At "Simis square" (which has been turned into an open car parking) you can see the ruins of “Aphrodite’s Temple”, one of the few ancient remains to be found in the Old Town(dating from the 3rd c. BC), and the “Municipal Museum of Modern Greek Art”, on your right hand.
Just behind and on the left of the ruins of the Temple stands neglected the impressive “House of Hasan Bey”.
The ruins of “Aphrodite’s Temple”. This temple is believed to have been dedicated to the cult of Demure Aphrodite, whose statue may now be seen at the Archaeological Museum of Rhodos.
“Argyrokastrou Square” with the fine fountain in its center.
Continue for some meters (along Apellou str) to see the small but picturesque “Argyrokastrou Square”, opposite of which stands the “Auberge of the Langue of Auvergne”, build in 1507.
Note the outside staircase leading up the front of the building which is a purely Aegean architectural feature, owing nothing to Western influence. The auberge is used today as government offices.
Note: A "langue" (tongue) was an administrative division of the Knights Hospitaller between 1319 and 1798. The term referred to a rough ethno-linguistic division of the geographical distribution of the Order's members and possessions. The headquarters of each langue was known as an "auberge", a French word meaning "inn". Auvergne is aν historic province in south central France with its distinctive variety of the Occitan language (Auvergnat).
The Fountain at Argyrokastrou square.
Argyrokastrou sq. also boasts one of the oldest buildings in the Castle, the "Armeria", built in the 14th century, probably by Grand Master Roger de Pias.
Its similarities to the Hospital of St John lead scholars to believe that this was the first building used as a Hospital. Later, it was used by the Turks as an armory (armeria). To the left as we look at the Armeria, which today houses the Institute of History and Archaeology, is the "Museum of Folk Art".
The underpass connecting “Argyrokastrou Square” and “Mousiou Square”.
Continue, under an arch, and come out in front of the church of “Our Lady of the Castle” (“Panagia tou Kastrou”), which was the Knights' Cathedral.
❤The original core of the building was probably erected in the 11th century and belonged to the type of cruciform domed temple. This architecture phase is evident to the genesis of some vaults.
After the conquest of Rhodos by the Knights, the Byzantine church was reconstructed and took the form of three-aisled Gothic basilica with transept. The coats of arms of the Grand Master Helion de Villeneuve and Pope John XXII saved in the central pointed arch window.
“Our Lady of the Castle” (“Panagia tou Kastrou”) church.
The east side of the church is adjacent to the sea fortifications and shaped externally in a rectangular tower with battlements. On the west side, above the main entrance door, exists a large rectangular frame, which used to host a (now lost) painting composition of the Virgin Mary among saints and knights.
During the Turkish occupation, the church was converted into a mosque (“Enteroum Mosque”). A minaret and a mihrab were added, while the white-washing of the walls caused the destruction of the wall-paintings. The additions of the Ottoman era were removed during the Italian occupation.
“Our Lady of the Castle”.
The decoration of the interior is no longer preserved with the exception of some fragmentary parts of the wall-paintings, representing the Holy Mother of God and four other saints. The best preserved among them is the figure of St. Lucia dated to the 14th century.
Since 1988 the church houses an exhibition of Byzantine and post-Byzantine painting, including portable icons of the 17th and 18th centuries and wall-paintings detached from the church of St. Zacharias at Chalki Island (14th century) and from the monastery of the Archangel Michael at Tharri of Rhodos (17th century). The collection also includes a group of architectural members and mosaics of the Early Christian period.💔
During our visit the church was closed: unfortunately, this is a common situation throughout Greece during the winter months.
Facade of the Hospital of St.John. (ROTTIERS, Bernard Eugène Antoine. Description des Monumens de Rhodes, dediée à sa majesté le Roi des Pays-Bas, Mme V. A. Colinez, Brussels, 1830 - Monumens de Rhodes, Mme V. A. Colinez, Brussels, 1828).
The entrance of the “Archaelogical Museum”.
Right after the Church is "Mousiou Sq." (Museum sq.), with the “Inn of the Tongue of England” on the left and the “Hospital of St. John” on the right.
