Rhodes - Discover the Unknown Rhodes

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Η ιδέα της χαρτογράφησης άγνωστων πτυχών δημοφιλών τουριστικών τόπων συνεχίστηκε, μετά την ανατολική Κρήτη, με τον οδηγό αυτό για τη Ρόδο. Οι συντελεστές της έκδοσης εξερεύνησαν, κατέγραψαν, φωτογράφισαν και μετέτρεψαν τις εμπειρίες τους σε έναν πρακτικό οδηγό, αφιερωμένο σε όσους θέλουν να ταξιδεύουν «ψυχή τε και σώματι».


Κείμενα: Judith Lange

Φωτογραφία: Judith Lange, Μαρία Στέφωση

Σχεδιασμός και καλλιτεχνική επιμέλεια: Μαρία Στέφωση

Μετάφραση: Julia MacGibbon

Επιμέλεια δοκιμίων: John o'Shea

Εκτύπωση και βιβλιοδεσία: Γραφικές Τέχνες Δετοράκης ΑΕΒΕ

ISBN: 978-960-98384-3-6

JUDITH LANGE MARIA STEFOSSI

awake your senses

DISCOVER THE UNKNOWN RHODES

Island of Rhodes - Book Two

Publication of this book has been made possible thanks to Gina

Mamidakis, President of the G.& A. Foundation and bluegr Mamidakis

Hotels group, and long-time patron of culture and the arts. The book is

dedicated to those ever-curious travellers who wish to learn more of

the beautiful island of Rhodes.

© copyright text and photographs by Judith Lange - Maria Stefossi

© copyright edition by G.& A. Foundation and bluegr Mamidakis hotels group.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written

permission from the authors.


4


Rhodes, the island born of the Sun

According to the myth, when the gods of Olympus

divided the earth among them they forgot about the Sun

God Helios who was still on his travels in his chariot of fire.

Helios did not take offence but, looking down from high in

the sky, he noticed an island that was still submerged by the

waters. With the help of Poseidon he caused it to emerge

and thus Rhodes appeared, the island of the roses. The

name of the island is a homage to the nymph Rodon,

daughter of Aphrodite, from whose love with Helios seven

sons would be born who were to colonize many islands in

the Aegean. The myth also tells that the first inhabitants of

Rhodes were the Telhines, children of the sea, amphibious

beings who were great inventors and craftsmen (creators of

the first bronze statues) and experts in magic.

Seen from above the island looks like a great green

leaf floating on the waters, or perhaps a dolphin leaping the

waves. Historys succession of events from the Neolithic

Age to the Mycenaean Era, from the Doric to the Classical

and Hellenistic periods, from the dominion of the Knights of

St John to the Ottoman occupation have all left their mark

and testimonies on the island soil.

A small guidebook like this one cannot, certainly,

hope to be exhaustive in describing every last one of this

lands many treasures (the most densely packed in all the

Aegean), but it aims to offer suggestions that might help the

reader to come to understand and love the beauty of the

antique and modern traces of the island of Rhodes, of its

villages, churches, monasteries and castles and of the

landscape with its seas, forests, springs and mountains.

5


MIRAMARE

WONDERLAND

Discover the leisure miracle

Miramare Wonderland is a

unique waterfront resort, providing

an unparallel orchestration of forms,

colours and images to capture your

imagination.

It is located on the beach of Ixia,

on Rhodes north-west coast, 20

minutes from the Rhodes airport and

15 minutes from the renowned

Medieval town of Rhodes.

Unlike any other Greek resort, it

was conceived and built as a small

community of single and two-storey

buildings, nestled along its private

1.5 km-long seafront. Paths meander

through 70,000 m2 of scented

gardens, a sparkling pool, an artificial

lagoon and covered walkways.

6


MIRAMARE

WONDERLAND

Indulge in en-suite luxury

Each villa or cluster of bungalows

is designed in earth, sea and sky tones

and is secluded from its neighbours by

magnificent trees, jasmine and

bougainvillea.

Private suites are from 45 m2

to 60 m2, with spacious balconies or

patios and enjoy magnificent views.

All of the 175 suite-bungalows offer

every possible leisure service: airconditioning,

kitchenettes with dining

tables, direct dial telephones,

hairdryers, satellite TV, mini bar, safes,

bath and shower.

The Waterfront and Seafront

suites are truly exclusive with their

own open terraces.

7


MIRAMARE

WONDERLAND

Discover exquisite tastes

Offering the finest service coupled with friendliness, Miramare

Wonderland proposes impeccable dining experiences.

A rich buffet is served daily at the Olyo restaurant or even on your own

terrace. During the day, you can enjoy Greek and international delicacies

at the Gulliver restaurant, refreshments and exotic drinks at the pool bar

Kahuna, while in the evening, you can sip a cocktail at Kotinos bar.

At night, enjoy a romantic gourmet dinner near the lagoon,

accompanied by live entertainment. If you feel like staying in, our room

service can provide you a delicious dinner on your private terrace. In case

you feel like going out, drinks are offered at the Gulliver bar until late

hours.

8


MIRAMARE

WONDERLAND

Experience superb facilities

Discover a spectacular swimming pool, with superb wooden sun

decks, extending right to the sea. At the 1,500 metre-long pebble beach

equipped with umbrellas and sun beds, you can enjoy a number of

fascinating water-sports.

For the activity minded, the hotel offers a tennis court and a wellequipped

gym. The 3 km-long paths in the estate are ideal to take a walk

within the scented gardens. The Miramare Wonderland highlight is its

romantic mini train, replica of a 19th British steam engine, which can take

you around the entire complex.

Our young friends can spend an exciting day at our children's

club, whilst our baby sitting service will allow you some extra relaxation

time. Our mini-market, jewellery shop, medical care and exchange desk

complete our services to the last detail.

Ixia, Gr - 85 101

Rhodes, Greece

T: +30 2 2410 96251

F: +30 2 2410 95954

info-miramare@bluegr.com

9


MIRAMARE WONDERLAND

AWAKE YOUR SENSES

Enjoy a unique sensory experience in surroundings designed to

introduce a feeling of complete luxury, comfort and relaxation.

Rejuvenate your mind and body through the elements of nature and

get inspired by wonderful tastes, sights, sounds and aromas. Watch the

sun glowing like fire on the eternal blue of the ocean,

feel the wind caressing your skin, smell the earth's enticing fragrances,

taste the refreshing water and surrender to the music of sounds filling

the space around you

Enjoy life to its fullest; embrace nature with all your senses and reveal

the source of all inspiration,

the ancient knowledge of life "Ayurveda" that underpins our

hospitality philosophy.

Blue a source of pure ethereal energy that encircles all elements, a

symbol of peace and tranquility that brings harmony

and broadens your perspectives. Immerse yourself in it and discover

the bridge between soul and matter,

the resource for holistic thinking, the channel of human

communication

www.bluegr.com

10


MIRAMARE WONDERLAND


CHAPTER 1

RHODES, THE CITY

OF THE HUNDRED COLOSSI


THE MEDIEVAL CITY

THE HARBOUR

AND THE MODERN TOWN

THE ACROPOLIS


C H A P T E R 1

Rhodes

Only a few traces

remain of the

original fifthcentury

B.C. layout

of the city

of Rhodes

..

The Laocoon group,

Hellenistic era

14

Up until the fifth century B.C. the island was

governed by three city-states, Ialysos, Kamiros

and Lindos, but by the end of the century, after

it was devastated by the Athenian Alcibiades,

the Rhodians realised the necessity of creating

a unified state with a new capital. In 408 B.C.

they founded Rhodes, based on Hippodamos

of Militoss design for a city on a grid plan,

which soon became the largest commercial

metropolis on the route between the Orient

and the West. Conquered by the Romans in the

second century B.C., the city lost political

importance, but remained a flourishing cultural

centre where great personages such as Caesar,

Augustus and Tiberius, or intellectuals like

Cicero and Lucretius sojourned.

In the first century B.C. the historian

Pliny wrote that Rhodes possessed 3000

statues and 100 colossi, referring to the

magnificent statues that decorated the city,

considered the most beautiful in all the

Mediterranean.


In the same period the geographer

Strabo affirmed that harbours, roads and

buildings are so superior to the other cities that

we know nothing its equal. By that time

Rhodes had already been conquered by the

Romans who sacked the city of her treasures,

filling the holds of their ships with the most

beautiful sculptures among which the

Laocoön, Scylla, Ulysses and Polyphemus and

the Farnese Bull to adorn the palaces of Rome.

Legs akimbo, protecting the port of Mandraki,

only the celebrated Colossus of Rhodes, one of

the Seven Wonders of the World, met a

different fate. Work of the sculptor Chares, a

pupil of Lysippos, the Colossus was in bronze,

32 metres high and represented the Sun God,

Helios. Erected between 302 and 290 B.C., it fell

during an earthquake in 226 B.C., after less than

a century and a half. Hundreds of pieces lay

about on the ground for almost nine centuries,

until at last they were bought by an oriental

merchant who wanted to fuse the bronze.

After the invasion of the Goths in the

third century A.D. the city was conquered by

the Byzantines, who in turn were besieged by

Persians and Saracens. Later on Venetians,

Genoese and Byzantines would contest Rhodes

until 1309, when the Knights of the Order of St

John arrived, patrons of the island until the

Ottoman conquest of 1522.

Every historical

period has left its

tangible signs,

except for the

Colossus, which fell

in the third century

B.C.


C H A P T E R 1

The medieval city

Doric Temple of

Aphrodite from the

third century B.C.

In the Byzantine era the city was already

entirely girded by walls, today still perfectly

preserved with their numerous towers and nine

gates. The Knights of Rhodes enlarged and

restored the city walls and affixed the coats of

arms of the Seven Tongues (the name given to

the knights various places of origin) and those

of the noble families of the Grand Masters. A

wide fosse or moat divides the double walls, in

places as much as 12 metres wide in order to

resist the Turkish cannon balls. From the walk

along the ramparts one enjoys a splendid view

of the medieval city which in 1988 was declared

a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Elephterias (or Liberty) Gate

introduces us into the monumental part of the

city, the so-called Collachium of the Knights. In

Simi Square we find the ruins of a great Temple

of Aphrodite in the Doric style of the third

century B.C. and, facing it, an ancient palace

which houses the Art Gallery in which there can

be seen works by Greek artists from the

nineteenth century to the present day. In a

second square, the platia Argyrokastrou, there

16


stand the buildings of the Knights First

Infirmary, which now houses the

Archaeological Library, and those of the

Museum of Decorative Arts which preserves

interesting objects from the craft traditions of

the Dodecanese. The fountain in the centre of

the square is composed of an antique

baptismal font and a column taken from the

early-Christian church of St Irene.


