Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes
History buffs will feel like they’ve hit the archaeological jackpot when they explore the medieval Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. It’s one of the most famous historical landmarks in Rhodes and you’ll find it over on the northwest edge of the Old Town. Its gothic grandeur is evident from the moment you lay your eyes on its striking columns and medieval walls. Inside, you’re free to roam around its hidden chambers, discover unique artworks and explore historical exhibits featuring interesting artefacts, and hear stories of the knights that built the palace.
History of the Palace
The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes was built in the 7th century. Before it became the Knights Hospitaller, it was a Byzantine fortress. In 1309, when the Knights of St. John ruled the island, the fortress was turned into an administrative centre. Their Grand Master resided within the palace at the time. The only problem was that Rhodes was a common target for pirates, which meant that the Knights were always on the defence. In 1522, a six-month siege finally led the Knights to retreat to Sicily.
In their absence, the Palace of the Grand Master became a wonderful monument of Gothic architecture. In 1481, an earthquake damaged the building but thankfully, it was quickly repaired. When the Ottoman Empire ruled in 1522, they took over the palace and made it their command centre. An explosion that struck in 1856 caused a lot of damage to the first floor and many of the rooms were completely destroyed.
Vittorio Mesturino, an Italian architect, worked hard to restore the interior of the palace between 1937 and 1940. After its rebirth, Victor Emmanuel III, otherwise known as the King of Italy, visited the palace often and used it as a glamorous holiday home. Nowadays, the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes is a museum and popular landmark in Rhodes for tourists to visit and appreciate its rich history.
Exploring the Palace of the Grand Master
You really can’t come all the way to Rhodes and not visit the palace. There’s so much to see inside its medieval walls and you’ll begin your tour by entering through an extravagant arched doorway. You’ll emerge into a large courtyard with plenty of Greek and Roman statues to marvel at. Stone stairways and alabaster windows are common features throughout the palace.
Although there are 150 rooms overall, only a select few are open to the public. As you explore the grounds and interiors, you’ll come across stunning mosaics, hand-woven textiles dating back to the medieval ages and lots of delicate objects such as oriental vases. Inside the Chamber of Colonnades, you’ll walk beneath the wooden ceiling while over in the Chamber of the Nine Muses, you’ll see original furniture from the time of the knights.
If you look down, you’ll notice that most floors are decorated with impressive and colourful mosaics. Some famous faces within the mosaics include Medusa and Polyhymnia from Kos. You’ll have around 24 rooms to explore and most of them will have some sort of exhibition for you to view. Keep a look out for 17th century books, jewels, and weapons, which offer a unique insight into the history of Rhodes.
Some other noteworthy rooms you don’t want to miss include the Hall of the Council and the famous Knights’ dining hall. It’s easy to imagine where the knights gathered for their evening meals back in the time of their rule. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get a sneak peek inside the private chambers of the Grand Master, which is one of the best parts of the tour.
Getting to the Palace
If you can’t wait to visit the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, you’ll need to catch a bus or taxi to Rhodes Town. If you’re staying nearby, you can probably just walk to the landmark. You’ll find it standing proudly at the highest point of the medieval city, right at the end of the Street of the Knights. There’s plenty to see along the way and you’ll be able to soak up a lot more of Rhodes’ impressive history if you choose to walk. When you arrive, you’ll see the grand towers and huge walls of the palace. You can take a private tour of the palace if you like. Or, you can choose to go it alone and explore the enchanting medieval palace at your own pace.