Old Town Rhodes
The old town Rhodes is encircled by strong mediaeval walls. A typical example of the techniques of fortification of the 14th-15th century, they were built by the Knights of Saint john to protect the city from all dangers, whether coming from land or from the sea. The impressive walls with their wide ramparts are reinforced at intervals by towers, while the entrance to the mediaeval town is through seven imposing gates: the gate of the Apostle Paul, that of the Naval Base, the Harbour gate, the Gate of Saint Catherine, the Gate of Saint john, the Gate of Saint Athanasius and the d’Amboise Gate which is the loveliest. At a much later period, in 1924, during the Italian occupation, a new gate, the Freedom . Gate, was opened, and this is where the entrance to the northern part of the Castle is now. The old town was divided into two unequal parts by an inside wall. The northern and smaller part, known as the Castello or Kollakio, served as an administrative centre and as the residential quarter of the Knights. The remaining, larger part is the Hora, the commercial centre of the town, where the Greeks, the Jews and the Westerners had their homes.
CASTELLO OR KOLLAKIO as we come through Freedom Gate, we find the ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite, and, further on, the Lodge of the Tongue ofAuvergne (15th century AD). In Argyrokastro square stands the Old Hospital, which today houses the Department of Archaeology. Next to the Lodge of the Tongue of Auvergne is the church of Our Lady of the Castle (Panaghia tou Kastrou), built in the 11th or the 12th century, and which, during the time of the Knights, became the Roman Catholic cathedral. Other buildings worthy of notice in this part of the town are the Lodge of the Tongue of England and the Hospital of the Knights, an impressive building with a large interior courtyard, which today houses the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes.
The most beautiful part of the old town is the so-called Street of the Knights. Its mediaeval grandeur, which has been preserved and has survived throughout the centuries, the austere buildings on either side and the pervading memories of the time of the Knights of St. john lend this stone-paved street a special magic aura. The street links the Hospital of the Knights to the Palace of the Grand Master.
The most important buildings to the right and left of this impressive way are the Lodge of the Tongue of Italy, the Lodge of the Tongue of France, the Lodge of the Tongue of Provence, the Lodge of the Tongue of Spain. In the narrow little street after the Lodge of the Tongue of France stands the single-nave Gothic church of Saint Demetrius, built on the ruins of an ancient temple to Dionysus.
At the end of the Street of the Knights we find the stately Palace of the Grand Master, which dominates the entire old town. It is an immense structure of 75 by 80 metres, with very strong fortifications. It was built by the Knights in the 14th century, was destroyed in 1856 by an explosion in the powder-magazine which the Turks had housed in the cellar, and was restored in 1940 by the Italians, who used the characteristics of the original as the basis of their work but without great success. Thus, the restored palace is much more pompous than the original.
The gate with its pointed arch, on either side of which stand the two circular towers, is one of the few parts of the structure which survived the terrible explosion. There is a large interior court with arcades all around, decorated with many statues of Roman emperors. The mosaic floors of the palace are Roman and Early Christian, and originally came from the neighbouring island of Cos.
There are many impressive rooms, with fine pieces of furniture from Italy, polychrome marbles, statues, carpets, Oriental vases etc. Among these rooms, particular mention should be made of the waiting-room the reception hall, the room of the Medusa mosaic, the room of the icons, the governor’s room etc.
As we come out of the Palace to the west, we flnd a portion of the inside wall which separates the Kollakio from the Hora.