Discover The Unknown Rhodes


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A small guidebook like this one cannot, certainly, hope to be exhaustive in describing every last one of this land’s many treasures (the most densely packed in all the Aegean), but it aims to offer suggestions that might help the reader to come to understand and love the beauty of the antique and modern traces of the island of Rhodes, of its villages, churches, monasteries and castles and of the landscape with its seas, forests, springs and mountains.

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Discover The Unknown Rhodes

  1. 1. The G.& A. Mamidakis Foundation, has for two decades now made ongoing efforts to present to the public major cultural events, always directly related to Tourism. To enrich our cultural activities, we conceived the idea of publishing a series of catalogues featuring the untrodden paths of the Greek mainland and islands, starting with Crete. "Discover the unknown Crete", was released last year and warmly embraced by our hotel guests, partners and travelers. Following our successful debut, we have explored, recorded and illustrated the untrodden paths of the island of Rhodes, in an equally inspiring 160 - page catalogue, entitled: Awake your Senses Discover the unknown Rhodes Island of Rhodes - Book two We trust that the publication of these practical catalogues, which also provide information about other unknown destinations - monasteries, archaeological sites - will enable modern - day travellers to experience another side of Rhodes, the authentic, unexplored inland regions of the island, just like the international travellers who discovered and recorded the charms of our land in the 17th and 18th centuries. Gina Mamidakis President G. & A. Mamidakis Foundation
  2. 2. JUDITH LANGE MARIA STEFOSSI awake your senses DISCOVER THE UNKNOWN RHODES Island of Rhodes - Book Two Publication of this book has been made possible thanks to Gina Mamidakis, President of the G.& A. Foundation and bluegr Mamidakis Hotels group, and long-time patron of culture and the arts. The book is dedicated to those ever-curious travellers who wish to learn more of the beautiful island of Rhodes. © copyright text and photographs by Judith Lange - Maria Stefossi © copyright edition by G.& A. Foundation and bluegr Mamidakis hotels group. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the authors.
  3. 3. Rhodes, the island born of the Sun According to the myth, when the gods of Olympus divided the earth among them they forgot about the Sun God Helios who was still on his travels in his chariot of fire. Helios did not take offence but, looking down from high in the sky, he noticed an island that was still submerged by the waters. With the help of Poseidon he caused it to emerge and thus Rhodes appeared, “the island of the roses”. The name of the island is a homage to the nymph Rodon, daughter of Aphrodite, from whose love with Helios seven sons would be born who were to colonize many islands in the Aegean. The myth also tells that the first inhabitants of Rhodes were the Telhines, children of the sea, amphibious beings who were great inventors and craftsmen (creators of the first bronze statues) and experts in magic. Seen from above the island looks like a great green leaf floating on the waters, or perhaps a dolphin leaping the waves. History’s succession of events – from the Neolithic Age to the Mycenaean Era, from the Doric to the Classical and Hellenistic periods, from the dominion of the Knights of St John to the Ottoman occupation – have all left their mark and testimonies on the island soil. A small guidebook like this one cannot, certainly, hope to be exhaustive in describing every last one of this land’s many treasures (the most densely packed in all the Aegean), but it aims to offer suggestions that might help the reader to come to understand and love the beauty of the antique and modern traces of the island of Rhodes, of its villages, churches, monasteries and castles and of the landscape with its seas, forests, springs and mountains. 4 5
  4. 4. MIRAMARE WONDERLAND MIRAMARE WONDERLAND Discover the leisure miracle Miramare Wonderland is a unique waterfront resort, providing an unparallel orchestration of forms, colours and images to capture your Indulge in en-suite luxury imagination. Each villa or cluster of bungalows is It is located on the beach of Ixia, on designed in earth, sea and sky tones Rhodes north-west coast, 20 minutes and is secluded from its neighbours by from the Rhodes airport and 15 magnificent trees, jasmine and minutes from the renowned Medieval bougainvillea. town of Rhodes. Private suites are from 45 m2 to 60 m2, Unlike any other Greek resort, it was with spacious balconies or patios and conceived and built as a small enjoy magnificent views. All of the 175 community of single and two-storey suite-bungalows offer every possible buildings, nestled along its private leisure service. 1.5 km-long seafront. Paths meander through 70,000 m2 of scented gardens, The Waterfront and Seafront suites are a sparkling pool, an artificial lagoon and truly exclusive with their own open covered walkways. terraces. 6 7
  5. 5. MIRAMARE WONDERLAND MIRAMARE WONDERLAND Experience superb facilities Discover a spectacular swimming pool, with superb wooden sun decks, extending right to the sea. At the 1,500 metre-long pebble beach equipped with umbrellas and sun beds, you can enjoy a number of fascinating water-sports. For the activity minded, the hotel offers a tennis court and a well-equipped gym. The 3 km-long paths in the estate are ideal to take a walk within the scented gardens. The Miramare Wonderland highlight is its romantic mini train, replica of a 19th British steam engine, which can take you around the entire complex. Discover exquisite tastes Our young friends can spend an exciting day at our children's club, whilst Offering the finest service coupled with friendliness, Miramare Wonderland our baby sitting service will allow you some extra relaxation time. Our proposes impeccable dining experiences. A rich buffet is served daily at mini-market, jewellery shop, medical care and exchange desk complete the Olyo restaurant or even on your own terrace. During the day, you can our services to the last detail. enjoy Greek and international delicacies at the Gulliver restaurant, refreshments and exotic drinks at the pool bar Kahuna, while in the evening, you can sip a cocktail at Kotinos bar. Ixia, Gr - 85 101 At night, enjoy a romantic gourmet dinner near the lagoon, accompanied Rhodes, Greece T: +30 2 2410 96251 by live entertainment. If you feel like staying in, our room service can F: +30 2 2410 95954 provide you a delicious dinner on your private terrace. In case you feel like going out, drinks are offered at the Gulliver bar until late hours. 8 9
