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Medieval City of Rhodes to Undergo Major Restoration

rhodes medieval city
The Medieval City of Rhodes. Credit: Bernard Gagnon/ Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 4.0

The historic medieval city of Rhodes will be restored in a bid to preserve the historic city and prevent the damage that mass tourism often brings with it.

The Greek Culture Ministry has formed a plan to preserve the beautiful city, which is located on the island of Rhodes in the Dodecanese, by creating three zones — the monumental, the residential, and the commercial zones — which will allow them to both maintain the city’s historic beauty while keeping the tourism sector on the island sustainable and thriving.

Currently, the Ministry owns a total of 365 properties within the medieval city of Rhodes, and 50 of those properties are located on the main street in the historic area.

Properties in the monumental zone could be turned into luxury accommodation or venues for cultural events, and those in the residential zone may be turned into boutique hotels or homes as part of the renovation. The businesses located in the commercial zones will be provided with opportunities to enhance their shops to promote local products.

The medieval city of Rhodes is a stunning combination of the many historic periods of the island, which played a crucial role during the Crusades, and later came under Ottoman and Italian rule.

Medieval City of Rhodes built in the 14th century

In fact, even before the Crusaders arrived on the island, the capital city was home to a Byzantine urban zone, which itself was built upon an ancient acropolis. Rhodes was also inhabited by the Mycenaeans, and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Colossus of Rhodes, was built there in the third century, BC.

The historic city was constructed between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries when the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, also known as the Knights Hospitaller, occupied the island and began transforming the capital into a fortified city.

The city became a key stronghold during the Crusades, and the strong walls constructed around the medieval city withstood many assaults sieges, most notably from Sayf ad-Din Jaqmaq, the Sultan of Egypt, in 1444, and then the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II in 1480.

Despite the strength of the city, it fell in 1522 after Suleiman I (known as Suleiman the Magnificent) besieged it for half a year.

Rhodes remained under Ottoman rule until the early twentieth century, and the flair of Ottoman-era architecture is visible throughout the Old city, but particularly in what is referred to as the “Lower Town.” The Italians then gained control of the island from the Ottomans in 1912.

The entire Medieval city is held within the parameters of its 4-km-long (2.5 miles) wall, and includes buildings in the distinct Gothic, European style, as well as structures that are clearly Ottoman, such as public baths, or hamams, and old mosques.

The “Higher Town,” which is in the northern part of the city, is where the Crusaders built their fortified city, and was once completely surrounded by a medieval wall. As the city expanded and the Ottomans took control of the island, the historic capital expanded into the “Lower Town.”

The Higher Town is full of buildings such as inns and hospitals that were used by the Knights, while the Lower Town is replete with Byzantine churches, mosques, and hamams.

In fact, many of historic mosques in the lower town were once churches, but were converted to mosques in the 16th century.

The “Castello,” which is perhaps the most famous building on the island, was the palace of the Grand Master of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller, and it also served as a headquarters for the knights.

An impressive and rare example of Gothic architecture in Greece, it was originally a Byzantine fortress from the seventh century that was adapted into a palace and stronghold by the Knights in the fourteenth century.

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