maltese: Kemmuna) is an island of the Maltese archipelago between the islands of Malta and Gozo in the Mediterranean Sea, measuring 3.5 square kilometres (1.4 sq mi) in area. Named after the cumin seed that once flourished in the Maltese islands, Comino is noted for its tranquility and isolation. It has a permanent population of only four residents. One priest and one policeman commute from the nearby island of Gozo, to render their services to the local population and summertime visitors. Today, Comino is a bird sanctuary and nature reserve. Administratively it is part of the municipality of Għajnsielem, in southeastern Gozo.
Comino is known to have been inhabited by farmers during Roman times, but for long periods in its history it has been sparsely populated, privately owned, or abandoned entirely.
Its rugged coastline is delineated by sheer limestone cliffs, and dotted with deep caves which were popular with pirates and marauders in the Middle Ages. The caves and coves of Comino were frequently used as staging posts for raids on hapless boats crossing between Malta and Gozo. In later years, the Knights of Malta used this island as hunting and recreational grounds. The Knights were fiercely protective of the local game, which consisted of wild boar and hares (Maltese: fenek tal-grixti): upon conviction, poachers were liable to a penalty of three years as a galley slave.
From 1285 until some time after 1290, Comino was the home of exiled prophetic cabbalist Abraham Abulafia. It was on Comino that Abulafia composed his “Sefer ha-Ot” (The Book of the Sign), and his last work, “Imre Shefer” (Words of Beauty).
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Comino served as a place of imprisonment or exile for errant knights. Knights who were convicted of minor crimes were occasionally sentenced to the lonely and dangerous task of manning St. Mary’s Tower.
In the past, and well into the 20th century, whenever the seas were too rough for the Gozitan priest to make the crossing to Comino for the celebration of Holy Mass, the local community would gather on the rocks at a part of the Island known as Tal-Ħmara, and gaze across the channel towards the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rocks (Maltese: il-Madonna tal-Blat), in Ħondoq ir-Rummien, Gozo, where Mass was being celebrated. They followed along with the progression of the Mass by means of a complex flag code.
On 6 March 1889 the British battleship HMS Sultan grounded on an uncharted rock in the Comino Channel, ripping her bottom open. She slowly flooded and, in a gale on 14 March 1889 she slipped off the rock and sank. The Italian firm of Baghino & Co raised her in August 1889 for a fee of £50,000. On 27 August Sultan was brought into Malta.