The Inn of the Tongue of England is on the corner of the Square and an alley running down to “Arnaldo Gate”, which used to give direct access to the Hospital from the sea. The building was re-constructed in 1919 in its original position and in the same style as the old structure, which dated from 1443 and was destroyed in the mid-19th century. Today the Inn houses the National bank of Greece.
The construction of the “Hospital of Saint John” began in 1440 and was completed in 1489. This huge building today houses the “Archaelogical Museum”.
The courtyard of the “Archaelogical Museum”.
Visitors enter the building by way of the main entrance on the east side and find themselves in a large interior courtyard surrounded by vaulted porticoes, on the architectural model of the Byzantine inn. In front of the colonnade of the west portico stands a late Hellenistic tombstone in the form of a lion with the head of a bull between its front paws. The museum houses interesting collections not only from the island of Rhodos, but also from neighboring islands.
The “Street of the Knights” seen from the east side.
The “Street of the Knights” ("Odos Ippoton") is one of the most famous landmark in Rhodos. It is a 300 meters (more or less) long, well preserved cobble paved street. Following an almost exact east to west direction, uses part of an ancient straight road that connected the port with the Acropolis of Rhodos. The street is slightly uphill, fully reconstructed by the Italians and connects the “Palace of the Grand Master” (also known as Castello), with the former hospital of Saint John.
"Odos Ippoton" at the Ottoman times. (ROTTIERS, Bernard Eugène Antoine. Description des Monumens de Rhodes, dediée à sa majesté le Roi des Pays-Bas, Mme V. A. Colinez, Brussels, 1830 - Monumens de Rhodes, Mme V. A. Colinez, Brussels, 1828).
The “Street of the Knights” seen from the west side (from the Lodge, looking downhill).
Along the street, seven (five to be precise, since the “Auberge of the Langue of Auvergne” and the "Auberge of the Langue of England" are located elsewhere, as we have already seen) imposing "inns" (auberges) where constructed during the Knights era, representing the seven countries and languages (tongues), that the Knights of the Order of St John were originated from: Auvergne, Provence, France, Aragon (Spain), Germany, England and Italy.
Each facade is decorated with emblems and details that reflect the respective country. Most of the Grand Masters were French, so their influence on the architecture was considerable. Stonemasons and craftsmen were for the most part Greek but workers from France and Spain were also brought here. The Italians in 1916 carried extended renovations and removed all Ottoman architectural elements (e.g. wooden balconies) to give to the street the 15th century style, which we see today.
The "Odos Ippoton" is crisscrossed with beautiful alleys.
❤Judging by descriptions, the inns were used for the meetings of the members of a langue, a kind of a club. The knights could meet each other there, have dinner together and discuss their daily affairs.
They did not live in the inns, but noble travelers, pilgrims or refugees could stay there. These guests were usually settled according to their nationality, with the French staying at the inn of France and so on.💔
The Turkish fountain inside a courtyard in Odos Ippoton.
As you enter the "Street of the Knights", the first building on your left is the north side of the Hospital. To the right, a medieval building houses the Tourist Information Office. This is followed by another building and next to that is a small palace ("Mikro Palati") bearing the coats-of-arms of the French Masters Aimerie d' Amboise and Villiers d' Isle Adam. Although it cannot be verified with any certainty, it seems that this was the residence of Villiers, the Master who defended Rhodos during the Turkish siege in 1522 and was entrusted with the grim duty of handing over the city to the Turks.
Opposite of the small palace is the original main entrance to the Hospital. After this, behind an iron gate, is a shady garden with a Turkish fountain, the running water of which is the only sound to break the complete silence that reigns in the garden. The Catalan and Aragonese style of a gateway which has survived among the ruins indicates that the building which stood there could be Spanish.
“Auberge de France”.
Almost opposite the garden stands the finest, with no doubt, and largest of all inns, the “Auberge de France” which was built between 1492 and 1503.
The Façade is decorated with several coats of arms of the different masters or dignitaries. The gargoyles on the roof of the building resemble crocodiles: the story goes that the Grand Master Dieudonne de Gozon killed a crocodile which escaped from an Egyptian ship moored at the port and was terrifying the inhabitants of the island.
