a walk in the medieval town
Rarely does one have the chance to stroll
into twenty-four centuries of history and countless previous centuries of human
presence, all within medieval walls, which surround 58.37 hectares of land.
Even more rarely is one able to spend time in such a fabulous place, where,
today, 2.500 inhabitants still share an amazing palette of multicultural
influences. Such a place is the Medieval Town of Rhodes, a functional part of
the modern city of Rhodes, which was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List
strolling into the largest living medieval
town in Europe
Cultures and time periods alternate with
fascinating diversity as you enter the Old Town of Rhodes through the Gate of
Freedom. Medieval fortress-like buildings, narrow alleys, minarets, old houses
with their balconies, decorative, drinking or ablution fountains, tranquil or
busy squares with shady trees, all contribute to creating an atmosphere of the
A walk along the old city walls is an
excellent way to appreciate this tremendous achievement in fortification and
enjoy a superb overview of the old town. The walk passes along the “Curtains”
or bastions, the walls and the gates. From the walls one can admire the
Medieval moat, which has been magnificently restored as a walking area and is
the site of the “Melina Merkouri” theater that hosts the Rhodes Summer Festival
with concerts and performances by outstanding Greek and International artists.
The cobblestone Street of the Knights, one
of the best-preserved medieval streets in existence, is flanked by medieval
Inns of the various “tongues” of the countries represented in the Order of the
Knights of St John. At the foot of the Street, in Museum square, stands the
Hospital of the Knights, which houses the Archaeological Museum.
Across the square is the Church of Our Lady
of the Castle. It was the Orthodox Cathedral of Rhodes in Byzantine times dating
back to at least the 11th Century, becoming the Catholic Cathedral when the
Knights occupied the City.
The Byzantine Monastery of Saint George
The Church of Our Lady of the Bourg
The Suleiman Mosque
The Archeological Museum
Palace of the Grand Master
The Street of the Knights is the main route
from the port to the 14th century Palace of the Grand Master. The Palace,
originally a Byzantine fortress built at the end of the 7th century A.D., was
converted in the early 14th century by the Knights of the order of Saint John
into the residence of the Grand Master of the order as well as the
administrative headquarters of the state of the Knights.
The Palace was
destroyed in 1856, by an explosion of dynamite stored under the Knights’ church
of St. John, located opposite the Palace. It was rebuilt during the Italian
occupation, in the late 1930s, to serve as the residence of the Italian
Governor. The rooms on the ground floor house two large permanent exhibitions,
with the theme “The city of Rhodes” the first from its founding in 408 B.C.
until the Roman Empire and the second from the 4th century A.D. until the
Ottoman occupation (1522). The exhibits are presented in thematic units (early
Christian and Paleo-Christian years, economy, daily life, defence and
administration), while maps and audiovisual material provide the visitor with a
strong image of the island’s history from antiquity to the middle ages. The
courtyard of the Palace is the venue of many Greek and international cultural
events ofhigh artistic caliber.
Leaving the “Collachium” with its austere
facades, one enters Polidorou Street which leads to a square with outdoor caf?s
and restaurants, where the scenery changes dramatically. Moving on, one enters
Sokratous Street, the main thoroughfare of the Medieval Town, always buzzing
with life, with its caf?s and shops. Sokratous Street leads down from the Mosque
of Suleiman the Magnificent towards the harbor. The present mosque was erected
in 1808 on the site of a previous one built by Suleiman the Magnificent in the
early 16th century. South of Sokratous Street, scattered in a tortuous network
of narrow lanes, many small hotels and pensions offer an alternative to the
large, luxury hotels of the modern city. The Burgum, as this area is called,
shows an equally fascinating face at night.
Diverting to Arionos Square, one may wish
to visit the Mustafa Pasha Mosque and the “Yeni Hammam” (Turkish Baths), built
in the 16th century. These were the second baths the Ottomans erected in Rhodes.
That is why they were called Yeni Hamam (New Baths).
As if by a mysterious force, one will be
drawn, time and again, to walk by the cobblestone Street of the Knights,
feeling like a pilgrim of the Medieval Ages, happily sojourning on the island
of the Sun.
The Medieval Town of Rhodes is a mosaic of
different cultures and civilizations, the uniqueness of which one cannot fully
understand just by reading these lines. It is a “living” city, forever young,
overcoming time to look ahead towards the future, more beautiful than ever.