18

C H A P T E R 1


The monumental

stairway of the

New Hospital of

the Knights which

houses the

Archaeological

Museum

A little further on, in the square by the

Museum we find ourselves facing one of the

citys most beautiful buildings, the New

Hospital of the Knights, erected at the end of

the fifteenth century. In the courtyard a stone

lion from the Hellenistic period holds the head

of a dead bull between his claws. In the large

rooms on the upper floor the Archaeological

Museum has been laid out, and is rich in works

of art: ceramics, funerary stele, grave goods and

sculptures (amongst which the crouching

Aphrodite, a head of the Sun God Helios, the

torso of a Kouros and a nymph with her arms

raised aloft) testimonies to the extraordinary

quality of Rhodian art which had its origins in

the sculptural tradition of the school of

Lysippos.

Late Hellenistic statue,

known as the Marine

Venus

19


ARCHAELOGICAL MUSEUM OF RHODES

1

2

1. Funerary stele from the

first century B.C.

2. Female head from the

early Hellenistic period

3. Statue of a nymph from

the first century B.C.

4. Aphrodite or Nymph,

late Hellenistic period

3 4

20


ARCHAELOGICAL MUSEUM OF RHODES

5 6

7

5. Kouros from Kamiros, sixth century B.C.

6. Funerary monument, fifth century B.C.

7. Aphrodite, known as the Crouching Aphrodite,

late Hellenistic period

21


C H A P T E R 1

Our visit to the monumental part of the

city continues along the Street of the Knights,

its severe medieval architecture still intact. The

perfectly-aligned buildings served as inns for

the pilgrims and were separated by chapels for

prayer and by several patrician palaces bearing

the arms of the Knights nations of origin. At the

top of the street there stands, in all its grandeur,

the fourteenth-century Palace of the Grand

Masters, with its great arched courtyard where

Roman-era statues have been arranged.

The Grand Masters residence lay on the

upper floor, and the palace is essentially a series

of great rooms, corridors and chapels,

decorated with a profusion of marbles and

mosaics, columns and statues. On show in one

of the rooms is the celebrated sculptural group

of Laocoön and his children being crushed by

the sea-snakes: this is a plaster copy because

the first-century B.C. original, work of the

Rhodian artists Hagesandros, Athanodoros and

Polydoros, is today to be found in the Vatican

Museums in Rome.

22


23


24

C H A P T E R 1


25


C H A P T E R 1

The clock tower

A Turkish fountain

Ayia Kiriaki

26

Leaving the Palace of the Grand Masters

and walking towards the Clock Tower (clearly

visible at the highest point of the city because

during Turkish rule it marked the hour at which

the Greek inhabitants had to leave the city

walls) we have the old town at our feet, and

nothing could be lovelier than losing oneself

among the alleyways of the Christian, Turkish

and Jewish quarters. Churches, mosques,

crosses and minarets alternate, at times blurring

into one, and always counterbalancing one

another now that the battles for dominion

over the city are long-passed. At the time of the

Ottoman occupation many churches were

transformed into mosques simply by removing

the sacred objects and replacing them with the

Islamic mihrab, minbar and qibla, and naturally

adding a minaret. Many churches have been

re-consecrated without demolishing the

minarets, mute testimonies to a history that

lasted almost four centuries.

Crowning a dominant position is the

finely chiselled minaret of the Mosque of

Suleiman with its red domes, whilst in front of it

we find the Ottoman Library with an interesting

collection of objects and books from the

Turkish period. A little further on there stand

the churches of the Holy Apostles (now


converted into a small museum) and of St

George, which the Ottomans transformed into

a mosque, while the adjoining monastery

became a medresse a koranic school.

Ayii Apostoloi

The Mosque of

Suleiman

In the alleyways and little squares

around Sokratous Street one breathes in full

the Ottoman spirit, visiting the Mosque of

Sultan Moustafa with its truncated minaret and

flanked by the Yeni hamam, the Turkish baths.

Not much further on we find the mosque of

Retjep Pasha with a beautiful fountain, while in

the distance one can make out the gracious

white minaret of the Ibrahim Pasha mosque,

built in 1531 immediately after the conquest.

The Ibrahim Pasha

Mosque, the oldest in

the city

27


C H A P T E R 1

Ayia Triada from

the fifteenth

century, with the

truncated

minaret of the

ex-mosque

Hellenistic and

Byzantine-era

ruins in the

centre of the city

Penetrating into the heart of the

Turkish quarter, churches and mosques really

do begin to blur: the Demirli Camii was once a

Byzantine place of worship, the church of Ayios

Spiridon is still topped by a minaret, the chapels

of Ayios Fanourios and Ayia Triada stand beside

the ruins of a Turkish palace and the church of

Ayia Kiriaki also still flaunts its minaret which

once belonged to the Buruzan Camii.

28


The entrance to the

Mosque of Sultan

Moustafa and a

little fountain

Narrow houses, fountains, miniscule courtyards

paved with kochlakes (the river-polished

pebbles), small shrines and scattered ruins from

Hellenistic and Byzantine eras all form an

intricate urban weave. Many lanes are

surmounted by stone archways in the style of

old Jerusalem, and this was perhaps what the

Knights intended, coming as they did from

Palestine.

The Retjep Pasha

Mosque,

constructed with

material salvaged

from medieval

buildings

29


C H A P T E R 1

Few traces remain

of the Jewish quarter

where there once

lived a large

Sephardic

community

A black pillar recalls

the deportation of the

Jews in 1944

The Jewish quarter extends into the

eastern part of the city, but has conserved little

or nothing of the memory of the Jews who lived

here for more than a thousand years. Once

passed the ruins of the gothic church of Ste

Marie de la Victoire one reaches the platia

Evreon Martirion (Square of the Jewish Martyrs)

with a monument in the centre of the square in

memory of the deportation of the Jews to the

Nazi concentration camps in 1944. The only

synagogue to have survived is the recently

restored Kahal Kadosh Shalom, which houses a

museum dedicated to the history of the Jews of

Rhodes.

34


The first Jews arrived on

Rhodes in the second

century B.C. and the

comunity slowly grew. In

the twelfth century many

Jewish intellectuals, like the

Spaniard Benjamin de

Tudela and the Italian

Meshulam da Volterra,

visited Rhodes and admired

the beauty of the houses,

the commercial activities

and, in particular, the

production of precious

cloth. After centuries of

peaceful cohabitation with

the Greeks and even the

Ottomans, the community

collapsed under the

German occupation:

arrested, tortured and

deprived of their property,

the Jews were deported to

Auschwitz and only a

handful survived.

35


C H A P T E R 1

The character of the

city emerges in the

smallest details

From Medieval to

Neoclassical: every

architectural style is

represented in

Rhodes

Throughout the long sweep of her

often tormented history from her occupation

and sacking by the Romans to the arrival of the

Knights from Palestine, from the Ottoman

dominion to the privations suffered during the

second world war the city of Rhodes has

managed, despite everything, to conserve her

cosmopolitan vocation and her character of

generosity. The streets and palaces, the places

of worship, the houses and every last corner of

the city offer us

a living proof

that here the

peaceful

cohabitation of

men of

different

cultures and

origins was

possible. Today

one still notes

the traces of

this amalgam,

both its

grandiose and

monumental

vestiges and the

small, modest

details that

make up a city

of particular

charm located

on the farthest

edge of Europe,

looking out

towards the

Orient.

36


C H A P T E R 1

The harbour and the modern town

The monumental

fifteenth-century Fort

Ayios Nikolaos looms

over the harbour

Tall columns surmounted by bronze deer and

the imposing St Nicolas Fort mark the entrance

to the ancient Mandraki Harbour where,

according to tradition, the Colossus of Rhodes

was once erected, his giant feet of bronze

placed on either side of the harbour entrance.

Old mills on the jetty

The bronze stag and

doe that are the

symbols of Rhodes

38


From the Nea Agora, the circular New Market

with an oriental-style pavilion, one proceeds

along Eleftherias Avenue as far as the citys

northernmost point. During the Italian

occupation, which lasted from 1912 to 1943,

various buildings rather eclectic in aspect

were constructed along this road which formed

the administrative centre of the city. Some are

in the typical rationalist style of the Fascist

regime, like the Tribunal with its heavycolumned

façade or the square exheadquarters

of the Air Force (nowadays the

Institute of Professional Training) which stirs

ugly memories because during the Nazi

occupation it was here that Greek dissidents

and Jews were held before being deported to

the concentration camps.

Some of the other buildings that face onto the

port are of a nobler and more fanciful aspect:

Italian architecture

of the 1930s

characterises the

long, wide avenue

that leads from the

Nea Agora to

Kolumburno point

39


C H A P T E R 1

The neo-gothic

church of

Evanghelismos

is covered with

frescoes by the

great painter

Fotis Kontoglou

the large Prefecture complex vaguely recalls

Venices Doges Palace with its tracery, arches

and rose-windows, while the church of

Evanghelismos was built in a neo-gothic style

in a homage to the design of the ancient church

of St John from the time of the Knights. More

sober in appearance are the ex-Theatre and the

circular Fish Market, now being restored and it

too the work of Italian architects. In contrast, in

the former Hotel des Roses (today a muchfrequented

casino) the predominant style is

Moorish-colonial.

40


The casino (ex-Hotel

des Roses) and

Government House

are the most

sumptuous of

the buildings

created by the

Italian architects

41


C H A P T E R 1

Arriving as far as Kolumburno point, which

sticks out into the sea like the prow of a ship,

one can visit the pavilion containing the town

Acquarium the former Italian Hydrobiological

Institute which exhibits a series of tanks with

the marine fauna of the Aegean.

The Aquarium is a

perfect example of

Italian rationalist

architecture

42


Still in the harbour area, we would recommend

a visit to the Mosque of Murad Reis with its

beautiful onion-domed minaret standing

within a Moslem cemetery. Decorated

headstones emerge beneath the trees, while

dotted around the gardens are larger tombs

wherein there lie illustrious figures: pashas,

viziers and dignitaries of court, but also the

Turkish poet Mehmed Efendi.

The modern city has nonchalantly absorbed

diverse styles and cultures which blend with

and complement one another, without

clashing. Whilst the buildings of the old town

are packed as closely as a nut in its shell, the

city beyond the walls, in the area around the

harbour, offers wide spaces with great treelined

avenues and buildings so generously

spaced out as to almost seem monuments.

Human society changes, and with it the needs

and demands of the living.

The calm that now

reigns in the gardens

of the Mosque of

Murad Reis makes

it easy to forget the

drammatic conflicts

of the past

43


C H A P T E R 1

The Acropolis and Rodini Park

The Acropolis (also

known as Mount

Smith) looks down

over the city of

Rhodes

The stadion was

invented by the

Greeks to host

athletic

competitions which

were also religious

and educational in

nature

44

On Monte Smith (or Mt Ayios Stephanos) there

stands the ancient acropolis of Rhodes which

conserves a very few isolated monuments like

the Temple of Pythian Apollo, of which there

remain a few pillars in the Doric style. More

modest are the remains of a sanctuary

dedicated to Athene Polias and Zeus Polieus.