  6. 6. MIRAMARE WONDERLAND MIRAMARE WONDERLAND blue earth water fire wind Enjoy a unique sensory experience in surroundings designed to introduce a feeling of complete luxury, comfort and relaxation. Rejuvenate your mind and body through the elements of nature and get inspired by wonderful tastes, sights, sounds and aromas. Watch the sun glowing like fire on the eternal blue of the ocean, feel the wind caressing your skin, smell the earth's enticing fragrances, taste the refreshing water and surrender to the music of sounds filling the space around you… Enjoy life to its fullest; embrace nature with all your senses and reveal the source of all inspiration, the ancient knowledge of life "Ayurveda" that underpins our hospitality philosophy. Blue… a source of pure ethereal energy that encircles all elements, a symbol of peace and tranquility that brings harmony and broadens your perspectives. Immerse yourself in it and discover the bridge between soul and matter, the resource for holistic thinking, the channel of human communication… 10
  8. 8. C H A P T E R 1 Rhodes In the same period the geographer Strabo affirmed that “harbours, roads and buildings are so superior to the other cities that we know nothing its equal”. By that time Rhodes had already been conquered by the Romans who sacked the city of her treasures, filling the holds of their ships with the most beautiful sculptures – among which the Laocoön, Scylla, Ulysses and Polyphemus and the Farnese Bull – to adorn the palaces of Rome. Legs akimbo, protecting the port of Mandraki, Only a few traces only the celebrated Colossus of Rhodes, one of remain of the Every historical original fifth- the Seven Wonders of the World, met a period has left its century B.C. layout different fate. Work of the sculptor Chares, a tangible signs, of the city except for the of Rhodes pupil of Lysippos, the Colossus was in bronze, Colossus, which fell 32 metres high and represented the Sun God, in the third century U p until the fifth century B.C. the island was Helios. Erected between 302 and 290 B.C., it fell B.C. governed by three city-states, Ialysos, Kamiros during an earthquake in 226 B.C., after less than and Lindos, but by the end of the century, after a century and a half. Hundreds of pieces lay it was devastated by the Athenian Alcibiades, about on the ground for almost nine centuries, the Rhodians realised the necessity of creating until at last they were bought by an oriental a unified state with a new capital. In 408 B.C. merchant who wanted to fuse the bronze. they founded Rhodes, based on Hippodamos After the invasion of the Goths in the of Militos’s design for a city on a grid plan, third century A.D. the city was conquered by which soon became the largest commercial the Byzantines, who in turn were besieged by metropolis on the route between the Orient Persians and Saracens. Later on Venetians, and the West. Conquered by the Romans in the Genoese and Byzantines would contest Rhodes second century B.C., the city lost political until 1309, when the Knights of the Order of St importance, but remained a flourishing cultural John arrived, patrons of the island until the centre where great personages such as Caesar, Ottoman conquest of 1522. Augustus and Tiberius, or intellectuals like Cicero and Lucretius sojourned. In the first century B.C. the historian Pliny wrote that Rhodes possessed “3000 .. The Laocoon group, statues and 100 colossi”, referring to the Hellenistic era magnificent statues that decorated the city, considered the most beautiful in all the Mediterranean. 14
  9. 9. C H A P T E R 1 The medieval city In the Byzantine era the city was already entirely girded by walls, today still perfectly preserved with their numerous towers and nine gates. The Knights of Rhodes enlarged and restored the city walls and affixed the coats of arms of the Seven Tongues (the name given to the knights’ various places of origin) and those of the noble families of the Grand Masters. A wide fosse or moat divides the double walls, in places as much as 12 metres wide in order to resist the Turkish cannon balls. From the walk along the ramparts one enjoys a splendid view of the medieval city which in 1988 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Elephterias (or Liberty) Gate introduces us into the monumental part of the stand the buildings of the Knights’ First city, the so-called Collachium of the Knights. In Infirmary, which now houses the Simi Square we find the ruins of a great Temple Archaeological Library, and those of the of Aphrodite in the Doric style of the third Museum of Decorative Arts which preserves Doric Temple of century B.C. and, facing it, an ancient palace interesting objects from the craft traditions of Aphrodite from the which houses the Art Gallery in which there can the Dodecanese. The fountain in the centre of third century B.C. be seen works by Greek artists from the the square is composed of an antique nineteenth century to the present day. In a baptismal font and a column taken from the second square, the platia Argyrokastrou, there early-Christian church of St Irene. 16
