As one of the best preserved medieval settlements in the world, the Old Town of Rhodes has been declared by the organisation UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Protected inside its imposing wall – a boundary between past and present – is the island’s coat of arms. In the Old Town every stone tells a story, a history of 2,400 years. Ancient statues, marble crests, fountains, the Street of the Knights, the Palace of the Grand Masters, mosques and hammams, the Clock Tower with its breath-taking view, a rich heritage left behind by past civilisations.
The ‘Kastellania’ was built in 1503 as ‘Basilica Mercatorum’, a
combination of exchange, commercial court and administrative offices.
It was constructed in the busiest part of the ‘Mercatus’, the market area
of the town and proves the importance of trade for Hospitaller Rhodes
(1309-1522). It is one of Rhodes’ most important Gothic public buildings
and has some Renaissance features, most notably the limestone portal
on the first floor. The loggia on the ground floor was used as a meeting
place for merchants and for trade purposes and transactions while the
first floor housed the commercial court and offices. In Ottoman times
it became a mosque and also served at one time as fish market. The
‘Kastellania’ also served as base for the guards responsible for keeping
order at the market area. The building has been a RICHeS favorite since
2010 when it first opened for Open Doors.
The name ‘Admiralty’ is in use since the 19th century when it was
thought that this grand late 15th century Gothic palace once housed the
commander of the Hospitaller fleet. By that time, situated in the heart
of the Jewish quarter, it had been split into multiple housing for poor
families. Its original function remains contested. For a long time it was
thought that it was the palace of the Orthodox bishop where a recent
study has identified it as the Venetian consulate.
3. Our Lady of the Town
This ‘hall church’, with equally high nave and aisles, dates from the
late 14th century and was one of the town’s most important catholic
churches. It was damaged and ruined during the siege and earthquake of
1480 and the siege of 1522. Never rebuilt or used as a mosque the ruin
was filled with houses. These were demolished in the 1930s creating the
present open space. Opposite is the Gate of Our Lady, created in 1955.
4. St. Catherine’s Hospice
Built in 1391, this ‘palazzo’ got its present looks in 1516. It was
administered by the Tongue of Italy and served as hospice for noble and
other important pilgrims, visitors and guests of the Knights. Similar in
style with other important palatial buildings, like the Inn of France and
the Admiralty, the ground floor was used for shops and storage while
the upper floors (piano nobile) housed the residential and representative
5. Our Lady of the Victory
During the Siege of 1480 it looked for a moment that the city was lost
after the Ottomans managed to break through the walls at this spot.
Thanks to enormous resistance of the defenders, among whom many
Jews who lived in this neighborhood, the attack was repelled. Not long
after that the Ottomans lifted the siege and all over Europe the ‘Miracle
of Rhodes’ was cause for celebration. Grandmaster D’Aubusson decided
to build a catholic church on the very spot where the miracle happened
but only 40 years later grandmaster Villiers de ‘Isle Adam had the church
demolished to use the stones for rebuilding the walls at night during the
final siege of 1522.
6. Akandia Gate
The long curved street between the ruins of Our Lady of the Victory and
the Akandia gate was called ‘Calle de la Eskola’ (school street), in Ladino,
the medieval Spanish spoken by the Sephardic Jews of Rhodes who
inhabited this part of town (Juderίa) for hundreds of years. The Akandia
gate is new, it was constructed in 1935.
After the ‘ Kehila Grande’ (Grand Synagogue, now ruined) the Kahal Kadosh
Shalom synagogue was the most important synagogue in Rhodes. Built in
1577, it got its present looks in the 19th century. Restored, it now houses a
museum and is still in use for Jewish religious services and ceremonies.
8. Church of the Holy Trinity
This 15th century Greek-orthodox Church was once used by the mostly
Greek-orthodox people who lived in this part of town, called the ‘Burgo’.
After 1522 the residents were replaced by muslims and the church was
converted into a ‘meshid’ (small mosque). The base of the minaret still
reminds of this period.
