June 8th, 2014
The island of Rhodes, one of the twelve islands in the Dodecanese, has been inhabited since the 15 century BC. The city of Rhodes was built in the year 408 BC. In 50 AD, the Apostle Paul made Rhodes a significant Christian center, and it was on Patmos, a small island off of Rhodes, that the Apostle John wrote about the Apocalypse. But it was, perhaps, the Knights of the Order of St John in the 14th century, who had the greatest influence on Rhodes.
The Knights of St John was an order of Hospitalers whose mission was to protect and care for Christian Pilgrims. By the beginning of the 12 century, this order had become military in nature, and in 1312, the Knights inherited the immense wealth of the Templar Knights which they used to fortify Rhodes.
Old Town Rhodes is a medieval town, with fortress walls and a castle and cobblestone streets that are right out of a story book.
Our ship was able to dock in the city harbor, just a few blocks from the Old Town. This made it very convenient to tour Rhodes on our own and ‘on our feet’.
As we walked through the main gate we were greeted by a charming collections of shops and cafes that were housed in the original buildings of the old medieval Rhodes.
This is the ‘Half Church’ – it was cut in half to make room for the road, or walkway, that passes just in front of it. Now, it serves as a backdrop for a unique café.
On top of the highest point in the city is the Palace of the Grand Masters, built in the 7th century to act as a citadel for the Byzantine fortress. During the period of the Knights of St John (1309-1522) the building was repaired and converted to the residence of the Grand Master and the administrative center of their state.
The Palace of the Grand Masters is a roughly square building designed around a courtyard. It has medieval towers, ramparts and 150 rooms.
It also houses an amazing collection of sculptures and mosaics and any number of antiques that were unearthed in the excavation of Kos (a neighboring island in the Dodecanese).
I really just loved this candelabra wall sconce. It was not hard to picture the time when the entire Palace was lit by candles.
The presence of the Knights and the Crusaders could be felt in the halls and walkways and gigantic meeting rooms…..
And most especially along the Street of the Knights, which linked the commercial port with the Palace. We could just imagine the Knights on horseback, maybe in full armor, riding up this cobblestoned street and into the Palace. All along the street were the buildings which were the knights residences.
After finishing our tour of the Palace, we strolled several back streets……
And ended up in this quieter section of shops, just off the main drag, where we had a delightful lunch.
After lunch, we continued our walk which took us outside of the Old City walls. This area, which was once a moat between the city walls, now protects a rose garden.
Our destination was Mandraki Harbor, where the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World was said to have stood. At the harbor, we saw these traditional windmills.
This narrow channel, flanked by these deer statues on either side, marks the spot where legend says that the Great Colossus once straddled the Mandraki Harbor. The 110 foot tall, bronze statue of the sun god Helios was commissioned at the end of the 4th century BC. It stood for only 50 years. In 227 BC, an earthquake toppled the Colossus, and Delphic Oracle advised the people of Rhodes to let the Colossus lie where it had fallen.
We sat at the base of this pedestal and did some awesome people watching……. and thought of the sailing ships of times past, who would have sailed under the giant Colossus. What a sight that would have been!