  10. 10. C H A P T E R 1 The monumental stairway of the New Hospital of the Knights which houses the Archaeological Museum A little further on, in the square by the Museum we find ourselves facing one of the city’s most beautiful buildings, the New Hospital of the Knights, erected at the end of the fifteenth century. In the courtyard a stone lion from the Hellenistic period holds the head of a dead bull between his claws. In the large rooms on the upper floor the Archaeological Museum has been laid out, and is rich in works of art: ceramics, funerary stele, grave goods and sculptures (amongst which the crouching Aphrodite, a head of the Sun God Helios, the torso of a Kouros and a nymph with her arms raised aloft) – testimonies to the extraordinary Late Hellenistic statue, quality of Rhodian art which had its origins in known as the “Marine Venus” the sculptural tradition of the school of Lysippos. 18 19
  11. 11. ARCHAELOGICAL MUSEUM OF RHODES ARCHAELOGICAL MUSEUM OF RHODES 5 6 1 2 1. Funerary stele from the first century B.C. 2. Female head from the early Hellenistic period 3. Statue of a nymph from the first century B.C. 4. Aphrodite or Nymph, late Hellenistic period 3 4 7 5. Kouros from Kamiros, sixth century B.C. 6. Funerary monument, fifth century B.C. 7. Aphrodite, known as the “Crouching Aphrodite”, late Hellenistic period 20 21
  12. 12. C H A P T E R 1 Our visit to the monumental part of the city continues along the Street of the Knights, its severe medieval architecture still intact. The perfectly-aligned buildings served as inns for the pilgrims and were separated by chapels for prayer and by several patrician palaces bearing the arms of the Knights’ nations of origin. At the top of the street there stands, in all its grandeur, the fourteenth-century Palace of the Grand Masters, with its great arched courtyard where Roman-era statues have been arranged. The Grand Masters’ residence lay on the upper floor, and the palace is essentially a series of great rooms, corridors and chapels, decorated with a profusion of marbles and mosaics, columns and statues. On show in one of the rooms is the celebrated sculptural group of Laocoön and his children being crushed by the sea-snakes: this is a plaster copy because the first-century B.C. original, work of the Rhodian artists Hagesandros, Athanodoros and Polydoros, is today to be found in the Vatican Museums in Rome. 22 23
  13. 13. C H A P T E R 1 24 25
  14. 14. C H A P T E R 1 converted into a small museum) and of St George, which the Ottomans transformed into a mosque, while the adjoining monastery became a medresse – a koranic school. Ayii Apostoloi The clock tower Leaving the Palace of the Grand Masters and walking towards the Clock Tower (clearly visible at the highest point of the city because during Turkish rule it marked the hour at which the Greek inhabitants had to leave the city The Mosque of walls) we have the old town at our feet, and Suleiman nothing could be lovelier than losing oneself among the alleyways of the Christian, Turkish and Jewish quarters. Churches, mosques, crosses and minarets alternate, at times blurring into one, and always counterbalancing one another – now that the battles for dominion In the alleyways and little squares over the city are long-passed. At the time of the around Sokratous Street one breathes in full Ottoman occupation many churches were the Ottoman spirit, visiting the Mosque of transformed into mosques simply by removing Sultan Moustafa with its truncated minaret and A Turkish fountain the sacred objects and replacing them with the flanked by the Yeni hamam, the Turkish baths. Islamic mihrab, minbar and qibla, and naturally Not much further on we find the mosque of adding a minaret. Many churches have been Retjep Pasha with a beautiful fountain, while in re-consecrated without demolishing the the distance one can make out the gracious The Ibrahim Pasha minarets, mute testimonies to a history that white minaret of the Ibrahim Pasha mosque, Mosque, the oldest in the city lasted almost four centuries. built in 1531 immediately after the conquest. Crowning a dominant position is the finely chiselled minaret of the Mosque of Suleiman with its red domes, whilst in front of it we find the Ottoman Library with an interesting collection of objects and books from the Ayia Kiriaki Turkish period. A little further on there stand the churches of the Holy Apostles (now 26 27
  15. 15. C H A P T E R 1 Ayia Triada from the fifteenth The entrance to the century, with the Mosque of Sultan truncated Moustafa and a minaret of the little fountain ex-mosque Penetrating into the heart of the Narrow houses, fountains, miniscule courtyards Turkish quarter, churches and mosques really paved with kochlakes (the river-polished do begin to blur: the Demirli Camii was once a pebbles), small shrines and scattered ruins from Byzantine place of worship, the church of Ayios Hellenistic and Byzantine eras all form an Spiridon is still topped by a minaret, the chapels intricate urban weave. Many lanes are of Ayios Fanourios and Ayia Triada stand beside surmounted by stone archways in the style of Hellenistic and the ruins of a Turkish palace and the church of old Jerusalem, and this was perhaps what the Byzantine-era ruins in the Ayia Kiriaki also still flaunts its minaret which Knights intended, coming as they did from centre of the city once belonged to the Buruzan Camii. Palestine. The Retjep Pasha Mosque, constructed with material salvaged from medieval buildings 28 29
  16. 16. C H A P T E R 1 The first Jews arrived on Rhodes in the second century B.C. and the comunity slowly grew. In the twelfth century many Jewish intellectuals, like the Spaniard Benjamin de Tudela and the Italian Meshulam da Volterra, visited Rhodes and admired the beauty of the houses, Few traces remain The Jewish quarter extends into the the commercial activities of the Jewish quarter and, in particular, the where there once eastern part of the city, but has conserved little lived a large or nothing of the memory of the Jews who lived production of precious Sephardic here for more than a thousand years. Once cloth. After centuries of community passed the ruins of the gothic church of Ste peaceful cohabitation with Marie de la Victoire one reaches the platia the Greeks and even the Evreon Martirion (Square of the Jewish Martyrs) Ottomans, the community with a monument in the centre of the square in collapsed under the memory of the deportation of the Jews to the German occupation: Nazi concentration camps in 1944. The only arrested, tortured and synagogue to have survived is the recently deprived of their property, restored Kahal Kadosh Shalom, which houses a the Jews were deported to A black pillar recalls museum dedicated to the history of the Jews of Auschwitz and only a the deportation of the Jews in 1944 Rhodes. handful survived. 34 35