The immense structure of the third-century B.C.

Stadium is, on the other hand,

easily recognisable; 201 metres

long, it still has several rows of

its tiered seating. The little

Theatre (odeon) between the

Temple of Apollo and the

Stadium was restored by Italian

archaeologists who

reconstructed the cavea. In the

area around this tombs dating

back to the Hellenistic era have been found

along with the foundations of a gymnasium

and of a nymphaeum.

Rodini Park, to the south of the modern city, is a

green oasis with woods, ponds, streams and a

wildlife reserve. In the archaeological area there

are numerous tombs hewn from the rock,

including the so-called Tomb of the Ptolemies,

the façade of which conserves a series of blank

pillars and of niches.


The odeon was a small theatre for musical recitals and

competitions

The Doric columns of the Temple of Pythian Apollo

45


T H E I T A L I A N S O N R H O D E S

46

Following the victory in the Italian-Turkish war of 1911-1912,

the Treaty of Lausanne assigned the islands of the Dodecanese

to Italy, and Rhodes became the seat of the newly imposed

government. The Italian occupation of the Fascist period can be

divided into two phases: the first from 1923 to 1936 when the

governor was Mario Lago, a peaceable and cultured man who

summoned leading archaeologists and architects to the island

to begin work on the excavations at Kamiros and to restore the

citadel of Rhodes.

At the same time he set about transforming the harbour area,

having new buildings designed, at times rather too exuberant in

their architecture but nevertheless creating an atmospheric

setting. Among the architects employed we find Pietro

Lombardi, the creator of much-celebrated buildings back home

in Italy, who designed the beautiful Thermai Kallithea and

curated the Rhodes Pavilion at the International Exhibitions of

Paris and Cologne. In 1925 the architect Florestano di Fausto

also arrived, a lover of the Moorish style and to whom we owe,

among other works, the Nea Agora, the Prefecture and the

Hotel des Roses.


In 1935 Mario Lago, considered too easy-going and

too much a friend of the Jews, was replaced with a figure

faithfully committed to Mussolinis regime, Cesare de Vecchi. On

Rhodes the conflict with the local population intensified as they

were forced to frequent exclusively Italian schools in order to

subdue Greek culture and language. The new governor decided

to speed up the construction of rural colonies like Ayios Pavlos

and Kolimbia, where Italian workmen and agricultural labourers

were to be settled. In 1942, during the first air-raids by the

British, Cesare de Vecchi abandoned the island.

After the signing of the armistice on 8th September

1943, the Italians found themselves fighting against the German

troops. In 1944 the Nazis deported 5000 of the islands

inhabitants to the concentration camps. On German surrender

the island became a British mandate and in 1947 Rhodes was

annexed to Greece.

T H E I T A L I A N S O N R H O D E S

47


T H E K N I G H T S O F R H O D E S

48

During the eleventh century in Jerusalem a group of rich

merchants from Amalfi built an inn for pilgrims which was run

by Benedictine monks. Later the monks created an autonomous

order dedicated to the care of the sick, but also to the defence of

the Holy Land, called the

Hospitallers of the Order of St John

of Jerusalem. The order revealed its

military character during the

crusades (milites Christi) and

thenceforth its members would be

called Knights.

Following the Moslem conquest of

Palestine the Knights were expelled

and for a brief time found

hospitality on Cyprus. In 1306 they

were recruited by the Genovese

admiral Vignolo de Vignoli to

conquer Rhodes, at the time under

Byzantine dominion. In 1309 the

Knights succeeded in occupying

Rhodes and subsequently all the

islands of the Dodecanese,

becoming absolute masters for

more than two centuries with the

blessing of the Roman pontificate.

At the head of the Knights of

Rhodes was the Grand Master who

commanded the representatives of

the seven European tongues

(nations): England, France, Portugal,

Germany, Spain, Italy and Provence.


The Knights resided in the so-called Collachium

within the walls around the Palace of the Grand

Master. They erected numerous fortifications,

churches and (Latin rite) monasteries and controlled

the lucrative commercial maritime traffic between

Orient and the West. Thanks to donations, excellent

commercial relationships and agricultural activity,

the Knights financial wealth was immense.

In the summer of 1480 they repelled the first siege by

the Ottomans who arrived on the island with 170

ships and 100,000 men. It took the Ottomans 32

years of battle before they managed to tear the

island from the Knights who finally surrendered to

Suleiman the Magnificent in 1522. On the 1st January

1523 the Knights abandoned the island together

with 4000 inhabitants of Rhodes, repairing to Malta.

There they recreated the confraternity under the

name of the Sovereign Military Order of St John of

Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta.

T H E K N I G H T S O F R H O D E S

49


CHAPTER 2

FROM IALYSOS TO KOLIMBIA:

Ancient and modern

on the wings of a butterfly


IALYSOS

THEOLOGOS

AYIOS SILLAS

VALLEY OF THE BUTTERFLIES

ELEOUSSA

AYIOS NIKOLAOS FOUNDOUKLI

KAMIROS

THERMAI KALLITHEA

SEVEN SPRINGS


C H A P T E R 2

As we leave the city of Rhodes and its nearby

tourist-crowded beaches behind us, the island

reveals a very different aspect; it becomes more

silent, more shadowy and seems almost to want

to hide its treasures. The entire sweep of

Rhodian history is already compressed into this

first strip of the island: from the ancient cities

like Kamiros to the castles of the Knights, from

the Ottoman villages to the monumental

constructions of the Italians at the beginning of

the last century, one travels into a landscape

both changing and eternal like the Valley of the

Butterflies.

The bell tower of the church of

the Knights at Filerimos

52


53


C H A P T E R 2

Ialysos-Filerimos

Once one climbed on foot or on mule-back up

to the summit of Mt Filerimos, a difficult climb

for the peasants and even more so for the

enemy troops who over the centuries

attempted to conquer Ialysos, the city-state

that once stood at the summit of the hill. Its

mythical founder was Ialysos, grandson of the

Sun God Helios and the nymph Rodon, but in

reality the first settlement dates back to the

Mycenaean period, halfway through the second

millennium B.C., as is testified by the remains

found in the numerous necropoli that surround

Mt Filerimos.

Many legends grew up around the city,

like that of Phorbas, son of Lapithes, who

succeeding in killing all the poisonous snakes

that infested the island and to whom, by way of

thanks, a sanctuary was dedicated. In ancient

times Rhodes was lamented to be the island of

the serpents, but now they are rarely to be

seen (thanks, perhaps, to Phorbas) and one is

more likely to encounter the big dragon-like

but innocuous lizards that the locals call savres.

Temple of Athene

Polias, erected in the

Hellenistic era

54


Another story that has been handed

down to us is that of the astute Iphicles, twin

brother of Hercules, who succeeded in chasing

off the Phoenicians who were entrenched on

the acropolis of Ialysos. An oracle had

predicted that the Phoenicians would flee

should white crows be seen in flight and should

fish swim in wine. Iphicles won with a trick: he

painted a flock of crows with white lime and

placed fish in the barrels of wine. Worried by

such magic the Phoenicians surrendered.

In the fifth century B.C. Ialysos became

famous as the birthplace of the poet Timocreon

and the athlete-prince Diagoras of the clan of

the Eratides (descendants of Hercules), who as

a boxer was the winner of many Olympic and

Pan-Hellenic games. To Diagoras the great poet

Pindar dedicated one of his most beautiful

odes in which he

recalls the

mythical creation

of Rhodes, With

Diagoras I came,

to sing of

Aphrodites seachild,

Rodon,

bride of the sun

(Pindar, Ode VII,

verse 13-14). The

chronicles

recount that this

ode was

inscribed in gold

letters on the

temple of Athene

in Lindos.

The miracle of the

fish is a legend: the

Phoenicians never

did occupy Ialysos

Diagoras of Rhodes

was one of the most

famous athletes of

the Greek world: a

statue of him was

even erected at

Olympia

55


C H A P T E R 2

The imposing complex

of the Knights church

and monastery

In the tenth century the Byzantines

founded a monastery here, but in

1306 the acropolis was conquered

by the Knights of the Order of St

John and in 1522, during the

Ottoman siege of Rhodes, it was

here that Suleiman the Magnificent

established his residence.

Three millennia of history lie layered

one atop another at Ialysos: from

the Mycenaean necropoli to the

great Doric fountain ornate with

lions heads, from the imposing remains of a

third- or second-century B.C. temple

dedicated to Athene Polias to the gothic

Basilica of the Knights built over a monastery

of the Byzantine era, then amplified with

cloisters and courtyards. The entire complex

has been restored with great care and has

become one of the most visited places on

the island.

In front of the basilica, on the slope of

the hill and almost invisible, the little Byzantine

church of Ayios Georgios Chostos is to be

found. Even if the frescos have rather faded,

56


lower down one can still make out the figures

with their mantles folded in a gesture of

protection towards the knights-in-arms.

Of the Byzantine fortification that

enclosed the entire summit of Mt Filerimos

there remain a few traces of the walls and the

towers, from which one has a magnificent view

of the coast.

The frescoes of Ayios

Georgios Chostos with

saints and knightsin-arms

57


C H A P T E R 2

The temple of Apollo at Theologos

and Ayios Sillas

Apollo Erethimios was

a pre-Hellenistic

divinity, protector of

those who worked the

land

At the edge of the village of Theologos we

find the ancient settlement of Tholos with the

remains of a sanctuary from the fifth or fourth

century B.C. dedicated to Apollo Erethimios,

protector of agricultural life and venerated by

the entire population living in the fertile lands

surrounding here. Set into the bare

terrain one can still see the massive

stones of the temenos and the bolders

that formed the columns of the Temple

which must have had an imposing

appearance. A little way off, alongside

the modest ruins of the ancient

settlement, one recognises the cavea of

a small theatre, still perfect in its semicircular

structure and with traces of the stage formed of

great river pebbles. The place is not particularly

pleasant, lying between the traffic of the coastal

road and the modern houses, but it is worth

visiting the Temple to remember that here

nature and the works of man once showed

themselves in all their vigorous beauty.

58


From Theologos one can continue

towards the hills as far as the sanctuary of

Ayios Sillas in the middle of a great park with

tall trees, springs and vast enclosed lawns. It is

lovely, and very relaxing, to wander along the

avenues accompanied by the subtle noise of

the waters as far as the sanctuarys little white

church. Every year in summertime the park

houses donkey- and horse-races, with

traditional dances and much drinking. There is

a masterly description of this festival in

Reflections on a Marine Venus by the English

writer Lawrence Durrell who lived on Rhodes

for a long time after the war.

