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Knight-Defenders of Rhodes

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Rhodes is a storied Greek island in sight of the Turkish coast, which for more than 2,000 years was Greek as well.

Main Entrance to the Grandmaster's Palace

In 1522, Rhodes was also the last Christian bastion in the region. All the rest had long-since been conquered by the Turks. Three miles of medieval city walls and seven gates circled Rhodes Town. After two hundred years of desperate work, and a failed Turkish siege in 1480, they stood more than 30 feet thick with a 60 foot wide moat.

Original Stones

Within, the Knight Hospitallers lived and tried to hold off the Sultan’s vast armies. The knights were warrior priests whose order had begun four hundred years before in Jerusalem, caring for sick and injured pilgrims. In 1099, it morphed into the role of knight-protector with the Christian re-conquest after the Arabs had taken it from the Eastern Roman Empire around 400 years earlier. By 1309, the Knights held only Rhodes and had begun to build up its defenses, including the new, Grandmaster’s Palace, a fortified castle on the site where the famous bronze Colossus is likely to have stood.

The Moat is Now a Delightful Garden Path

After a terrible, final siege, the remaining Knights and 5,000 Rhodians were forced to surrender on condition of safe passage west. They ended up in Malta, where in 1565 they stopped the Turks attempt to dominate the central Mediterranean once and for all.

The final siege at Rhodes cost the Turks 50,000 men. Two thousand defenders died fighting on the walls or from sickness. And Rhodes fell under Muslim rule for 500 years.

Barracks for the French Knights

In the 1800’s, a Turkish weapons magazine explosion destroyed the Grandmaster’s Palace. But, the Italians rebuilt it around 1940.

Low down on the walls, you can see the original stones.

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  1. October 3, 2011 at 6:52 am

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