  17. 17. C H A P T E R 1 Throughout the long sweep of her often tormented history – from her occupation and sacking by the Romans to the arrival of the Knights from Palestine, from the Ottoman dominion to the privations suffered during the second world war – the city of Rhodes has managed, despite everything, to conserve her The character of the cosmopolitan vocation and her character of city emerges in the generosity. The streets and palaces, the places smallest details of worship, the houses and every last corner of the city offer us a living proof that here the peaceful cohabitation of men of different cultures and origins was possible. Today one still notes the traces of this amalgam, both its grandiose and monumental vestiges and the small, modest details that From Medieval to make up a city Neoclassical: every of particular architectural style is represented in charm located Rhodes on the farthest edge of Europe, looking out towards the Orient. 36
  18. 18. C H A P T E R 1 The harbour and the modern town From the Nea Agora, the circular New Market with an oriental-style pavilion, one proceeds along Eleftherias Avenue as far as the city’s northernmost point. During the Italian occupation, which lasted from 1912 to 1943, various buildings – rather eclectic in aspect – were constructed along this road which formed the administrative centre of the city. Some are in the typical rationalist style of the Fascist The monumental regime, like the Tribunal with its heavy- fifteenth-century Fort Ayios Nikolaos looms columned façade or the square ex- over the harbour headquarters of the Air Force (nowadays the Institute of Professional Training) which stirs Italian architecture Tall columns surmounted by bronze deer and ugly memories because during the Nazi of the 1930’s characterises the the imposing St Nicolas Fort mark the entrance occupation it was here that Greek dissidents long, wide avenue to the ancient Mandraki Harbour where, and Jews were held before being deported to that leads from the Nea Agora to according to tradition, the Colossus of Rhodes the concentration camps. Kolumburno point was once erected, his giant feet of bronze Some of the other buildings that face onto the placed on either side of the harbour entrance. port are of a nobler and more fanciful aspect: Old mills on the jetty The bronze stag and doe that are the symbols of Rhodes 38 39
  19. 19. C H A P T E R 1 the large Prefecture complex vaguely recalls The casino (ex-Hotel des Roses) and Venice’s Doge’s Palace with its tracery, arches Government House and rose-windows, while the church of are the most Evanghelismos was built in a neo-gothic style sumptuous of the buildings in a homage to the design of the ancient church created by the of St John from the time of the Knights. More Italian architects sober in appearance are the ex-Theatre and the The neo-gothic circular Fish Market, now being restored and it church of Evanghelismos too the work of Italian architects. In contrast, in is covered with the former Hotel des Roses (today a much- frescoes by the great painter frequented casino) the predominant style is Fotis Kontoglou Moorish-colonial. 40 41
  20. 20. C H A P T E R 1 Arriving as far as Kolumburno point, which sticks out into the sea like the prow of a ship, one can visit the pavilion containing the town Acquarium – the former Italian Hydrobiological Institute – which exhibits a series of tanks with the marine fauna of the Aegean. Still in the harbour area, we would recommend a visit to the Mosque of Murad Reis with its beautiful onion-domed minaret standing within a Moslem cemetery. Decorated headstones emerge beneath the trees, while dotted around the gardens are larger tombs wherein there lie illustrious figures: pashas, viziers and dignitaries of court, but also the Turkish poet Mehmed Efendi. The Aquarium is a perfect example of Italian rationalist architecture The modern city has nonchalantly absorbed diverse styles and cultures which blend with The calm that now reigns in the gardens and complement one another, without of the Mosque of clashing. Whilst the buildings of the old town Murad Reis makes it easy to forget the are packed as closely as a nut in its shell, the drammatic conflicts city beyond the walls, in the area around the of the past harbour, offers wide spaces with great tree- lined avenues and buildings so generously spaced out as to almost seem monuments. Human society changes, and with it the needs and demands of the living. 42 43
  21. 21. C H A P T E R 1 The Acropolis and Rodini Park The Acropolis (also known as Mount On Monte Smith (or Mt Ayios Stephanos) there Smith) looks down stands the ancient acropolis of Rhodes which over the city of conserves a very few isolated monuments like Rhodes the Temple of Pythian Apollo, of which there remain a few pillars in the Doric style. More modest are the remains of a sanctuary dedicated to Athene Polias and Zeus Polieus. The odeon was a small theatre for musical recitals and competitions The immense structure of the third-century B.C. Stadium is, on the other hand, easily recognisable; 201 metres long, it still has several rows of its tiered seating. The little Theatre (odeon) between the Temple of Apollo and the Stadium was restored by Italian archaeologists who reconstructed the cavea. In the area around this tombs dating The stadion was back to the Hellenistic era have been found invented by the Greeks to host along with the foundations of a gymnasium athletic and of a nymphaeum. competitions which Rodini Park, to the south of the modern city, is a were also religious and educational in green oasis with woods, ponds, streams and a nature wildlife reserve. In the archaeological area there are numerous tombs hewn from the rock, including the so-called Tomb of the Ptolemies, the façade of which conserves a series of blank pillars and of niches. The Doric columns of the Temple of Pythian Apollo 44 45