The sanctuary

of Ayios Sillas

is simple and

unpretentious,

its great

attraction

being the vast

park

59


C H A P T E R 2

The Valley of the Petaloudes

and Moni Kalopetra

Like miniscule divinities the butterflies of

Rhodes feed on a perfumed nectar, a sweet

vanilla-flavoured resin that drips from the bark

of a tree which grows uniquely here and is

similar to the plane-tree. For centuries

thousands of butterflies have lived in this

Valley of the Petaloudes without ever having

felt the desire to move on elsewhere, perhaps

inebriated by the resin which serves to nourish

them, but is also used to make incense.

Externally, with wings closed, the butterflies

appear modest with their brown and cream

colours, but when they take flight they are

much to be admired for their brilliant orangered

which illuminates the dense vegetation.

The butterfly is the poetic essence of beauty,

harmoniously symmetrical, evanescent and

graceful, and it would seem impossible that it

should have enemies, yet it does run risks: it is

the much-enjoyed prey of the red ants who kill

it with a single bite.

60


At the entrance to the

park a Museum of Natural

History has been laid out,

displaying a myriad of

butterflies of all species stuckthrough

with pins, and some

stuffed animals examples of

the local fauna such as hares,

foxes, falcons, tortoises and

salamanders.

At the top of the valley there stands the

little church of Moni Kalopetra, a monastery

founded in 1784: white with red-paint edging,

and with a typical Rhodian floor of kochlakes,

the river-polished pebbles, the church is simple

and intimate, its ceiling painted sky-blue with

the odd splash of gold and a wooden

iconostasis.

61


62

C H A P T E R 2


Eleoussa

Continuing along the road which from Moni

Kalopetra penetrates into the thick forest of

pines that characterises the landscape of the

northern part of the island, we enter the vast

territory of Mt Profitis Ilias. The first village we

meet is Psinthos which possesses two beautiful

frescoed churches, Ayia Trias and Panaghia

Parmeniotissa. However the village is also

famous because it is here that the battle took

place in which, in 1912, the Italians definitively

defeated the Turks, a victory which led to the

Italian occupation of the island.

The signs of the Italian presence

become tangible when one arrives at

Eleoussa, a little village on the side of the

mountain. In 1943 Eleoussa (which was then

christened Campochiaro) became the summer

residence of the Italian governor who ordered

that the inhabitants replant the forests of the

area.

A shady forest of

pines covers the

slopes of Mt Profitis

Ilias

63


C H A P T E R 2

The little town was graced with a large,

rectangular, tree-lined square, flanked with

buildings in a very particular style which was

called colonial but that consists, rather, of a

Mediterranean mishmash (not unattractive, in

fact rather fascinating) with medieval,

renaissance and vaguely oriental references

and with a touch of rationalist architecture

thrown in.

64


The fanciful complex lies abandoned

and is much degraded, with the long portico

now breached, fountains invaded by the

weeds, balconies rusting, windows and doors

removed, glass broken and inside a field of

rubble formed of decorated tiles, falling

curtains and blackened fireplaces. One can still

make out the bright colours of the buildings

plaster (Pompeii-red, pea-green and lemonyellow)

and it is a shame that they have not

been restored, at least in part, even if one can

understand that the period of the Italian

occupation does not hold good memories. The

only restoration work done regards an

immense circular pool at the edge of the

village, a veritable and lovely monument to

water.

Rare species of fish

swim in the circular

pool

65


C H A P T E R 2

Ayios Nikolaos Foundoukli

on Mt Profitis Ilias

The mountain of Profitis Ilias is covered with

a compact, dark-green mantle of conifers,

where there alternate pointed limestone rocks

and a soft undergrowth which in springtime is

filled with flowers of every imaginable species,

some rare, such as little orchids and peonies.

Deep in the forest we find the church

of Ayios Nikolaos Foundoukli, one of the

islands most beautiful. Foundoukli which

means hazelnut was once part of a

monastery complex now in ruins and was

erected by a high-ranking Byzantine official at

the time of the Paleologhi dynasty, at some

time in the fourteenth or fifteenth century, in

memory of his three children dead of the

plague. In one of the apses one can glimpse the

three little ones in a paradise of vines and birds,

being welcomed by the Christ Child.

The church was constructed with

apses on each of its four sides and with a central

dome with numerous niches and little alabaster

A part of the outer

walls of Foundoukli

was decorated with

ceramic plates and the

tympanum above the

entrance was also

frescoed

66


windows that filter a golden light onto the

altar. The precious frescos represent the life of

Christ from birth to the resurrection, the

Apostles, almost cancelled out by time, the

founder with his consort who hold up the

model of the church and the Saints of the

Orthodox church, among whom we see the

first hermit in history, St Onuphrius, entirely

covered by his long grey beard.

The frescos which

cover the church

from top to bottom

date back to the

fourteenth or

fifteenth century

and have more than

once been restored

67


C H A P T E R 2

Small places of devotion

Ayios Georgios is one

of the saints most

widely venerated in

Greece

A beautiful panoramic road runs all the way

around Mt Profitis Ilias, on the southern face of

which there lies the small agricultural village of

Apollona, with an interesting

Folklore Museum, and on the

northern face the village of

Salakos, with its lovely

piazza and the kafenion in the

shade of the trees. Travelling

amid vineyards and orchards

one reaches the village of

Kapi, not far from Salakos,

midway to which we come

across the little church of Ayios Georgios with

remains of folk-art frescos among which there

stands out that of the patron saint, upright on

his white horse and looking at us out of dark,

long-lashed eyes.

68


Continuing on our

wanders amid the

fields we arrive at

the stone ruins,

submerged by

giant prickly pears,

of the abandoned

village of Nani. On

a small mound,

some way before

the houses, a

chapel has been

erected dedicated to Taxiarchis Michail which

contains a fresco of the patron saint. Below the

iconostasis there hangs a reproduction of a

famous icon of the Archangel Michael

belonging to the great Taxiarchis Panormitis

monastery on the island of Simi, in

demonstration of the fact that the little church

of Nani was subordinate to that monastic

complex.

Even the most modest

of icons are full of

charm

Isolated as they are,

the little churches

are still regularly

whitewashed

Turning towards Salakos and taking the road to

the coast, the eye is drawn to a curious ecomonster

construction: the unfinished skeleton

of a hotel complex in a Spanish Alhambra style.

Delusions of grandeur truncated at birth.

69


C H A P T E R 2

The city-state of Kamiros

The ancient

settlement

of Kamiros

Site of votive

offerings

The myth of Kamiros is linked to the first

inhabitants of the island, the amphibious

Telhines, children of the sea and great

inventors. The story tells that one of them, the

legendary Mylas, constructed, at Kamiros, the

first millstone, thus teaching men how to

produce flour and to bake bread.

The foundation of the city is attributed

to the Minoan Althemenes, son of Creteos, king

of Crete, and nephew of the powerful

Minos, but in reality the first traces of a

settlement date back to the Mycenaean

period, around the sixteenth or fifteenth

centuries B.C.. Towards the year 1000

B.C. the Dorians arrived, and created at

Kamiros the islands third city-state, after

Lindos and Ialysos. In the Archaic and Classical

eras the city became famous for its skilled

craftsmanship and especially for the precious

vases of Fikellura, decorated with palmettes,

70


ivy, animals and various floral patterns. The

local work in gold and ivory also became

famous throughout Greece.

In the third century B.C. the city was

gravely damaged by a series of powerful

seismic tremors that caused many buildings

and monuments to collapse. Kamiros was

rebuilt according to the dictates of Hellenistic

town-planning, but was then newly devastated

by a terrible earthquake in 139 B.C.. The

inhabitants abandoned the city and it has

never since been repopulated. Rediscovered in

the mid eighteenth century, Kamiros was

brought back up to the light by the Italian

archaeologists between 1928 and 1943.

The fountain

square

The vast archaeological area that we

visit today is a typical example of a Hellenisticera

city, planned respecting the natural lie of

the terrain with three terraces and a precise

subdivision of public, sacred and private

spaces.

71


C H A P T E R 2

Temple of Pythian

Apollo, third to

second century

B.C.

On the lower level the vast agora

stretches out and from here we access the

Temple of Pythian Apollo in the Doric style with,

beside the podium, a pit into which the

offerings to the god were thrown. A second

sacred space, embellished with six columns that

bordered a fountain, was dedicated to the

sacred ceremonies for the gods and the heroes

of Kamiros. In the third sanctuary, it too on the

lower terrace, the sacrifices to the Sun God

Helios took place.

The labyrinth of

private houses

A labyrinth of narrow streets and

houses built one close up against another

characterises the compact tangle of the urban

weave. The houses are very small and some

might marvel at how man once adapted

himself to life in such mean rooms: we should

remember that life was lived in the open air,

among friendly gossip and arguments, business

negotiations and political meetings.

72


High up on the acropolis the immense

pit of a sixth-century B.C. cistern awaits us; from

here a system of gullies carried water towards

the city. Further on we find a 200 metre-long

stoa with two rows of Doric columns once

separated by water spouts that supplied the

guest chambers. Beyond the stoa there arose

the great temple of Athene Polias, protectress

of Kamiros, which crumbled miserably during

the earthquake of 139 B.C.: now only the

foundations can be seen and we have to read

the ancient chronicles in order to get any idea

of the magnificence of this sanctuary.

Archaic cistern and

the fews remains

of the temple of

Athene Polias

Esedra and pillar

with inscription

near the altar to

the gods

73


C H A P T E R 2

Thermai Kallithea

A grand fountain marks

the entrance to

Kallithea spa, once

famous for its

health-giving waters

Our journey continues on the other side of the

coast, starting out from Rhodes towards

Kolimbia. On the promontory of Cape Voda,

where, dotted with thousands of coloured

beach umbrellas, the endless beach of Faliraki

begins, in 1928 the Italian architect Pietro

Lombardi and the governor Mario Lago

conceived the grandiose watering-place of

Kallithea, which has nothing to envy the

seaside resorts of Capri or the Venice Lido.

74


Enormous domes, oriental-style

arches, great circular fountains, porticos with

columns over which hibiscus and

bougainvillaea climb, wide rooms with mirrors

and stuccos, an atrium that seems stolen from

one of the villas of ancient Rome,

terraces that look over the cliffs and

the serpentine pathways through

the gardens: it all creates an

ambience of extreme luxury, exotic

in taste, and it is hard not to be won

over by its charms.

Recently the complex has

been subjected to a very detailed

restoration, painted a blinding white

(the original colours varied from

pink to sky blue and turquoise), and

it was reopened to the public in the

summer of 2007. A small beach and

a café created below the

overhanging rocks complete the

redecorated spa.

