I never thought I would see a Medieval castle in Greece among the likes of those in Spain and France. But that is exactly what happened when our cruise trip made a day-long stop in Rhodes. From 1309 Rhodes was the home of the Knights of St. John. In the early 14th century, they converted a Byzantine citadel into the Palace of the Grand Master (“Rhodes’ Palace of the Grand Master” ). Because the island was surrounded by pirates and other invaders, the palace had many fortifications, including 3 water less moats! In the 20th century, when the island was occupied by Italians, the inside of the palace was renovated. At one point, it was a summer home for Benito Mussolini! Today, the palace serves as a museum to allow the average person to imagine themselves living in medieval times.
This island is rich in myth and religious history. On Mount Zambiki of the island, an icon of the Virgin Mary sat behind a cypress tree. Although the icon was moved three different times, it kept reappearing on the top of the Mount. Today, the Holy Monastery of Panagia Tsambiki (another name for the Virgin Mary) protects the icon, and is a frequent destination for those having trouble bearing children. The tradition is to walk the 292 steps up to the monastery (sometimes barefoot) and to pray to her. Many mothers return to the site once their child has been born to have the child baptized at the monastery (“Panagia Tsambika”).
One of my favorite parts about visiting Rhodes, however, was learning about the statue of Colossus, one of the seven wonders of the world.
Thirty-three feet tall, the metal statue of Colossus, which depicted the sun God Helios stood at the harbor of Rhodes from 280 BCE until it was toppled down by an earthquake sometime between 228-226 BCE (Cartwright). Eventually, the broken pieces were melted down for scrap metal, so we have no concrete evidence of what the statue looked like. Current depictions of the statue are based on traveler’s writings.
America’s Statue of Liberty was inspired by this grand monument. Beyond the physical similarities these two statues have, such as sun beams emanating from the subject’s head, the statues also share a similar purpose: to show their state’s prestige. Collusus was constructed after Rhodes had successfully resisted a siege from Antigonus I, one of Alexander the Great’s successors (Cartwright). This statue showed off the power and wealth of Rhodes. This is just another example of how Greek culture inspires American culture.
The real show stopper of Rhodes, however, is the Acropolis of Lindos. Before visting this island, I didn’t realize each large settlement in Greece had their own Acropolis to please the Gods. This acropolis was built in antiquity, but it also has a medieval wall that was added later.
The walk up was stimulating, to say the least. The path was very smooth due to the high influx of tourists, so besides heat exhaustion I also had to worry about falling off the edge of the stairs to certain death.
Once I reached the top, however, I saw the view was worth all of the micro-aneurisms I had suffered on the way up. When looking at this view, all you can think, this is Greece.
That afternoon, we swam on a beach right outside the Palace of the Grand Master. I never thought I would swim in crystal blue waters right next to a medieval castle. I could almost feel the knights rolling in their graves over my bathing suite attire.
Cartwright, Mark. “Colossus of Rhodes.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 14 Oct. 2018, www.ancient.eu/Colossus_of_Rhodes/.
“Panagia Tsambika- Miracle Monastery for Conception.” Greek City Times, Greek City Times, 8 Sept. 2016, greekcitytimes.com/2016/09/08/panagia-tsambika-miracle-monastery-for-conception/.
“Rhodes’ Palace of the Grand Master.” Greece Is, 1 Aug. 2017, www.greece-is.com/rhodes-palace-grand-master/.
“The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes: A Medieval Castle Turned into a Museum.” The Vintage News, 16 May 2017, www.thevintagenews.com/2017/04/06/the-palace-of-the-grand-master-of-the-knights-of-rhodes-a-medieval-castle-turned-into-a-museum/.