  22. 22. Following the victory in the Italian-Turkish war of 1911-1912, In 1935 Mario Lago, considered too easy-going and R H O D E S R H O D E S the Treaty of Lausanne assigned the islands of the Dodecanese too much a friend of the Jews, was replaced with a figure to Italy, and Rhodes became the seat of the newly imposed faithfully committed to Mussolini’s regime, Cesare de Vecchi. On government. The Italian occupation of the Fascist period can be Rhodes the conflict with the local population intensified as they divided into two phases: the first from 1923 to 1936 when the were forced to frequent exclusively Italian schools in order to governor was Mario Lago, a peaceable and cultured man who subdue Greek culture and language. The new governor decided summoned leading archaeologists and architects to the island to speed up the construction of rural colonies like Ayios Pavlos O N O N to begin work on the excavations at Kamiros and to restore the and Kolimbia, where Italian workmen and agricultural labourers citadel of Rhodes. were to be settled. In 1942, during the first air-raids by the British, Cesare de Vecchi abandoned the island. I T A L I A N S I T A L I A N S After the signing of the armistice on 8th September 1943, the Italians found themselves fighting against the German troops. In 1944 the Nazis deported 5000 of the island’s inhabitants to the concentration camps. On German surrender the island became a British mandate and in 1947 Rhodes was annexed to Greece. At the same time he set about transforming the harbour area, having new buildings designed, at times rather too exuberant in T H E T H E their architecture but nevertheless creating an atmospheric setting. Among the architects employed we find Pietro Lombardi, the creator of much-celebrated buildings back home in Italy, who designed the beautiful Thermai Kallithea and curated the Rhodes Pavilion at the International Exhibitions of Paris and Cologne. In 1925 the architect Florestano di Fausto also arrived, a lover of the Moorish style and to whom we owe, among other works, the Nea Agora, the Prefecture and the Hotel des Roses. 46 47
  23. 23. The Knights resided in the so-called Collachium within the walls around the Palace of the Grand Master. They erected numerous fortifications, churches and (Latin rite) monasteries and controlled the lucrative commercial maritime traffic between Orient and the West. Thanks to donations, excellent commercial relationships and agricultural activity, During the eleventh century in Jerusalem a group of rich the Knights’ financial wealth was immense. In the summer of 1480 they repelled the first siege by merchants from Amalfi built an inn for pilgrims which was run the Ottomans who arrived on the island with 170 by Benedictine monks. Later the monks created an autonomous ships and 100,000 men. It took the Ottomans 32 order dedicated to the care of the sick, but also to the defence of years of battle before they managed to tear the R H O D E S R H O D E S the Holy Land, called the island from the Knights who finally surrendered to Hospitallers of the Order of St John Suleiman the Magnificent in 1522. On the 1st January of Jerusalem. The order revealed its 1523 the Knights abandoned the island together military character during the with 4000 inhabitants of Rhodes, repairing to Malta. crusades (milites Christi) and There they recreated the confraternity under the thenceforth its members would be name of the Sovereign Military Order of St John of called Knights. Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta. O F O F Following the Moslem conquest of Palestine the Knights were expelled and for a brief time found K N I G H T S K N I G H T S hospitality on Cyprus. In 1306 they were recruited by the Genovese admiral Vignolo de Vignoli to conquer Rhodes, at the time under Byzantine dominion. In 1309 the Knights succeeded in occupying Rhodes and subsequently all the T H E T H E islands of the Dodecanese, becoming absolute masters for more than two centuries with the blessing of the Roman pontificate. At the head of the Knights of Rhodes was the Grand Master who commanded the representatives of the seven European tongues (nations): England, France, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Italy and Provence. 48 49
  25. 25. C H A P T E R 2 As we leave the city of Rhodes and its nearby tourist-crowded beaches behind us, the island reveals a very different aspect; it becomes more silent, more shadowy and seems almost to want to hide its treasures. The entire sweep of Rhodian history is already compressed into this first strip of the island: from the ancient cities like Kamiros to the castles of the Knights, from the Ottoman villages to the monumental constructions of the Italians at the beginning of the last century, one travels into a landscape both changing and eternal like the Valley of the Butterflies. The bell tower of the church of the Knights at Filerimos 52 53
  26. 26. C H A P T E R 2 Another story that has been handed Ialysos-Filerimos down to us is that of the astute Iphicles, twin Once one climbed on foot or on mule-back up brother of Hercules, who succeeded in chasing off the Phoenicians who were entrenched on to the summit of Mt Filerimos, a difficult climb the acropolis of Ialysos. An oracle had The “miracle” of the for the peasants and even more so for the fish is a legend: the predicted that the Phoenicians would flee enemy troops who over the centuries Phoenicians never should white crows be seen in flight and should did occupy Ialysos attempted to conquer Ialysos, the city-state fish swim in wine. Iphicles won with a trick: he that once stood at the summit of the hill. Its painted a flock of crows with white lime and mythical founder was Ialysos, grandson of the placed fish in the barrels of wine. Worried by Sun God Helios and the nymph Rodon, but in such “magic” the Phoenicians surrendered. reality the first settlement dates back to the In the fifth century B.C. Ialysos became Mycenaean period, halfway through the second famous as the birthplace of the poet Timocreon millennium B.C., as is testified by