The health-giving waters of Kallithea

were already renowned by the ancients, even

at the time of Hippocrates, and attracted

visitors from east and west (among them the

Roman Emperor Augustus in person) who

came here to cure rheumatism, arthritis and

kidney complaints.

The architect Lombardi

was for many years a

professor at the

Academy of Fine Arts in

Rome and had a great

love of design. The

theatricality of the plans

for Kallithea is

significant if we bear in

mind that Lombardi was

also famous as the set

designer for historical

colossals like Teodora

and Quo Vadis?.

75


C H A P T E R 2

Panaghia Katholiki at Afantou

Panaghia Katholiki

conserves fragments of

the original early-

Christian church

76

Our itinerary continues along the road that

runs parallel to sandy beaches and stretches of

cliff as far as the village of Afantou. The name

Afantou means invisible and in fact it is

located far from the coast: in Medieval times

the village lay beside the sea, but the

inhabitants were forced to rebuild their homes

among the hills in order to escape the continual

incursions by pirates.

Of the original Afantou there remains

only the church of Panaghia Katholiki,

erected in the twelfth century and

incorporating elements of a precedent early-

Christian basilica. The interior boasts a rare and

very beautiful iconostasis in stone with traces of

paint. The whole of the church is fresco-covered

and alongside the more commonplace

Byzantine iconology it exhibits some unusual

scenes: the Virgin among the angels with the

biblical patriarch Isaac who holds up the soul of

a human

being, St Peter

who welcomes

the good thief

of Golgotha

and,

immediately

next to the


entrance, a crowd of the damned who suffer

the torments of hell. There are also some votive

graffiti representing sailing boats and a trireme

(a galley with three banks of oars).

Climbing up behind Afantou we arrive

at the monastery of Panaghia Paramithias

with modern paintings in a neo-Byzantine style

and a lovely icon of the Virgin wrapped in an

embroidered shawl. The monastery is worth a

visit because it is a place of absolute quiet,

heartily recommended to anyone who would

like to abandon, for a moment, the confusion of

the beaches and relax in a flower-filled garden.

The gardens of the

monasteries are always

open to visitors in need

of a rest

77


C H A P T E R 2

Between beaches and mountain springs

Returning to the coast one passes through

Kolimbia, one of the agricultural colonies

planned by the Italians in the 1930s and which

they called San Benedetto. Here nothing

remains of the old farmhouses that once lined

the avenue leading to the beach, even though

the new holiday homes do vaguely recall the

style of the older buildings. Of the previous

period there remains only the church of Ayios

Trifonas close behind the main road.

The dense vegetation

at Epta Pighes has

grown up thanks to the

abundance of the

spring waters

78

For those who prefer an excursion into

the woods we would recommend the Seven

Springs, or Epta Pighes. Travelling through a

forest of tall pines one arrives at a pleasant

tavern with little tables dotted beneath the

trees, and from here one can begin a fairly

arduous climb along the course of a stream that

is fed by seven springs. In times of drought

there is little water, but this remains a very

beautiful walk amidst a luxuriant nature. The

Italian engineers dug a gallery out of the

mountain to channel the waters of the Epta

Pighes into a small lake from which still-visible

aqueducts led as far as Kolimbia.


79


CHAPTER 3

THE CASTLES OF THE KNIGHTS

AND

THE DWELLING PLACE OF ZEUS


KRITINIA

Mt ATAVYROS

MONI ARTAMITI

MONI THARRI

MONOLITHOS


84

C H A P T E R 3


The defensive system of the Knights of the

Order of St John of Rhodes was extraordinarily

thorough: every promontory and every spur of

land in themselves already natural defensive

positions both along the coast and inland,

was utilized to build forts, castles and

watchtowers, at times recouping the preexisting

Byzantine structures. In the almost 200

years of the Knights rule, the fortifications were

subjected to continual modifications, in line

with the evolution of ever-more powerful war

machines and new military strategies. Only one

place was never touched by the Knights: the

islands highest mountain, Atavyros, which

remained the exclusive domain of Zeus.

85


C H A P T E R 3

Kamirou Skala and Kritinia

The Lycian tomb

Kamirou Skala was probably the ancient port

of Kritinia and today ferries still leave from here

for the island of Chalki. On a rock-face behind

the port one can see the façade of an imposing

funerary monument with a great tympanon

and two lateral niches, similar to the tombs of

Lycia in Asia Minor. The state of repair is very

poor and, given the rarity of this type of

sepulchre on Rhodes, it merits greater

consideration.

The little harbour

of Kamirou

Beginning the climb towards Kritinia,

in the distance one sees the Knights Fortress,

isolated on the crest of a hill that dominates the

coast of Kamirou. Erected in the fifteenth

century by the Grand Master Orsini, it was

enlarged in the sixteenth century by the Grand

Masters dAubusson, dAmboise and Del

Carretto who had their family coats of arms

sculpted on the external walls.

Castle of the

Knights near

Kritinia

86


From the height of the towers it was

possible to control a wide stretch of the coast,

often infested with pirate ships. A system of

beacons, with fires warning of imminent

danger, linked the castle visually with the

islands of

Chalki,

Alimia,

Makri and

even Simi.

The fortress

is one of

the islands

bestconserved.

Within it

the Knights

erected a

church

dedicated

to Ayios

Georgios,

partly built

with small

quarried

stones.

The castle of

Kritinia with its

imposing towers

and battlements is

one of the islands

best conserved and

restored

87


C H A P T E R 3

The flower-filled

village of Kritinia

The coastline at

Kritinia

Continuing on upwards towards Mt

Atavyros we visit the flower-filled village of

Kritinia which owes its name to Crete (in Greek

Kriti), because the Minoan prince Althaemenes

was supposed to have landed on the coast

here, fleeing the motherland in order to avoid

killing his father Catreus, as had been

prophesied by an oracle. But Catreus, missing

his son, decided to visit Rhodes, and when his

ship arrived at Kritinia in the middle of the

night, in the blind darkness, he was mistaken

for a pirate and killed by his own son

Althaemenes. Oracles never lie.

88

At the entrance to Kritinia a Folk Art

Museum has been set up with a collection of

tools and peasant furnishings, beautiful

traditional costumes and handcrafted ceramics.


Ayios Ioannis

Prodromos, small

and intimate

Outside the village, protected by

ancient cypress trees, we find the little

thirteenth-century church of Ayios Ioannis

Prodomos. The oldest frescos have been

covered by paintings from the sixteenth

century, these too partly vanished and

blackened by the smoke of the candles.

A pretty road runs all the way round

the Atavyros massif. The areas most important

town is Embonas, famous for its good wine, for

cloth-making and for the dances and

traditional costumes that are on show on feast

days. At the end of the summer, after the grape

harvest, one sees great cloths stretched out

along the road: here what is left of the grapes

after wine-making is set out to dry and then

used, in the winter months, as nourishing

fodder for the goats. Breathing in the heady

perfume of these grape skins is almost as good

as being offered a well-seasoned roast.

In the area around

Embonas there are

numerous vineyards

making a very good

wine

89


C H A P T E R 3

Mt Atavyros

The most ancient part

of Moni Artamiti has

been destroyed. The

monastery church

with its pretty

iconostasis dates

back to the nineteeth

century.

Circling around the eastern face of the

mountain (the highest peak of which reaches

1216 metres), just below the level of the road

one espies the bell tower of the Monastery of

Artamiti. In the courtyard one is welcomed by

a colony of cats who seem to be in charge of

the monastery. The earliest structure is the

church, dedicated to Ayios Ioannis, which dates

back to the eleventh or twelfth century, but the

numerous additions (like the graceful bell tower

and the low monastic buildings) have altered

its original aspect. On the inside, under a starspeckled

vault, one can admire a lovely wooden

iconostasis sculpted with icons of the patron

saints.

90


91


C H A P T E R 3

A little further on we arrive at the

agricultural village of Ayios Isidoros where,

just in front of the cemetery, one can visit the

little white church of Ayios Georgios with

remains of frescos.

On the bare mountain

of Atavyros the

vegetation is very

scarse and whoever

wants to make the

climb on foot should

bear in mind that

there are no trees to

offer any shade

92

Continuing our tour of the mountain,

right on a level with the turning for Kritinia and

Embonas there begins the climb up towards

Atavyros, along a dirt track suitable for cars.

Even though there are no road signs, it should

suffice to keep ones eye on the mountain peak.

The landscape is extraordinarily beautiful, the

track brushes against great meadows dotted

with low-growing Mediterranean vegetation

which gradually disappears to make way for a

luminous stony land with pointed and

contorted boulders. Deep crevasses in the rocks

and dark

gorges score

the Atavyros

massif all the

way to the

summit,

where the

horizon

opens out


and one begins to see the coast. The last

stretch of the mountain is wire-fenced, but

there is an opening through which one can

pass. At that point, looking upwards, the eye is

caught by a pile of ragged stones.

Following ahead on foot towards those

rocks, one realises that this is not a natural

formation, but the work of human hands: we

have arrived at the legendary Sanctuary of

Zeus, built of great, squared blocks.

Amid the jumbled

ruins of the Temple

of Zeus with some

effort one can still

make out the temenos

and the square-cut

blocks that mark the

entrance

The temenos is still recognisable along with

some of the stones of the columns, part of the

plinth and the threshold at the entrance. Few

places possess a magic like that of this

imposing Temple of Zeus which, according to

the legend, was erected by Althaemenes,

93


C H A P T E R 3

mythical founder of Kamiros, to expiate the

killing of his father, the king of Crete. Ancient

authors like Pindar and Diodorus speak of the

temple with admiration but also with fear,

because it was said that in honour of Zeus

human sacrifices were offered here.

On top of the walls that surround the

sacred enclosure travellers through the ages

have immortalised their passing, placing stones

one atop another to form pointed cumuli, like

the shepherds do to mark the movement of

their flocks. In this way from a distance the

temple has acquired something of the aspect of

a miniature Ankhor. From this altitude one

can see all of the island of Rhodes and on a

particularly clear day it seems that one can

make out the island of Crete.

94


Moni Tharri

Starting once again

from the road that

runs round

Atavyros,

penetrating into the

heart of the island,

we continue on

towards Laerma,

following the course

of an emerald-green

torrent that digs out

its bed between the

rocks, creating a coil

of extravagant

forms.

The Monastery of

Taxiarchis Michail at Tharri (the oldest and

most venerated of Rhodes) lies amidst a forest

of pines. One legend tells that the monastery

was founded on the exact spot in which an

imperial princess of Constantinople dropped

her ring, having arrived on Rhodes in the fourth

century and here having recovered,

miraculously, from a mortal illness.