The Inn was bought in 1911 by France’s ambassador to Turkey, Maurice Bombard, who restored it at his own expense and donated it to the State of France.
The Inn today houses the Consulate of France. If you find it open, visit the exhibitions on the 1st floor and the gardens of this beautiful mansion.
“Auberge de France”: The facade (top left), Coats of Arms (middle and top right), One of the crocodile gargoyles of the roof (bottom left). The symbol of Rhodos, the platoni deer on a drain cover in Odos Ippoton.
Painting of young knight Dieudonné de Gozon killing the crocodile. (ROTTIERS, Bernard Eugène Antoine. Description des Monumens de Rhodes, dediée à sa majesté le Roi des Pays-Bas, Mme V. A. Colinez, Brussels, 1830 - Monumens de Rhodes, Mme V. A. Colinez, Brussels, 1828).
The “Auberge de France”. (ROTTIERS, Bernard Eugène Antoine. Description des Monumens de Rhodes, dediée à sa majesté le Roi des Pays-Bas, Mme V. A. Colinez, Brussels, 1830 - Monumens de Rhodes, Mme V. A. Colinez, Brussels, 1828).
The facade of the Church of the Holy Trinity.
Next to the “Auberge de France” stands the "Church of the Holy Trinity" ("Aghia Triada") with a statue of the Virgin and Child in a niche of its facade. This single-nave chapel, which according to written sources, was dedicated to St. Michael, was built sometime between 1360 and 1380.
❤The prevalence of the Coat of Arms of the Tongue of England is one of several features suggesting that this church used to pertain the order of the English Knights. During the 15th c. it seems to have been transferred to the tongue of France. Also visible on the marble frontispiece at the church’s entrance are the blazons of two of the most prominent Grand Masters in the history of the Order of St. John, namely Hélion de Villeneuve and Dieudonné de Gozon, along with the coat of arms of the Order.
Picture of "HolyTrinity" church (late 19th/early 20th c.) before the Italian restoration of the Odos Ippoton. The stairs lead to the empty niche where today stands the Virgin and Child statue.
The name given to this church today was inspired by the Holy Trinity frescoes decorating its interior. There have been more than one attempts over time, to interpret the absence of the depiction of the Holy Spirit from such frescoes. These frescoes are estimated to have been created sometime between late 15th and early 16th century.
The dome is also a later addition, assumedly during the Ottoman rule, at a time when the chapel was used as a mosque, under the name of Khan Zade Mescidi.💔
The “Auberge d’ Italie” (on the right) and the Spanish arch.
Just after the Holy Trinity stands the “Auberge d’ Italie”, which was built by the Italian Grand Master Fabrizio del Carretto.
After this, an arch (with a room above it) is the entry to an alley at right angles to the Street of the Knights. We pass this, and immediately to our right is the "Inn of the Tongue of Province", with the “Inn of the Tongue of Spain” (Aragon and Castile) to the left, which is one of the largest inns. The room above the archway belongs to this inn. Both inns were built at the beginning of the 15th century and neither is notable for any particular exterior decoration.
“Saint John Lodge”. Today, restored (top) and in a 19th c. gravure after an explosion which destroyed it (bottom).
Shortly after these buildings, which are the last two inns in the "Odos Ippoton", a large Gothic loggia provides a monumental end to the street.
This is the “Saint John Lodge”, which connected the church of "St. John" to the "Palace of the GrandMaster". The loggia rebuilt by the Italians.
❤The church of "St. John", which was built in the early 14th century, was the official church of the Order. After the Ottoman occupation of the island, it was converted into a mosque and was in use till the explosion of 1856, which was caused most probably by a bolt of lightning that struck the minaret and ignited the gunpowder stored in its cellars. The explosion destroyed the church, the loggia and part of the abandoned Palace. I do not know why the Italians did not rebuilt it, as they did with the loggia and the Palace. Instead, they built a replica of it at Mandraki port, which is today the "Church of the Annunciation".💔
The volumes of the Palace dominate the city. Here the Palace seen from the west walls.