the remains and the athlete-prince Diagoras of the clan of found in the numerous necropoli that surround the Eratides (descendants of Hercules), who as Mt Filerimos. a boxer was the winner of many Olympic and Many legends grew up around the city, Pan-Hellenic games. To Diagoras the great poet like that of Phorbas, son of Lapithes, who Pindar dedicated one of his most beautiful succeeding in killing all the poisonous snakes odes in which he that infested the island and to whom, by way of recalls the thanks, a sanctuary was dedicated. In ancient mythical creation times Rhodes was lamented to be the “island of of Rhodes, “With Diagoras of Rhodes the serpents”, but now they are rarely to be Diagoras I came, was one of the most seen (thanks, perhaps, to Phorbas) and one is famous athletes of to sing of the Greek world: a more likely to encounter the big dragon-like Aphrodite’s sea- statue of him was but innocuous lizards that the locals call savres. even erected at child, Rodon, Olympia bride of the sun” (Pindar, Ode VII, verse 13-14). The chronicles recount that this ode was Temple of Athene inscribed in gold Polias, erected in the letters on the Hellenistic era temple of Athene in Lindos. 54 55
  27. 27. C H A P T E R 2 In the tenth century the Byzantines founded a monastery here, but in 1306 the acropolis was conquered by the Knights of the Order of St John and in 1522, during the Ottoman siege of Rhodes, it was here that Suleiman the Magnificent established his residence. Three millennia of history lie layered one atop another at Ialysos: from the Mycenaean necropoli to the great Doric fountain ornate with lions’ heads, from the imposing remains of a third- or second-century B.C. temple lower down one can still make out the figures dedicated to Athene Polias to the gothic The imposing complex with their mantles folded in a gesture of of the Knights’ church Basilica of the Knights built over a monastery protection towards the knights-in-arms. and monastery of the Byzantine era, then amplified with Of the Byzantine fortification that cloisters and courtyards. The entire complex enclosed the entire summit of Mt Filerimos has been restored with great care and has The frescoes of Ayios there remain a few traces of the walls and the Georgios Chostos with become one of the most visited places on towers, from which one has a magnificent view saints and knights- the island. in-arms of the coast. In front of the basilica, on the slope of the hill and almost invisible, the little Byzantine church of Ayios Georgios Chostos is to be found. Even if the frescos have rather faded, 56 57
  28. 28. C H A P T E R 2 The temple of Apollo at Theologos From Theologos one can continue and Ayios Sillas towards the hills as far as the sanctuary of Ayios Sillas in the middle of a great park with tall trees, springs and vast enclosed lawns. It is lovely, and very relaxing, to wander along the avenues accompanied by the subtle noise of the waters as far as the sanctuary’s little white church. Every year in summertime the park houses donkey- and horse-races, with traditional dances and much drinking. There is a masterly description of this festival in Reflections on a Marine Venus by the English writer Lawrence Durrell who lived on Rhodes for a long time after the war. At the edge of the village of Theologos we The sanctuary of Ayios Sillas find the ancient settlement of Tholos with the is simple and remains of a sanctuary from the fifth or fourth unpretentious, century B.C. dedicated to Apollo Erethimios, its great attraction protector of agricultural life and venerated by being the vast the entire population living in the fertile lands park surrounding here. Set into the bare terrain one can still see the massive stones of the temenos and the bolders that formed the columns of the Temple which must have had an imposing appearance. A little way off, alongside the modest ruins of the ancient Apollo Erethimios was settlement, one recognises the cavea of a pre-Hellenistic a small theatre, still perfect in its semicircular divinity, protector of those who worked the structure and with traces of the stage formed of land great river pebbles. The place is not particularly pleasant, lying between the traffic of the coastal road and the modern houses, but it is worth visiting the Temple to remember that here nature and the works of man once showed themselves in all their vigorous beauty. 58 59
  29. 29. C H A P T E R 2 At the entrance to the park a Museum of Natural History has been laid out, displaying a myriad of butterflies of all species stuck- through with pins, and some stuffed animals – examples of the local fauna such as hares, foxes, falcons, tortoises and salamanders. The Valley of the Petaloudes and Moni Kalopetra L ike miniscule divinities the butterflies of Rhodes feed on a perfumed nectar, a sweet At the top of the valley there stands the vanilla-flavoured resin that drips from the bark little church of Moni Kalopetra, a monastery of a tree which grows uniquely here and is founded in 1784: white with red-paint edging, similar to the plane-tree. For centuries and with a typical Rhodian floor of kochlakes, thousands of butterflies have lived in this the river-polished pebbles, the church is simple Valley of the Petaloudes without ever having and intimate, its ceiling painted sky-blue with felt the desire to move on elsewhere, perhaps the odd splash of gold and a wooden inebriated by the resin which serves to nourish iconostasis. them, but is also used to make incense. Externally, with wings closed, the butterflies appear modest with their brown and cream colours, but when they take flight they are much to be admired for their brilliant orange- red which illuminates the dense vegetation. The butterfly is the poetic essence of beauty, harmoniously symmetrical, evanescent and graceful, and it would seem impossible that it should have enemies, yet it does run risks: it is the much-enjoyed prey of the red ants who kill it with a single bite. 60 61