9. St. John’s Gate
After 1480 several gates on the land facing side of the fortifications were
closed for safety reasons. Only three remained, of which this gate was the
most important. It was named after the patron saint of the Knights of St.
John. It was through this gate in 1522 that sultan Suleyman entered the
town for the first time after its surrender and also the victorious Italian
troops used it in 1912 for the same purpose. Together with the intricate
pattern of the bulwark of St. John, this section of the fortifactions gives
a good idea of the architectural sophistication of the fortifications from
the post-1480 period.
10. Chapels south of Omirou Street
Three interesting small churches or chapels (later mosques) are located
close to each other just south of Omirou street in a scarcely visited part
of town. Sts. Theodori, St. Kyriaki (10b) and St. Michael. St. Kyriaki was
built around 1500 and transformed into a funerary mosque for Brzani
Baba, the upper herald of Suleyman during the conquest. St. Michael is
located on one of Rhodes’ most peaceful little squares.
11. St. Athanasius Gate
The present complex of the Athanasius Gate and bulwark dates from
1487 and surrounds the Tower of the Virgin from 1441. The gate was
closed during the Ottoman period (1522-1912) and called ‘Tekeli Kapu’
in Turkish, the ‘closed gate’. According to legend the city would be lost
for islam if it was ever opened. In 1922, ten years after the Italians
conquered the town and exactly 400 years after the Ottoman conquest,
the gate was again opened for the public.
12. Dorieos Square with Recep Pasha mosque & Agios Fanourios church
Recep Pasha was bey of Rhodes in the late 16th century, he and his
family are buried in the tomb behind the mosque that carries his name,
built in 1588, following the imperial style of Sinan. The restoration of
the mosque is nearing completion. Nearby is the popular church of St.
Fanourios with its well preserved frescos.
13. Ibrahim Pasha mosque
The oldest still existing mosque in the town, built in 1540/1541 and the
only one still in use. Contrary to what some believe the mosque is not
named after Suleyman’s confidant Ibrahim Pasha from Parga (executed in
1536) but after another upper echelon official with the same name.
14. Athinas Square with St. Michael
This now open area is the result of bombing during World War II which
destroyed the large church of St. Michael of which only ruins remain. The
church was probably the Greek-orthodox cathedral of the town during the
Hospitaller period (1309-1522) and showed a combination of Byzantine
and Western architectural influences, characteristic for the hybrid culture
of Hospitaller Rhodes.
15. Aga mosque
One of Socrates Street most conspicuous buildings, the Mehmet Aga
mosque with its unusual wooden minaret dates from 1820 and takes
its name from the 1875 restoration paid by Mehmet Aga, officer in the
16. Arionos Square with Mustafa III mosque and Yeni Hamam
The mosque named after and commissioned by sultan Mustafa III was
built in the 1760s and is now used for wedding ceremonies by the
muslim community of Rhodes. The Yeni (new) Hamam was built in 1558
during the reign of sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. The separate female
quarters were added later, probably simultaneously with the Mustafa III
mosque in the 1760s. The Yeni Hamam is considered to be one of the
most harmonious and best preserved Ottoman provincial bath houses.
17. St. Paraskevi
This church dating from the 15th century has an interesting polygonal
drum carrying its dome. The church was converted into a meshid in the
Ottoman period and used by the members of the hatmakers guild who
were concentrated in this area.
18. Hamza Bey mosque
Recently restored mosque named after its builder, the 19th century
Hamza bey. Good example of classical Ottoman mosque architecture.
19. St. George monastery
A favorite of many previous Open Doors celebrations, the complex of
St. George with its church and several monastic and secular buildings
is an oasis close to one of Rhodes’ most busy areas. The church dates
from the first half of the 15th century and is one of Rhodes’ finest. It
was built for the Franciscan friars but shows again the typical Rhodian
hybrid style combining Byzantine and Western influences. The niches of
the drum carrying the dome are unusual. After 1522 a Quran school was
housed in the complex.