The "Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights" (also called Castello), built at the highest point of the Old Town.
The volumes of the Palace dominate the city and its harbors. It is a strong structure, indissolubly linked with the fortifications, and played an active role in the defense of the city, forming the last refuge of the population in the event of the city attacked by the enemy.
❤The Palace is a roughly square building designed around a large courtyard. Built at the end of the 7th c., to act as the citadel of the early Byzantine fortress, it continued to play this role throughout the Byzantine period and the period of the Knights.
A 1844 gravure of the Palace.
The building was modified when the Knights established themselves on the island: from the first quarter of the 14th c. the Knights began to repair the Byzantine citadel and convert it into the residence of the Grand Master and administrative center of their state.
During the first years of their occupation, the Ottomans used the Palace as a prison, after which it was allowed to fall into ruin, and finally damaged to a big extend by the explosion which wrecked St. John's Church.💔
The main entrance of the Palace at the south facade, flanked by two imposing towers.
The main entrance is in the south facade, flanked by two imposing cylindrical towers. The west facade is pierced by a gate, in front of which rises a tall, square tower (overlooking the Gate d'Amboise).
❤On the north side there are underground rooms that served as storerooms; and it was probably in these that the civilian population took refuge in the event of an enemy attack. The ground floor was occupied by small and large vaulted rooms, set around the square courtyard, which were used as secondary rooms.
The courtyard of the Palace.
During the Italian rule of Rhodos, the Italian architect Vittorio Mesturino restored the damaged parts of the palace between 1937 and 1940.
On the first floor were various official rooms, such as the Great Council Chamber and the dining room, as well as the private quarters of the Grand Master, which were commonly known as Margaritae.
During the period of Italian rule, a chapel was built to the right of the monumental marble staircase leading up to the first floor. In it, erected a bronze statue of Saint Nicholas, a copy of the work of that name by Donatello, in Bari. Floor mosaics of late Hellenistic, Roman and Early Christian times have been laid in many of the rooms on the first floor, most of them taken from buildings of Kos island.💔
Floor mosaics of late Hellenistic, Roman and Early Christian times have been laid in many of the rooms on the first floor of the Palace, most of them taken from buildings of Kos.
A furnished room on the 1st floor of the Palace.
❤There is a lot of controversy around the Italian restoration and how much arbitrary that was. But, one must have in mind that the palace was restored to serve as a holiday residence for the King of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele III, and the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. None of them enjoyed the beautifully furnished rooms though, because, soon after the complation of the restorations, WW II began and eventually, in 1948, Rhodos and the rest of the Dodecanese were transferred to Greece.
The palace was then converted to a museum, and is today visited by the millions of tourists that visit Rhodos. The entrance to the building costs 3 euros, but keep in mind that the 1st floor is not accessible by people with mobility difficulties.
The locals still remember the famous 1988 Palace party that gave (for the other leaders of the EEC) the Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, when Greece held the rotating presidency of the European Economic Community. Those were the days!💔
The monumental marble staircase leading up to the first floor of the Palace (left). Furnished rooms of the Palace (right).
The north-west fortification of Rhodos during the Ottoman era. In the foreground the Ottoman cemetery and at the background the palace.
When Rhodos was beleaguered and kneed because of the Ottoman enemies (during the 1522 siege), Anastassia proved to be an example of great heroism. She was a beautiful Greek woman, whose husband was an English Knight who killed in the first line. When she saw her husband’s death, run to the house kissed and hugged her two children and then killed them and threw them in the fire so the Turks would not find them. With courage she put on the bloody armor of her husband and fought the enemy. She killed a lot of Turks when she came to the first line of the glory battle until she was killed. When Rhodos was freed, she was awarded remembrance with a panel on the wall of the external entrance of Castello. Anastassia is an example of imitation and heroism and a street is named after her.
Souvenirs of the gardens at Orpheus street.
As you leave the Palace, Kleovoulou Square (Πλατεία Κλεόβουλου) lies to your right, and beyond this, after passing under an arcade, you enter a wide street with tall trees and gardens.