  30. 30. C H A P T E R 2 Eleoussa Continuing along the road which from Moni A shady forest of pines covers the Kalopetra penetrates into the thick forest of slopes of Mt Profitis pines that characterises the landscape of the Ilias northern part of the island, we enter the vast territory of Mt Profitis Ilias. The first village we meet is Psinthos which possesses two beautiful frescoed churches, Ayia Trias and Panaghia Parmeniotissa. However the village is also famous because it is here that the battle took place in which, in 1912, the Italians definitively defeated the Turks, a victory which led to the Italian occupation of the island. The signs of the Italian presence become tangible when one arrives at Eleoussa, a little village on the side of the mountain. In 1943 Eleoussa (which was then christened Campochiaro) became the summer residence of the Italian governor who ordered that the inhabitants replant the forests of the area. 62 63
  31. 31. C H A P T E R 2 The little town was graced with a large, rectangular, tree-lined square, flanked with buildings in a very particular style which was called “colonial” but that consists, rather, of a Mediterranean mishmash (not unattractive, in fact rather fascinating) with medieval, renaissance and vaguely oriental references and with a touch of rationalist architecture thrown in. The fanciful complex lies abandoned and is much degraded, with the long portico now breached, fountains invaded by the weeds, balconies rusting, windows and doors removed, glass broken and inside a field of rubble formed of decorated tiles, falling curtains and blackened fireplaces. One can still make out the bright colours of the buildings’ plaster (Pompeii-red, pea-green and lemon- yellow) and it is a shame that they have not been restored, at least in part, even if one can understand that the period of the Italian occupation does not hold good memories. The only restoration work done regards an Rare species of fish immense circular pool at the edge of the swim in the circular village, a veritable and lovely monument to pool water. 64 65
  32. 32. C H A P T E R 2 Ayios Nikolaos Foundoukli on Mt Profitis Ilias The mountain of Profitis Ilias is covered with a compact, dark-green mantle of conifers, where there alternate pointed limestone rocks and a soft undergrowth which in springtime is filled with flowers of every imaginable species, some rare, such as little orchids and peonies. Deep in the forest we find the church of Ayios Nikolaos Foundoukli, one of the island’s most beautiful. Foundoukli – which windows that filter a golden light onto the The frescos which means “hazelnut” – was once part of a cover the church monastery complex now in ruins and was altar. The precious frescos represent the life of from top to bottom erected by a high-ranking Byzantine official at Christ from birth to the resurrection, the date back to the fourteenth or the time of the Paleologhi dynasty, at some Apostles, almost cancelled out by time, the fifteenth century time in the fourteenth or fifteenth century, in founder with his consort who hold up the and have more than model of the church and the Saints of the once been restored memory of his three children dead of the plague. In one of the apses one can glimpse the Orthodox church, among whom we see the three little ones in a paradise of vines and birds, first hermit in history, St Onuphrius, entirely being welcomed by the Christ Child. covered by his long grey beard. The church was constructed with apses on each of its four sides and with a central dome with numerous niches and little alabaster A part of the outer walls of Foundoukli was decorated with ceramic plates and the tympanum above the entrance was also frescoed 66 67
  33. 33. C H A P T E R 2 Small places of devotion Continuing on our wanders amid the fields we arrive at Even the most modest A beautiful panoramic road runs all the way the stone ruins, of icons are full of charm around Mt Profitis Ilias, on the southern face of submerged by which there lies the small agricultural village of giant prickly pears, Apollona, with an interesting of the abandoned Folklore Museum, and on the village of Nani. On northern face the village of a small mound, Salakos, with its lovely some way before piazza and the kafenion in the the houses, a shade of the trees. Travelling chapel has been amid vineyards and orchards erected dedicated to Taxiarchis Michail which one reaches the village of contains a fresco of the patron saint. Below the Kapi, not far from Salakos, iconostasis there hangs a reproduction of a midway to which we come famous icon of the Archangel Michael across the little church of Ayios Georgios with belonging to the great Taxiarchis Panormitis remains of folk-art frescos among which there monastery on the island of Simi, in Isolated as they are, Ayios Georgios is one stands out that of the patron saint, upright on the little churches of the saints most demonstration of the fact that the little church his white horse and looking at us out of dark, are still regularly widely venerated in of Nani was subordinate to that monastic whitewashed Greece long-lashed eyes. complex. Turning towards Salakos and taking the road to the coast, the eye is drawn to a curious “eco- monster” construction: the unfinished skeleton of a hotel complex in a Spanish Alhambra style. Delusions of grandeur truncated at birth. 68 69
  34. 34. C H A P T E R 2 The city-state of Kamiros ivy, animals and various floral patterns. The local work in gold and ivory also became famous throughout Greece. In the third century B.C. the city was gravely damaged by a series of powerful seismic tremors that caused many buildings and monuments to collapse. Kamiros was rebuilt according to the dictates of Hellenistic town-planning, but was then newly devastated by a terrible earthquake in 139 B.C.. The inhabitants abandoned the city and it has never since been repopulated. Rediscovered in the mid eighteenth century, Kamiros was The ancient settlement brought back up to the light by the Italian of Kamiros archaeologists between 1928 and 1943. The myth of Kamiros is linked to the first inhabitants of the island, the amphibious Telhines, children of the sea and great inventors. The story tells that one of them, the legendary Mylas, constructed, at Kamiros, the first millstone, thus teaching men how to produce flour and to bake bread. The foundation of the city is attributed to the Minoan Althemenes, son of Creteos, king of Crete, and nephew of the powerful The fountain Minos, but in reality the first traces of a square settlement date back to the Mycenaean period, around the sixteenth or fifteenth centuries B.C.. Towards the year 1000 The vast archaeological area that we B.C. the Dorians arrived, and created at visit today is a typical example of a Hellenistic- Kamiros the island’s third city-state, after era city, planned respecting the natural lie of Site of votive Lindos and Ialysos. In the Archaic and Classical the terrain with three terraces and a precise offerings eras the city became famous for its skilled subdivision of public, sacred and private craftsmanship and especially for the precious spaces. vases of Fikellura, decorated with palmettes, 70 71
