Thomson Holidays

Medieval city of Rhodes

Fortress city of Rhodes is an open-air museum of medieval times

The old city of Rhodes has an outstanding reputation as one of the world's most important historical sites and any holiday visitor that takes a tour within the old city walls will quickly see why.

Remarkably well preserved examples of medieval architecture are found at every corner and a visit to this astonishing place is like walking through a living museum.

The massive fortifications of Rhodes, long considered to be impregnable, served as an example of Christian power to exert political and religious influence throughout the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Middle Ages.

From 1309 to 1523 Rhodes was occupied and rebuilt by the Knightly Order of St John of Jerusalem who erected a fortress city that was able to withstand long and bitter sieges.

This medieval city is surrounded by a four kilometres long fortified wall with an inner fortress high town that is considered one of the finest and best preserved examples of Gothic urban planning in the world. The Frankish and Ottoman buildings litter the high town alongside the famous Street of the Knights.

The jewel in the crown is the Grand Masters' Palace and St John's Church, reconstructed by the Italians in 1940 after being demolished by a gunpowder explosion in 1856. Its imposing entrance and great towers and battlements are a monument to Medieval engineering.

Other jewels are the Knights' hospice, the Inn of Auverne, built between 1440 and 1489, an impressive building which now houses the archaeological museum and St Mary's Church, which became a cathedral in the 15th century.

But the lower town is almost as thick with monuments and churches. After 1523, when Rhodes fell to the Ottoman Turks, many churches were converted into Islamic mosques with notable examples being those of Soliman, Kavakli Mestchiti, Demirli Djami and Dolapli Mestchiti.

Over the years the palaces and buildings have been extensively renovated while the city ramparts were continually remodelled. The result is an eclectic mix of oriental and western architectural that is not found anywhere else.

The city of Rhodes is one of the rare survivors of the medieval world and its stands pretty well unscathed, in all its glorious beauty and rich history. In 1988, UNESCO declared the architectural complex of the Knights of Rhodes to be World Heritage Site and it is little wonder that this is one of the most visited historical sites in Greece.