This is Orpheos street, a street full of restaurants. The restaurants in Orpheus str. cater mainly for the tourists. Only one of the restaurants was open during our winter visit: Venus Restaurant (Αφροδίτη), just opposite the Clock tower.
The most famous restaurant in the area is the “Mama Sofia”, overlooking the Mosque of Süleyman. Mama Sofia with her Husband Sotiris (today, together with their sons and their grandchildren) has been feeding travelers quality Greek cuisine since 1967. The presentation and homely service is first class.
To the northern end of Orpheus street stands the "Gate of St. Anthony".
After passing through St Antony’s Gate, there is an elevated wide alley lined with big plane trees, where during the summer months artists draw caricatures of tourists. This alley leads to two smaller gates and after those you see the impressive "Gate d'Amboise".
St Anthony's Gate was the old western gate of Rhodos, but with the redesign of the walls it became part of the "Gate d'Amboise's complex", which comprises four gates.
St Antony’s Gate. The relief portraying St Antony (upper inlet) and the part of the Gate seen from inside the castle (lower inlet).
D’Amboise Gate is definitely one of the most remarkable gates, from a military perspective, in the medieval town of Rhodos. It was built by Grand Master Emery D’Amboise in 1512. The gate was fortified with two impressive round towers to protect the city from the Ottomans.
Even if the enemies did manage to enter this gate, they still couldn’t access the town. Knights modified the wall's structure so that there were three more gates (the last one of which is St Antony’s Gate) to pass in order to enter the town. This system of gates, the Ottomans call Egri Kapi (Twisted Gate).
Between St Antony’s Gate and the second smaller gate of the complex, there is an elevated short alley lined with big plane trees, where during the summer months artists draw caricatures of tourists.
The Clock Tower.
If you turn the other way down Orpheos street, you will come to the "Clock Tower", also known as the "Damat Pasha Tower".
The tower has had its present form since the times of Fechti Pasha, who commissioned its construction in 1857. Still, historical research has revealed that a tower had already stood on this site since the 7th century AD, built under the Byzantine rule and having served as a watchtower. At the time of the Knights, another tower was constructed, only to be reinstated by the Ottomans, in the wake of the 1851 earthquake, until a new crumbling occurred, this time in 1856, as a consequence of the explosion in the forgotten powder magazine underneath the Church of St. John of the Kollakio.
The best panoramic view of Rhodes is found at the top of this stunning clock-tower. The tower was closed during our winter visit, but in the summer, the entrance fee includes one free drink on the attractive terrace below.
From here, a wall ran downhill (parallel to the Street of the Knights, following roughly what is today Theofiliskou, Agisandrou and Protogenous streets) to the point at which it met the outer walls near the harbor. Almost none of this section of the inner wall, separating Kollakion from Chora, has survived.
Some of the very few remnants of the inner wall (separating Kollakion from Chora) between Suleiman Mosque and the Clock Tower.
Sokratous street. The Mosque of Suleiman can be seen at the top of the street.
We are now at the top of Sokratous street, the 'lug bazaar', as the Turks used to call it.
Sokratous street is the main commercial street of the Old Town and runs downhill to Hippocratous Square and the Marine Gate.
Today, the street is full of jewelry, clothes, leather and tacky souvenir shops. During the summer months it is packed with tourists and the hectic atmosphere prevents you from paying attention to the arbitrary add-ons to the old buildings. When we visited, there were just cats on the streets and the only noises we could hear were sporadic bangs and drills made by people refurbishing their shops to get them ready for the summer season.
Sokratous street. The huge ficus trees in the middle of the street (top left); Mehmet Aga Mosque, built in 1820 (bottom left) and a fountain at the lower end of the street (right).
Mosque of Suleiman.
Next to the Clock Tower is the "Mosque of Suleiman" (Suleymaniye Mosque), standing in a beautiful courtyard.
The present edifice was built in 1808 and replaced the first mosque built in the Town of Rhodos, which erected in honor of the conqueror of Rhodes (Suleiman the Magnificent).
The building is distinguished by its rose-pink plaster and the blue pillars of the porch. The pillars of the outer arcade belonged to the Christian church of Holy Apostles. It continues to operate as a mosque, today.