In the heart of Rhodes, in the medieval city, a haunting and mysterious air wafts through the streets, summoned back to life through the centuries. The famous Order of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, the Hospitallers, has left an indelible mark on the island. If one walks around the always lively town, one can almost hear the hoofbeats of the horses and the whispering voices of history.The town was never deserted or abandoned. It is one of the rare survivors of the medieval world; it stands unscathed, in all its vibrant beauty. In 1988, UNESCO declared the architectural complex of the Knights of Rhodes to be World Heritage Site.The feeling of exploring the medieval streets of Rhodes is difficult to put into words. Time seems to have stopped in the middle ages, and the atmosphere is shrouded in the haze of its knightly past. The cobbled streets and Gothic towers challenge the traveller to unlock their deepest secrets.

The architecture of power

In medieval times, the town of Rhodes was divided by an internal wall in two sectors. The northern quarter, known as the “Chateau”, “Castrum” or “Castellum”, was where the administrative buildings, the hospital, the cathedral, and the residences of the Knights and the Grand Master were to be found. The houses of the laity, the street market, synagogues and churches were gathered in the southern quarter, the so-called “Ville”, “Burgus” or “Burgum”.

The monuments of knightly Rhodes exude the strength and knowledge of the great guilds of the Middle Ages. The buildings of the Knights are built in Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles, interspersed with Byzantine architectural features and later Ottoman influences. The overall effect is truly captivating.

The many great churches in the medieval city are very interesting. Some of them were later used as mosques. The churches of Agia Triada (the Holy Trinity), Agios Athanasios (St. Athanasius), Agia Aikaterini, (St. Catherine), the church of Panagia tou Kastrou (the Virgin of the Castle) and Agia Paraskevi are all excellent examples of sacred architecture.
The palace of the Grand Master of the Order, the famous “Castello”, is one of the greatest monuments erected in the Middle Ages. It was the administrative centre, the residence of leader of the Knights of St John of Rhodes, and the seat of the established ruling class. During the Ottoman period it was seriously damaged by an ammunition explosion. It was rebuilt during the time when Rhodes was under Italian occupation, in 1912. Today it houses the Museum of Rhodes, and has an extensive array of exhibits. Visitors are able to admire not only the palace itself, but also the impressive collections of tombstones, paintings, statuary, jewellery, books and mosaics. Here are also some of the most important archaeological findings of the ancient history of the eastern Mediterranean, such as the Trophy of Mithridatic Wars, the statue of Laokoon, and the mosaic of the enigmatic Medusa.