The Medieval Town

Ιn 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. 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 Knights of St. John of Jerusalem in 1309, led by Foulques de Villaret moved to Rhodes from Cyprus which was under the formal authority of the Byzantine emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos. The Order established itself in the Byzantine city and the castle city evolved around its ancient core. Rhodes became the great centre of their kingdom; the capital of a separate state with its own currency and a distinct economic life. For about 200 years, Greeks and crusaders lived together, and the island had tremendous economic, spiritual and social progress.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Order expanded the Byzantine city and strengthened its fortification, creating the Medieval City of Rhodes. Eleven gates lead inside, divided into two parts: Kollakio, and the Burgos the main city. The Order came to occupy an influential position in the eastern Mediterranean and simultaneously enjoyed great glory, wealth and reputation. From the heart of the Mediterranean they were able to put up strong resistance to repeated Turkish attacks. The great commercial port and the city, which came to occupy an area of 800,000 square metres, stood impregnable for two centuries. A treaty with Suleiman the Magnificent in 1522, after a six month siege, marked the departure of the Knights, who sailed for Malta leaving behind them a true architectural gem.