Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes
Rhodes Town
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Rhodes Town

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The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights stands as a medieval architectural wonder, established in the 14th century atop the ruins of a 7th-century Byzantine fortification. Located in the northwest of Rhodes' historical district, this majestic castle terminates the famed Street of the Knights. Since 1988, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Historical Landmark

The grandeur and beauty of The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights in Rhodes captivate visitors. Despite extensive mid-20th-century restorations, the site’s profound aura continues to astonish. The palace is a pivotal attraction, drawing millions to Rhodes for its historical and aesthetic appeal.

In the 14th century, a transformation occurred where an ancient 7th-century Byzantine fort once stood. Between 1319 and 1346, Master Helion de Villeneuve embarked on constructing an immense stronghold. This formidable structure quickly assumed a dual role: it served as the Grand Master’s dwelling and the central hub for the Order’s administration. Beyond its strategic and residential functions, the castle emerged as the island’s epicenter for social and cultural activities, buzzing with trade, assemblies, and notable events. The most significant chambers, including the Grand Council Hall, a vast dining area, and the private quarters of the Grand Master, known as «The Margarita», were situated on the ground floor.

Recent studies suggest a sacred temple to the Sun god once stood where the Grand Masters' Palace is in Rhodes. Some even speculate this was the original site for the famous Colossus. This raises questions as the Colossus is traditionally thought to have been in Mandraki harbor. Today, twin deer statues guard this spot. Historians tend to favor the traditional narrative.

The Grand Master’s Palace on Rhodes was a fortress, historically safeguarding the island against countless sea invasions, earning deep respect from locals. Post the Ottoman conquest in 1522, the fortress’s defensive role ceased, becoming an administrative hub and prison. Over time, deterioration set in. A massive explosion in 1865 at the St. John church basement, then an Ottoman armory, devastated the palace, reducing parts to rubble, particularly the first floor.

Restoration of the Grand Master’s Palace

Initial repairs at the complex began in 1912 under Italian rule. However, a significant portion was again damaged between 1937 and 1940. The palace’s condition slightly improved when Benito Mussolini used it as a temporary summer home. His legacy is still marked by a large memorial plaque near the entrance.

In 1948, the Dodecanese and Rhodes were re-incorporated into Greece. Following this, authorities transformed the ground floor of a specific building into a cultural haven. This space became a repository for artistic masterpieces, ancient and medieval handcrafts, a variety of weaponry, distinctive tombstones, exquisite jewelry, and an assortment of books and paintings. These items collectively encapsulate the island and city’s historical evolution and stand as a significant attraction for tourists.

Today, the Palace of the Grand Masters is a rectangular structure encircling a central courtyard, with the primary entrance situated on the south. The complex boasts 11 gates from the medieval Fortifications of Rhodes, and its vaults soar to a height of 12 meters. The ground floor hosts two permanent exhibitions showcasing a plethora of artifacts from the ancient and medieval city. Among the restored palace halls lies a remarkable late Hellenistic mosaic from Kos, installed after last century’s restoration efforts. The ancient section preserves artifacts including 6th-century BCE pottery, everyday items, and glassware from bygone eras.

The upper level welcomes visitors with its grand chambers, such as the reception and waiting rooms, the Italian governor’s hall, along with music and dance salons. Adorned with period decor, tapestries, antique mirrors, and art, it offers a glimpse into history. In contrast, the ground floor’s modest and sometimes stark design starkly differs.

For access, hop on a bus headed to Mandraki port. Those wandering the old town on foot won’t miss the majestic Palace of the Grand Masters. If driving, parking is available for personal vehicles.