20. Ottoman Library and Suleymaniye mosque
At the highest point of the former ‘agora’ or ‘bazar’, now called Socrates
Street you find the Ottoman Library and the Mosque of Suleyman. The
library dates from 1793-94 and houses a unique collection of old books
and manuscripts. The rose colored mosque opposite was commissioned
by sultan Suleyman the Magnificent in 1523 but was rebuilt in 1809.
21. Clock tower and Ottoman school
The Clock tower was built in 1851 on a corner of the old Byzantine wall
as a symbol of progress by the son of the builder of the Ottoman library.
Both tower and library still belong to descendants of the family. The
school behind it was built in 1876 by a group of reformist muslims of
Rhodes. It stands on the ruins of the former conventual church of St. John
and is the most recent addition to many layers of history on this very
important spot in Rhodes town, dating back to ancient times.
22. Palace of the Grandmasters
Though almost entirely newly (re)constructed between 1936 and 1940
(the original was lost after centuries of decay, earthquakes and a famous
explosion in 1856), the Palace of the Grandmasters follows the original
floor plan, though on a larger and more grandiose scale. It was the official
residence of the grandmasters of the Order of the Knights of the Hospital
of St. John of Jerusalem, who ruled over Rhodes from 1309 - 1522. After
1522 the building stood mostly empty, save for some periods in which
it functioned as a prison.
23. Amboise Gate
Completed in 1512 during the tenure of grandmaster Emery d’Amboise
to whom the gate is named. Above the gate a relief with an angel holding
the coats of arms of the Order and of the grandmaster. The gate is flanked
by two low heavy semi-circular towers.
24. Street of the Knights
The most famous street in Rhodes and the nerve center of the state of the
Knights. Here were most of the ‘auberges’ or ‘inns’ located, the communal
buildings for each of the various ‘tongues’ (national subdivisions) of
which the Order of St. John consisted. The most prestigious are the Inn of
Spain and the Inn of France but the street forms a monumental integrity
as a complex of interconnected buildings.
25. Archaeological Museum
The museum is housed in the vast ‘new hospital’ of the Knights, which
was begun in 1440 and only completed in 1489. The ground floor was
reserved for storage while the upper floor, originally only reachable via
the large entrance and staircase in the Street of the Knights, led to the
areas designated for patients. Medical care in Hospitaller Rhodes was
known as particularly good. Far too large for the needs of Ottoman
Rhodes the building became an arsenal and barracks for most of its post1522 existence. Since the 1920s it serves as Archaeological museum of Rhodes.
26. Church of Our Lady of the Castle
Dating back to the 11th century, this church was the cathedral of
Byzantine Rhodes till 1309 after which it became the see of the Latin
bishop and given its present gothic appearance. In the Ottoman period
it was known as the Kendurun mosque. The Italians restored it back to a
church in 1940. It now houses the Byzantine museum.
27. Inn of Auvergne
One of two ‘inns’ not located in the Street of the Knights, the other one
being the Inn of England. Above the entrance an inscription with the year
in which the inn was completed: 1507.
28. Argyrokastrou and Symi Squares
The area of these squares served in the Hospitaller period as the location
of arsenals and internal port and drydock. The 14th century Old Hospital
is now the library of the Archaeological Institute.
29. Inn of England and Arnaldi Gate
The Inn of England is located outside the Street of the Knights, just like
the Inn of Auvergne. Built somewhere after 1480 it was reconstructed in
1919 after having fallen into ruin. Nearby is the Arnald(i/o) Gate, the
only gate from the Collachium (restricted zone of the Knights) to the
30. Marine Gate
The theatrical Marine or Sea Gate was the main entrance to Rhodes from
the sea and therefore meant as the ‘face’ of Rhodes and the expression of
the power and wealth of the Hospitaller state. It was built in 1478 during
the tenure of grandmaster Pierre d’Aubusson.