  35. 35. C H A P T E R 2 Temple of Pythian On the lower level the vast agora High up on the acropolis the immense Archaic cistern and Apollo, third to the fews remains second century stretches out and from here we access the pit of a sixth-century B.C. cistern awaits us; from of the temple of B.C. Temple of Pythian Apollo in the Doric style with, here a system of gullies carried water towards Athene Polias beside the podium, a pit into which the the city. Further on we find a 200 metre-long offerings to the god were thrown. A second stoa with two rows of Doric columns once sacred space, embellished with six columns that separated by water spouts that supplied the bordered a fountain, was dedicated to the guest chambers. Beyond the stoa there arose sacred ceremonies for the gods and the heroes the great temple of Athene Polias, protectress of Kamiros. In the third sanctuary, it too on the of Kamiros, which crumbled miserably during lower terrace, the sacrifices to the Sun God the earthquake of 139 B.C.: now only the Helios took place. foundations can be seen and we have to read the ancient chronicles in order to get any idea of the magnificence of this sanctuary. The labyrinth of private houses A labyrinth of narrow streets and houses built one close up against another characterises the compact tangle of the urban weave. The houses are very small and some Esedra and pillar might marvel at how man once adapted with inscription near the altar to himself to life in such mean rooms: we should the gods remember that life was lived in the open air, among friendly gossip and arguments, business negotiations and political meetings. 72 73
  36. 36. C H A P T E R 2 Thermai Kallithea The architect Lombardi was for many years a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome and had a great A grand fountain marks love of ‘design’. The the entrance to theatricality of the plans Kallithea spa, once for Kallithea is famous for its significant if we bear in health-giving waters mind that Lombardi was Enormous domes, oriental-style also famous as the set arches, great circular fountains, porticos with designer for historical “colossals” like Teodora columns over which hibiscus and and Quo Vadis?. bougainvillaea climb, wide rooms with mirrors and stuccos, an atrium that seems stolen from one of the villas of ancient Rome, terraces that look over the cliffs and the serpentine pathways through Our journey continues on the other side of the the gardens: it all creates an coast, starting out from Rhodes towards ambience of extreme luxury, exotic Kolimbia. On the promontory of Cape Voda, in taste, and it is hard not to be won where, dotted with thousands of coloured over by its charms. beach umbrellas, the endless beach of Faliraki Recently the complex has begins, in 1928 the Italian architect Pietro been subjected to a very detailed Lombardi and the governor Mario Lago restoration, painted a blinding white conceived the grandiose watering-place of (the original colours varied from Kallithea, which has nothing to envy the pink to sky blue and turquoise), and seaside resorts of Capri or the Venice Lido. it was reopened to the public in the summer of 2007. A small beach and a café created below the overhanging rocks complete the redecorated spa. The health-giving waters of Kallithea were already renowned by the ancients, even at the time of Hippocrates, and attracted visitors from east and west (among them the Roman Emperor Augustus in person) who came here to cure rheumatism, arthritis and kidney complaints. 74 75
  37. 37. C H A P T E R 2 entrance, a crowd of the damned who suffer the torments of hell. There are also some votive graffiti representing sailing boats and a trireme (a galley with three banks of oars). Panaghia Katholiki at Afantou Our itinerary continues along the road that runs parallel to sandy beaches and stretches of cliff as far as the village of Afantou. The name Afantou means “invisible” and in fact it is located far from the coast: in Medieval times the village lay beside the sea, but the Climbing up behind Afantou we arrive inhabitants were forced to rebuild their homes at the monastery of Panaghia Paramithias among the hills in order to escape the continual with modern paintings in a neo-Byzantine style incursions by pirates. and a lovely icon of the Virgin wrapped in an Of the original Afantou there remains embroidered shawl. The monastery is worth a only the church of Panaghia Katholiki, visit because it is a place of absolute quiet, erected in the twelfth century and heartily recommended to anyone who would incorporating elements of a precedent early- like to abandon, for a moment, the confusion of Christian basilica. The interior boasts a rare and the beaches and relax in a flower-filled garden. very beautiful iconostasis in stone with traces of paint. The whole of the church is fresco-covered and alongside the more commonplace Byzantine iconology it exhibits some unusual scenes: the Virgin among the angels with the biblical patriarch Isaac who holds up the soul of a human being, St Peter who welcomes Panaghia Katholiki the good thief The gardens of the conserves fragments of monasteries are always the original early- of Golgotha open to visitors in need Christian church and, of a rest immediately next to the 76 77