The old town of Rhodes
The old town of Rhodes is a living settlement of some 150 acres (including the walls and the moat) with a population of approximately 6000 who live and work in the same buildings that were used by the Knights of St. John 500 years ago.
At the end of the 5th century the three ancient cities of the island of Rhodes united to form a forth. The new settlement flourished as a centre of Hellenistic culture. the major architectural influence is from the period of the Knights ( 1309 - 1522 ) Who reconstructed the exciting ramparts to better fortify the tow against the Turks. - Away from the history, even today the Old Town on a warm balmy night can awoke the feeling of the Medieval Crusader Knights who constructed these buildings.
A tour of the medieval town is quite a lengthy business, given the number of monuments there are to see. The walls with their bastions, battlements, towers, gates cause one to gasp in wonder. The imposing buildings, with their coats-of-arms, majestic gateways, decoration in relief, Gothic windows, paved courtyards and old lamps take one centuries back in time, as do the narrow streets and old churches. As a living monument to the past it is unique in Europe, if not the world.
The old town continues today to be divided into the two parts which made it up in the time of the Knights: known as the Castello, and which contained the official buildings. The larger southern part, called the Chora, home of the Greeks and Europeans who were not member of the Order. These two parts of the town were separated by a wall running approximately parallel to the line of Socrates street, the old Bazaar. This street, once patrolled by Crusaders, is now lined with shops and stalls. It's a shopper's paradise with jewellery, pottery, clothes, embroidery, bags, coats and just about everything else you can think of. Countries which have occupied Rhodes have left their marks in form of Turkish Baths and mosques, Italian architecture, museums and a palace. The number of historical sites are almost endless. Here are some of the places in the Old Town that shouldn't be missed.
The Street of the Knights is a charming street where the Knights their lodges or inns. The seven inns represented the seven countries or tongues that the Knights came from and at the top of the Street is the Castle of the Grand Master. 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 Palace, a structure imposing both for its dimensions (80m by 75m) and for the strength of its fortification. These were so strong that even the siege of 1522 hardly damaged them. The Turks used the Palace as a prison, after which it was allowed to fall in ruins. The final blow was dealt by the explosion which wrecked the nearby St. John's Church. However, the Italians wishing to provide King Victor Emmanuel and Duce Mussolini with a worthy residence, rebuilt it along the lines m of the old building. It was finished in 1940. The castle is now a museum with exhibits downstairs from the days of ancient Greece. Upstairs is an Italian reconstruction of the splendor of the Knights but with lifts, lighting and .bathrooms added. The fine mosaic floors, lifted from the island of Kos, were all brought here by the Italians.
On top of Socrates Street, to the left you'll find the Mosque of Suleiman, one of the finest with a big red roof, standing in a fine courtyard with plane trees. It was built in 1808 in the place of an older mosque erected in honor of the conqueror of Rhodes, Suleiman the Magnificent.
If you turn to the right, you will come to the Clock Tower, built after one earthquake in 1851.
Opposite the Mustafa Mosque, built in 1765, are the Turkish Baths that are still in use and worth having a look at. They have been restored since being destroyed in the last war. If you fancy sitting in charming little heated rooms and having a good old scrub they are open Tuesday to Saturday and close at 7 P.M..
There are a number of museums in the Old Town area. Nearly all the museums have an admission charge. The Archeological Museum - no visit to Rhodes is complete without visiting this museum, near the Arnaldo gate. It was first built as a hospital by the Knights of St. John and you can still .see the wards upstairs. It is probably the most important monument left by the Knights in the City. The building was finished in 1484.
Aristotle's Street, which leads out from Hippocrates Square, will take you to the old Jewish quarter and to the Square of the Hebrew Martyrs, with its attractive little fountain, decorated with rows of shells, starfish, octopuses and so on, set on blue tiles are surmounted by three large sea horses. The square is named for over thousand Jews who were sent, from Rhodes to Auschwitz during the Second World War, in 1943. They were assembled here before shipped to the Nazi concentration camp and only a very few of them ever returned. One little synagogue survives in Dossiadou Street and it's open every day. The building whose front is on the north side of the square is the Palace of the Admirals, which was the residence of the Orthodox Archbishop of Rhodes before the Turkish occupation. Only a few meters farther from Hippocrates Square is the Marine Gate, or Harbor Gate, flanked by two bastions. It's perhaps the most spectacular of all the gates to the Old Town. Next to the gate is all that remains of an important building of the Knights known as Castellania. The building dates from 1597 and was a commercial centre.
Here are some more places in the Old Town that shouldn't be missed: The Byzantine Museum, which is a twelfth century Byzantine church (The Virgin Mary of Victory). Fabulous icons and wall paintings from the late Byzantine and post Byzantine period, quit music and not much else. The Decorative Arts Museum has a wealth of exhibitions of local costumes and ceramics from Lindos but also from local costumes and ceramics from Lindos but also from various parts of Europe. The museum and the Ottoman Armory are both in Argyrokastrou Square opposite Mandraki Harbor. These are the oldest buildings in the Old Town. Just opposite is the Temple of Aphrodite, dating from the 3rd century BC, one of the few ancient sites to have survived the years. The square, a pretty spot, has a fountain made from a Byzantine font which was found by Italian archaeologists in the church of St. Irene, near the village of Arnitha. The pile of cannonballs near the fountain were collected for the defense of Rhodes, during the Turkish siege of 1522.
The Turkish Library, founded in 1794 by the Rhodian Moslem Havuz Achmed contains a fine collection of important Arab and Turkish manuscripts. Among is an anonymous chronicle of the siege of 1522.
The walls of the Old Town, in their final form, are an interesting example of military architecture. The thickness of the walls is sometimes more than 12 meters interesting example of military architecture. The thickness of the walls is sometimes more than 12 meters and the moat more than 21 meters in width. The moat itself never actually contained water. The length of the wall, approximately four kilometers, was divided into sections. Do you know that you can walk along the walls of the Old Town ? Those who wish to find out more about the walls and their history might join the guided tour guided tour every Tuesday and Saturday afternoon at 2.45 P.M.. The walk around the walls is starting at the courtyard from the Palace of the Grand Master. The walk takes you around the north side of the wall ending at Koskinou Gate.