Moni Tharri lies in a

clearing in the

middle of a pine

forest

95


C H A P T E R 3

The frescos at Moni

Tharri date from the

greatest period of

Orthodox art, between

the sixteenth and

seventeenth centuries

In reality the Monastery was built at

some time during the twelfth century, then

enlarged and embellished right up until the

sixteenth century. The katholikon, the

monastery church with its drum-supported

dome, possesses a precious large icon of the

archangel Michael and a very beautiful

iconostasis of inlaid wood. The work of

decorating the church continued uninterrupted

for almost 500 years, and includes more than

20 frescoed panels. They represent Christs

miracles, a beautiful Last Supper and the life

of the Virgin, as well as the Apostles and various

saints. In the apse Christ appears represented

as Christ the King, holding the letters OQN,

meaning He who is.

The monks who live in the monastery

are directly subordinate to the ecumenical

patriarchate of Constantinople and dedicate

themselves mainly to the translation of sacred

texts.

96


The church was originally dedicated to Christos

Sotir (Christ the Redeemer), but was successively

consacrated to the Archangel Michael "Tharinos"

97


C H A P T E R 3

Monolithos

Glifada gorge

The Monolithos coast

with the wide bay of

Kerameni

Another romantic itinerary,

again starting out from the

Atavyros region and this time

going south, is that along the

promontory which juts out

towards the island of Chalki.

After the village of Lakki, from

which one reaches the lovely

beach of Glifada, the road passes

alongside the gorge of Glifada,

formed of enormous, irregular

sheets of rock, striped ochre and

grey. During the dry months one can penetrate

for quite a stretch into the narrow gorge which

forms a fantastical scenery. From Glifada one

can also take a path that leads to the foot of Mt

Akramitis in a valley edged with conifers or,

alternatively, choose the road on the opposite

side of the mountain which passes through

Siana and leads directly to the Castle of

Monolithos with an incomparable view across

the bay of Kerameni and the nearby islands.

98


Like the falcons

that hover in the sky we can

observe the castle from

above, built on a solitary

rocky spur (mono-lithos) at

300 metres above sea level.

The castle already existed in

the Byzantine era and was

amplified and fortified in

1476 by the Grand Master of

the Knights of Rhodes,

Pierre dAubusson. Of the

antique constructions there

remain the external walls, a

few buildings, cisterns, a

chapel and the church of

Ayios Panteleimon.

Despite its name, the rock of

Monolithos is not a single stone because,

looking seaward in front of the Castle, one can

see another rock, round and rough as a tortoise

shell, emerging from the waters: this is the tiny,

uninhabited island known as Little Strongoli.

The castle of the

Knights seems to

grow directly out of

the rock

The miniscule little

island of Strongoli

99


C H A P T E R 3

Wind and water have

sculpted the rocks on

the beach

Descending towards the sea one

arrives, with some difficulty, at a small beach

with cliffs animated by zoomorphic shapes: a

horse seems to paw powerfully at the waves,

the stones look like grotesque masks and the

natural sculpture of a giant bird with an arched

beak stares at the waters. On the highest rock

we can see the remains of a wall that probably

once belonged to an old watchtower. The path

that flanks the beach passes in front of a series

of grottoes and niches with graffiti (perhaps

ancient tombs), and finishes in front of a little

church dedicated to Ayios Georgios.

100


101


CHAPTER 4

THE HISTORY OF THE GREAT

AND

MEMORIES OF SIMPLE THINGS


MONI TSAMBIKA

ARCHANGELOS

CHARAKI

AYIA AGATHI

MONI KAMIRI

LINDOS

ASKLIPIIO


106

C H A P T E R 4


Fresco from the

church of Kimissis

tis Theodokou at

Asklipiio

Our itinerary now moves across to the eastern

side of the island, zigzagging between coast

and mountains. Here there are important

places like Lindos and Asklipiio with

magnificent monuments, but also little

churches, hidden away and all but forgotten.

The Lindos headland

107


C H A P T E R 4

Moni Tsambika

Tradition has is that on

the mountain top an

icon of the Virgin was

found with an oil lamp

burning beside it, and

that it was on this spot

that the monastery

was founded

108

The little church of Panaghia Tsambika, also

called Our Lady on High, sits like a birds nest

on the summit of a pointed mountain. To visit it

one needs a good pair of legs and a lot of puff

because the final stretch of the climb consists of

300 steep steps, but once one has arrived at the

top there is a spectacular view of the coast to

be enjoyed. The

church is a site of

pilgrimage for

married couples

who desperately

hope for children,

and there are tales

of numerous

miracles worked by

the Virgin, even for couples who are getting on

in years. The little sacred icon of the Virgin, all

gold, is nowadays preserved in a protective

case in the large church which is part of the

monastery at the foot of the mountain.


Archanghelos

The little town of Archanghelos is a

jumble of white houses, built one against

another, stretching out at the foot of the

fifteenth-century Castle of the Knights of the

Order of St John. Built in the shape of a gigantic

ships prow, the fortress has conserved a

large part of its walls on which there are

sculpted, in relief, the arms of the

Spanish Grand Master Zacosta and of

the Italian Grand Master Orsini.

At one time Archanghelos was the most

populous city on the island and today it

still remains one of the most lively

villages, animated and attractive. The

houses are whitewashed every year and

are embellished with brightly coloured

decorations (sky blue, pink, yellow,

turquoise) that form cornices and

borders, curved or straight as a tensed

string, and which follow the irregular

lines of the lanes, the steps and the

miniscule flower-filled courtyards.

At the centre of the village

there stands the large white church of Ayios

Michail Archanghelos, with a very high bell

tower (its dimensions out of proportion with

the rest) in the middle of a wide courtyard

paved with a mosaic of kochlakes.

Archanghelos with

the castle of the

Knights

The imposing

bell tower of

Archanghelos Michail

109


Archanghelos has

conserved the traditional

atmosphere of the island:

the whitewashed and

coloured houses,

the narrow alleyways,

the little courtyards and

the local craftsmen's

workshops where the

eye is caught by ceramics

decorated with

animals, flowers and

geometric figures.


C H A P T E R 4

Ayios Gavriel Patitiri is

not the most

important of the

churches in

Archanghelos, but

it is a precious little

gem

In a small square in the upper part of

Archanghelos there stands the cosy and

intimate katholikon dedicated to Ayios Gavriel

Patitiri, a fifteenth-century church that

belonged to a monastery which no longer

exists. The little chapel hides among the houses

of the oldest part of Archanghelos and one

does risk passing by without noticing it.

Illuminated only by the votive candles, the

church retains an aura of mystery, and only

when the eye has adjusted to the darkness does

one notice the well-made frescos. Also worthy

of note is the church of Ayios Ioannis

Prodromos in the highest part of the little town,

with frescos from the fourteenth and fifteenth

centuries including a representation of a

winged St John the Baptist who is unrolling a

scroll.

112


At about a kilometre beyond

Archanghelos on the left there begins a

serpentine little road

which finishes at the

summit of Mt Profitis

Ilias where the church

of the same name

stands. The

mountains natural

platform is scattered

with sharp rocks,

whilst along its edge one notices the remains of

a crumbling wall. Here on the peak, surrounded

by only wide empty space, one has the

sensation of being master of the island, with a

magnificent view 360 degrees around which

ranges across from the coast to the inland hills.

The little church of

Profitis Ilias stands

on the summit of the

eponymous

mountain

113


C H A P T E R 4

Charaki amid churches and castle

The fortress of Feraklos

rises on the site of the

acropolis of ancient

Loryma, but no

trace remains of the

ancient city

114

Our journey continues along the coast where,

from far off, the Fortress of Feraklos can be seen

above the little harbour of Charaki, with its

turreted walls girding the entire hilltop. In

ancient times the city of Loryma stood here,

while the first castle was erected in the

Byzantine period and conquered by the Knights

of Rhodes as early as 1306, immediately upon

their arrival on the island. With the castle they

took possession of the entire feud men,

animals and lands creating the so-called

protaria, a legal right that sanctioned the total

and sole ownership and which permitted the

exercise of both civil and religious powers.

The cellars of the Castle of Feraklos

were used as a prison for those knights who

had erred or disobeyed the rules of the Order.

Looking at the strong external walls punctuated

with tall bastions, one understands why

Feraklos was famed as an impregnable

stronghold, so much so that it resisted the

attacks of the Ottomans right up until the end

of 1522 when the rest of the island had already

surrendered.


The fishing village of Charaki, beneath

the castle, is built in the shape of an

amphitheatre around the bay, with low

cottages, little guesthouses and tiny taverns. It

merits a prolonged stay for its enchanting

position and its still crowd-free beaches: here

calm and tranquillity reign, and the rhythm of

village life is that of days-gone-by.

Skirting around the rock of Feraklos

one arrives at a lovely beach with fine sand; this

too was an oasis of quiet until a few years ago

but now the first constructions in concrete are

beginning to appear.

115


C H A P T E R 4

Graffiti on the rocks

beside Ayia Agathi

Camouflaged by some golden rocks,

here we find the rock church of Ayia Agathi,

used by the hermits who lived in the nearby

grottoes in around the twelfth century. The

apse is formed of two niches behind a screen of

rock that acts as iconostasis. Hewn entirely from

the rock, with remains of frescos, the church

looks very much like a catacomb.

On the rock

face beside the church

one notes some

ancient graffiti

representing

Byzantine-Christian

symbols and even

some Jewish symbols

like, for example, the image of a large menorah,

the seven-branched sacred candlestick. What

mysterious traveller wanted to leave these signs

we will never know.

The niches in the little

church of Ayia Agathi

have been carved out

of the rock

116


Ayios Georgios Loryma and Moni Kamiri

Along a country road running

parallel to the large main road

for Lindos, amid the bare land

above a natural platform there

hides the little fourteenthcentury

church of Ayios

Georgios Loryma. The frescos

are in part antique, but

unfortunately an inexpert hand has effected

some restoration especially on the faces of

the saints which contrasts with the precious

original painting. In front of the icon of Ayios

Georgios, wrapped in his red cape, the devout

have hung fragile little horses woven of straw

that swing, feather-light, in the semi-darkness

of the church.

Recent additions are

clearly visible in the

frescos

117


C H A P T E R 4

In the courtyard of

the monastery of

Kamiri a great table

and numerous chairs

await the arrival of

pilgrims

Another road leads, instead, towards

the hills, following the course of a dry riverbed

as far as a high plain where there stands the

Monastery of Kamiri, one of the most silent

and atmospheric places on Rhodes. Enclosed

within the shell of its own high walls, the

monastery has retained all its antique beauty:

the monks cells built around a great kochlakespaved

courtyard, the old well and an outdoor

hearth surmounted by a beam of sculpted

marble. The katholikon preserves some

sixteenth-century frescos, while on the righthand

wall there appears a large icon with the

archangel Michael clothed in a suit of brilliant

gold armour.

118


Returning to the main road we can

pay a visit to one of the most ancient relics of

the history of Rhodes: the Mycenaean

necropolis of Pilona, which is reached via a

path that begins at the entrance to the village

and winds through the fields. The necropolis is

formed of six tombs from the fourteenth and

thirteenth centuries B.C., which, because they

were never plundered, have yielded a great

quantity of valuable finds: pottery, idols,

jewellery and a rhyton bearing the image of the

Master of

Animals, one of

the most important

divinities in the

Mycenaean

pantheon. For

those who would

prefer not to seek

out the modest

remains of the tombs, we recommend a visit to

Pilonas two churches Ayia Kira and Ayios

Georgios with interesting frescos.

Both the courtyard

and the floor of the

church are covered

with pebble mosaics

Mycenaean tomb at

Pilona

119


C H A P T E R 4

Lindos

sacred and profane

According to the legend, the ancient city of

Lindos was founded by the son of Hercules,

Tlepolemos, who had been exiled from the

Peloponnese to Rhodes following an

involuntary homicide. Homer mentions

Tlepolemos in the Iliad as fighting alongside the

Trojans and tells that he was killed by Sarpedon.

120


In reality Lindos, the largest of the

three Rhodian city-states, dates back to around

1000 B.C. when the Dorians arrived here. In the

eighth century B.C. it became the most

important maritime centre along the route

travelled by the merchant ships between the

Orient and the West. In order to further extend

their sphere of influence, the inhabitants of

Lindos arrived as far as Sicily where they

founded Agrigento and Gela.

The Archaic period is held to be that of

Lindoss greatest splendour, when it was

governed by the enlightened tyrant Kleoboulos

(one of the Seven Sages of ancient Greece) who

had the first Temple of Athene Lindia erected

on the acropolis.

In the sixth to fifth century B.C. the city

joined the amphiktiones (religious

confederation) with Ialysos, Kamiros, Kos,

Halicarnassos and Knidos. The Persian invasion

of the fifth century B.C. led to the slow decline

of the city which nevertheless remained an

important religious and cultural centre,

especially in the Hellenistic era.

121


C H A P T E R 4

The acropolis and the city

The acropolis of Lindos rises above the

sea as though it is held up by the rocks

themselves and (as a Hellenistic epigram has it)

could fall seaward should the gods but wish so.

In the sixth century the Byzantines built a

fortress here which was conquered by the

Knights of the Order of St John in 1312. Under

the government of Pierre dAubusson, at the

end of the fifteenth century, the Palace of the

Grand Master was erected on the acropolis and

now marks the entrance to the archaeological

area.

122


Stone relief

representing a ship

Climbing the steps up to the Palace of

the Knights we pass a relief representing an

enormous trireme, carved into the rock in

around the second century B.C.. On the small

plinth in front of it in ancient times there stood

the statue of the Rhodian admiral

Aghesandros, work of the sculptor Pythocretos

Timocharis, author of the celebrated Nike of

Samothrace now in the Louvre.

The gate of the

Knights' castle and

the Byzantine church

Through the Palace of the Knights we can see

an imposing Hellenistic stoa with cisterns,

while to the right we find a Byzantine basilica.

Beyond the vast stoa we enter the Sanctuary of

Athene which occupies almost the entire

platform of the acropolis. The Doric sanctuary

was destroyed by a fire in the fourth century

B.C. and rebuilt in the Hellenistic era with

123


C H A P T E R 4

The stairway to the

Propylaea

magnificent Propylaea, a monumental stairway

and a portico with two wings of columns that

leads into the Temple, the sacred dwelling

place of Athene Lindia. In comparison with the

grandiose constructions that lead up to it, the

temple is of surprisingly modest dimensions.

The monumental

stairway and the

Hellenistic portico

In the area surrounding the acropolis we can

visit several monuments that were once part of

the ancient city. First and foremost the Greek

Theatre from the fourth century B.C., cut out of

the rocky slope and capable of holding up to

2,000 spectators. Above its tiered seating there

once stood a little Temple of Dionysus, to

whose cult the Tetrastoon was also dedicated,

this being a colonnaded courtyard where the

feasts in honour of the god took place.

124


The Greek theatre

from the fourth

century B.C., cut into

the rocks

The so-called Tomb of Kleoboulos (the

tyrant, in reality, was not buried here) faces

onto the bay of Pallade and is built in the form

of a tholos with great squared blocks. Another

monumental tomb, that of Archocrates, who

was priest of the

Sanctuary of Athene

at the beginning of

the third century

B.C., is to be found

on the hill of Krana

and is partly hewn

from the rock. At the time of the knights this

sepulchre was converted into a church and

given the name Frankoekklesia.

Meanwhile, on the Viglia promontory

the remains of an ancient Boukopion are to be

found (where the sacrifice of bulls took place)

whilst lower down there is a grotto dedicated

to Linthia, a divinity from Asia Minor predating

the cult of Athene.

Tomb of Kleoboulos

125


C H A P T E R 4

Seen from above the city of Lindos

looks like a white bracelet girding the acropolis,

with its little streets and courtyards paved with

kochlakes that shine like pearls. Together with

Rhodes it is the islands most-visited town, for

its houses and palaces with monumental

doorways and relief-decorated façades. Among

the churches one should not miss visiting the

Panaghia, in the centre of the town, with

noteworthy frescos from the fifteenth century.

An elaborately

decorated

seventeenth-century

house

126


127


C H A P T E R 4

Asklipiio

Hovering above the little town of Asklipiio,

which overlooks the immense bed of a river of

pebbles that winds like a gigantic grey serpent

through the valley, there rises the Castle of the

Knights of Rhodes, which seems to be born out

of the rock. The fortress, with its great circular

tower, was constructed in the fifteenth century

to protect the population from brigands.

Castle of the Knights,

above Asklipiio

The valley beneath hides amid its fields

a myriad of little churches, indicated by the

road signs that do help a little in getting ones

bearings among the labyrinth of pathways.

They are almost all chapels with only one room,

their exteriors modest, but their interiors

preserving frescos that at times are

unsophisticated pieces of folk art, at others

paintings of great quality.

128


Reading the

names of the saints to

whom the churches are

dedicated one begins

to learn ones way

through the calendar of

Orthodox saints, from

Ayios Georgios to Ayios

Zaccharias, from Ayii

Cosmas and Damianos

to Ayia Irini, from Ayios

Ioannis to Ayios

Demetrios, and so on.

The little churches

often house the

remains of antique

frescos, or have

been redecorated in

neo-Byzantine style

The town of Asklipiio is an agglomerate of

white houses with flat roofs that give them a

very oriental appearance. The towns jewel is

the church of Kimissis tis Theotokou (the Death

or Dormition of the Virgin) which stands

high in the town, with its triple façade.

The central door

leads into the oldest

of the naves of the

church of Kimissis

tis Theotokou

129


C H A P T E R 4

The central nave of

the church

The little museum

attached to the

church displays

holy relics, icons

and antique

manuscripts

The centre of the church, in the form of

a Latin cross and covered entirely with very

precious frescos, is also its most ancient part,

dating back to the fourteenth century. The

fresco cycles adopt the usual compositional

pattern of Byzantine-Orthodox art, but their

expressiveness, their colours and their

treatment of the sacred themes reveal the

originality and the passion of the artists who

created this work of extraordinary beauty.

Walking in the nave one has the impression of

being enveloped in a great Holy Book: here

there are the stories of Christ, of Mary, of the

saints and of their miracles, the cycle of the

Creation of the World in which God holds up an

enormous iris and separates the heavens from

the darkness. Some of the biblical stories are

very beautiful, including a cruel Expulsion from

Paradise and an expressive Sacrifice of Isaac,

and we see luminous armies of angels, but also

the legions of the Devil. The cycle illustrating

the Apocalypse of St. John is very interesting,

and features some terrifying details like the

Beast with Seven Heads, the Four Horsemen of

the Apocalypse and the demons and the

tortures of hell.

130


131


Angels with trumpets announcing the Apocalypse

Scenes from Genesis: Adam and Eve taste the forbidden fruit

The prophet Daniel with the angel


A scene from Genesis: God finds Adam and Eve after they have eaten the

forbidden fruit

A scene from the Apocalypse: Death on horseback chased by

a group of the Saved


CHAPTER 5

SAINTS AND PIRATES

THE MOUNTAINS AND THE SEA


AYIOS GEORGIOS O VARDAS

AYIA IRINI

PROFILIA

AYIOS PAVLOS

PRASONISSI


C H A P T E R 5

Apolakkia and the churches nearby

The artificial lake

of Siana

Ayios Giorgios

o Vardas has some

very beautiful frescos

138

On the way out of the village of Siana a dirt

track descends steeply towards the valley,

creeping through a landscape made up of low,

dark-barked bushes that stand out like black

paper silhouettes against the almost-white and

dusty soil. At the bottom of the valley a dam has

been constructed creating a muddy-shored

lake whose waters are an unnatural turquoise.

Arriving at Apolakkia, it is not easy to find the

many churches dotted among sown fields and

copses: rare road signs give vague directions,

but it is, nonetheless, worth the effort.

The church of Ayios Georgios o Vardas,

founded in the thirteenth century, is to be

found in a

woodland

clearing: the

Byzantine

frescos are

among the

oldest on the

island and,

even though some pieces are now missing,

they preserve lovely images of the saints

(among them


Ayios Mamas, the pipe-playing patron saint of

shepherds and of their flocks) and an evocative

Entry into Jerusalem. In the apse the Blessed

Virgin appears with the archangels, while on

both sides of the nave we can see stories from

the life of Christ and, above the door, the Death

of the Virgin.

Following a path that runs almost

parallel to that for Ayios Georgios o Vardas, and

crossing the bed of a dry river, one arrives at

the little church of Assomaton Ayii Michail

and Gavriel with remains of frescos and a

beautiful wooden iconostasis. Once back on

the asphalted road, a few kilometres ahead one

can follow the sign for Ayios Ioannis, a lovely

Byzantine church with fourteenth to fifteenth

century frescos.

139


C H A P T E R 5

Every one of the

early-Christian

churches has met with

destruction and many

architectural fragments

have been removed

and reused

Even if scant, the ruins of the early

Christian basilica dedicated to Ayia Irini are

very interesting. On the road for Arnitha a sign

seems to point generically towards the

cultivated fields and in effect one does have to

scramble along the ruts of the ploughed land

until some ruins become visible on a little rise.

This basilica which was originally divided into

three churches was once one of the most

important sacred buildings on Rhodes, dating

back to the sixth or seventh century. The outer

walls, part of the apse and a large baptistery in

the shape of a four-leaved clover all survive.

Rising from the ground there are some marble

columns and fragments of capitals, while on

140


the floor of the central nave one notes the

remains of peacock-shaped mosaics. Ayia Irini

was striped of its treasures at the time of the

knights and two of its columns were

incorporated into the courtyard of the Palace

of the Grand Master in Rhodes City.

Profilia

A road, all curves, climbs back up from

the valley towards the village of Istrios and then

drops again towards Profilia with its white

houses lying on the slope of the hill like lizards

in the sun. In the cemetery at the entrance to

the village there stands the large church of

Christs Nativity, neither ancient nor modern,

but nevertheless attractive thanks to the recent

frescos that illuminate the nave with a

symphony of bright colours. Decorated by the

hand of an artist who has learnt the lessons of

The Byzantine

tradition of painting

has survived up to our

own times: a good

example is offered by

the frescos of the

large church at

Profilia

141


C H A P T E R 5

The quire, which was

once reserved for the

womenfolk, has now

fallen into disuse

Niche with Byzantine

inscription in Ayios

Georgios

the old

Byzantine

painters well,

the churchs

images

respect the

Byzantine

tradition and

it is an

excellent

example of

the

unchanging

continuity of

Orthodox religious art through the centuries.

The entire floor is covered with kochlakes

mosaics. The church still possesses a quire

(once reserved for the womenfolk) in which

some carefully polished vessels have been

placed along with a few chairs and a wooden

cross.

But Profilias most beautiful church is

the tiny church of Ayios Georgios, built in the

sixteenth century on a mound at the edge of

the village. It might seem strange, but the

entrance is to be found up against a welcoming

tavern which serves delicious home-baked

bread, very nice wine and good traditional

cooking.

The churchs frescos are, in part, well

preserved and respect the classical

iconography which includes Christ and the

Madonna, and the soldier saints Michail and

Georgios one on a red horse, the other on his

white charger. Getting onto ones knees it is

possible to admire an unusual scene a young

142


woman spinning wool, her spindle held high

and beside her a wicker cradle. Perhaps this

loving scene of country life was once part of

the representation of the Nativity of the Virgin.

The church furnishings are

poor, but the frescos are

noteworthy

143


C H A P T E R 5

Between Vati and Gennadi

Along the road that links the western and

eastern coasts of the island the landscape is

dotted with little churches, their plaster snowy

white, and it is well worth visiting a few. The

religious buildings, even when modest, are

almost always set within a very beautiful natural

frame, and even when their frescoes have all

but disappeared, the decoration of their

interiors has a theatrical charm of its own.

The little church of Ayios Ioannis

Prodromos crowns a small hill close to the

road. In its single room we can see a wooden

iconostasis which hides an altar in the apse,

formed of an antique column and a marble slab.

Even the smallest of

the churches

conserves beautiful

images that render it

particular

144


The altar that can

be seen behind the

iconostasis is formed

of a column

taken from an

archaeological site

The small church of Profitis Ilias also

has the same type of altar, taken from an older

building, but here it is painted a bluish grey like

the iconostasis.

Between the coast

and the inland hills,

between Gennadi,

Lachania and

Arnitha, there is a

myriad of similar

little churches to be

discovered,

sometimes frescoed

and with stones

salvaged from more

ancient buildings.

The crystal-clear

waters of the

Gennadi coast

145


C H A P T E R 5

Ayios Pavlos

The church and bell

tower of Ayios Pavlos

Halfway along the road that

cuts clean across the tip of the

island from Kattavia to

Hochlakas, the eye is drawn by a

singular monumental complex

in a bare landscape: this is Ayios

Pavlos, which at the time of the

Italian occupation was

christened San Marco. The

explanation is simple: on Rhodes

the Italians decided to create a

series of agricultural settlements

modelled on the rural colonies founded by

the Fascist regime back home. So at the end

of the thirties the village of San Marco/Ayios

Pavlos was born, with a large, cloistered

church, a school, warehouses, granaries,

factories and farmhouses.

146


The clock on the bell tower is stopped

at 4.00 pm, the hour of the collapse, when, in

1942, the settlement was abandoned in fret

and fury following the first Allied bombings.

To reclaim the flat and arid ground, where in

the summer one sweats beneath a baking sun

and in the winter there blows a diabolic wind,

Tuscan peasants were settled here experts in

the clearing and hoeing of uncultivated land.

Now the complex lies crumbling along

the side of the road and in the immense

church, with its high vault that still bears the

traces of a faded sky blue, the birds make their

nests. The plots of agricultural land are still

divided into rigid squares, each with its own

farmhouse, some still partly in use as stables or

for storing tools.

The nave of the church

of Ayios Pavlos, totally

abbandoned

Isolated farmhouses are

still to be found dotted

among the fields

147


C H A P T E R 5

In the distance one can see the spectral

outline of what was once a silk factory: now

there is nothing behind its monumental

gateway, only rusty tubes that creak with every

gust of wind.

The gateway to the

disused silk factory.

Here the silkworms

were farmed and the

silk was spun, but the

fabric was woven in

Rhodes.

The impetuous force of the wind that

blows on this part of the island is perhaps the

reason why the beautiful beach of dunes

running along this stretch of coast has not been

made use of for tourism. The uncontaminated

beach of Ayios Georgios, which extends for

kilometres beyond the fields, seems unreal,

with no sign of humans, buildings or even tents,

furrowed

only by the

ephemeral

tracks of

animals

which soon

vanish

beneath the

eddies of

fine sand.

148


The Kattavia coast

Stopping off at Kattavia, we can reach the

thirteenth-century church of Kimissis tis

Theotokou which stands in the cemetery,

hidden between tall cypresses. The noteworthy

frescoes, which date back to the seventeenth

century, include an unusual representation of

the Apocalypse.

The road runs along an endless

beach, empty and uninhabited. Amid dunes

and pebbles, the coast here transmits a sense

of infinite solitude and even of sadness: the

shore is a mass of detritus brought by the sea

which often roars angrily here, lifting up

gigantic waves. Broken sticks, tins and pieces

of plastic make a desolate scene of this

beach, so beautiful when seen from far off.

149


C H A P T E R 5

The black ship-like

rock that seems to

float amid the waves

Half-covered by the

soil, fragments of the

marbles of Ayia

Anastasia Zanara

protrude from the

terrain

Looking towards the horizon one

notes the compact outline of a black rock with

strange peaks that suggest the shape of a

phantom ship at the mercy of the waves. One

legend tells that this rocky island really was

once a pirate ship, turned, by some divine hand,

to stone when the corsairs prepared to land on

the coast in order to attack the Monastery of

Skiadi.

Following the coastal road between

fields of melons and watermelons, a short

deviation leads to the few remains of the early

Christian basilica dedicated to Ayia Anastasia

Zonara, now almost swallowed by the terrain.

Between

brushwood

and

brambles

one

recognises

the apse,

some

capitals,

marble slabs

from the plinths and panels bearing religious

inscriptions and reliefs. Unfortunately this is the

fate met by many early Christian buildings:

once the archaeological excavations are over

the site drops back into sleep, left, by mans

carelessness, to the wind and the rain.

150


The Prassonissi

lighthouse on the

furthest point of the

island

Prassonissi

The Prassonissi peninsula is linked to the

mainland by an isthmus of golden sand which

can be crossed on foot but during the tourist

season it seems instead to be a racetrack for

four-wheel-drives. Here windsurfers meet up

along with enthusiasts of other water- (and

acrobatic) sports, enticed by the strong wind

and by the waves. To get away from the

confusion one has to climb up above the

promontory as far as the lighthouse, built

hanging over the open sea where the waves

foam against the rocks.

The Prassonissi

isthmus, lapped by

the waves

151


152


153


Chronology

5th millennium B.C. Late Neolithic Age, first cave settlements

3rd millennium B.C. First contacts with the Minoans of Crete

2nd millennium B.C. Arrival of the Achaian-Mycenaeans

1000 - 500 B.C. Dorian and Archaic periods; creation

of the three city-states

Lindos, Kamiros and Ialysos; dictatorship

of Kleoboulos

5th - 4th century B.C. Classical period; maritime trade

flourishes; foundation of Rhodes in 408 B.C.

4th - 3rd century B.C. Hellenistic period; apex of the islands artistic

splendour; Rhodes boasts a population

of 80,000

2nd century B.C. 3rd century A.D.

Roman period; St Paul arrives on the island;

initial diffusion of Christianity

4th century A.D.-1309

Byzantine period; conflicts with Persians

and Saracens; Venetian and Genoese trading

posts

1309-1522 Rule of the Knights of the Order of St John

of Jerusalem; Rhodes becomes the principal

centre of commerce between East and West

1523-1912 Ottoman rule; Greeks, Turks and Jews live

on the island; from the seventeenth to the

nineteenth century conflicts with the

Turkish authorities

1911-1923 Italian-Turkish war on the island; the Italians

occupy Rhodes

1923-1943 The island is governed by the Italians;

restoration of many monuments and

important construction projects undertaken

1943-1946 The Germans occupy the island; deportation

of Jews and Greek dissidents to the

concentration camps; in 1945 the Germans

surrender to the British army

1947 Rhodes is annexed to Greece

157


Glossary

Acropolis

Agora

Amphiktiones

Ayios Ayia

Baptistery

Cavea

Gymnasium

Iconostasis

Hamam

Katholikon

Kafenion

Kochlakes

Kouros

Medresse

Mihrab

Odeon

Panaghia

Platia

Propylae

Qibla

Stoa

Temenos

Tholos

ancient citadel, the highest part of a Greek

city

centre of public life, marketplace

religious confederation protecting places

of worship

Saint, holy

chapel containing the baptismal font

semicircular tiered seating in Greek

theatres (auditorium)

ancient school for gymnastics and the

study of music and the written word

dividing screen (in wood or stone) that

separates the altar from the nave in

Orthodox churches

Turkish baths

church or chapel within a monastery

coffeehouse

mosaic of river pebbles, typical of both

interior and exterior paving on Rhodes

archaic male nude statue, youth

koranic school attached to a mosque

the niche in a mosque reserved for the

prayer leader

small theatre for concerts and lectures

the Blessed Virgin

town square

monumental entranceway with columns

and porticos

in the mosque it indicates the direction of

Mecca

rectangular portico

sacred precinct

circular tomb with a conical roof

158


TEXT

JUDITH LANGE

PHOTOGRAPHS

JUDITH LANGE - MARIA STEFOSSI

DESIGN - LAYOUT

MARIA STEFOSSI

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

JULIA MACGIBBON

COLOR SEPARATION - PRINTING - BINDING

BIBLIOSYNERGATIKI S.A.

The authors

Judith Lange is a journalist, photographer and painter,

Maria Stefossi is a photographer, graphic artist and editor.

Both are great travellers. They have published numerous books together,

among the most recent of which are: Ancient Theatres, Ancient Stadia,

Crete, Mani, Drama , Humble Beauty and Discover the unknown Crete.

159


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