Holy Trinity Church (Aghia Triada) and St Catherine
The first turning left, shortly after Efthimiou Street passes under the arch of a building, is Nikiou Street. This leads past the minuscule 14th century church of Aghia Marina (right) into Leonidas Rodoiou Square—dominated to the west by the striking silhouette of the 15th century *church of the Holy Trinity (Aghia Triada) which rises above an area of fragrant bushes of jasmine, bougainvillea and hibiscus. (open—purportedly—Tues–Sun 12.30– 2.30). A constantly varying roof-scape of different forms below a high octagonal drum, punctuated by a broken minaret with a beautifully dentillated ‘collar’, suggests a complex history for the building which in the last phase saw its conversion into a mosque—the ‘Dolaph Mescid’. The building probably began as the catholicon of a monastic complex; it appears to have been extended to south and to west. It incorporates a square room in its north arm whose octagonal, rib-vaulted roof would suggest that it was used as a baptistery. (Eight-sided spaces and cupolas had been most commonly used for baptisteries since earliest times.)
Though humble in proportions, the building was once outstandingly decorated: the large, ornate insets of Latin-cross form, visible to either side of the north doorway, were once filled with ornamental ceramic tiles; the exquisite wooden doors, conserved today in the ground-floor exhibition ‘Rhodes from the 4th century until the Turkish Conquest’ in the Grand Masters’ Palace (see p. 57), came from this church; the west door has carved ornamentation above; the south wall contains fragments of ancient marble; the interior floor is laid with coloured marbles; and the walls decorated with interesting *paintings. The earliest paintings (figuring three bishops) are in the lunette on the east wall of the south arm. The others, of the later 15th century, include: St Mary of Egypt receiving communion (south arm); the Deesis and Communion of the Apostles in the east end; and a series of unusual scenes from Genesis and Exodus in the upper walls and vaults of the west arm—the Expulsion from Eden, Cain and Abel, and the Flood (in which the animals enter a Noah’s ark which has more the appearance of a house than a sea going vessel). These are paintings of an eclectic style, show strong Western influence.
The square around the church has suffered considerable war damage; on the east side a house of some importance with 16th century, corniced windows has nonetheless survived. To its south, only 30m from Aghia Triada is the 14th century church of St Catherine, whose Turkish name ‘Ilk Mihrab’, meaning ‘First Mihrab’, suggests that this was the first place of Christian worship to be turned to Moslem use after the capture of the city in 1522. This is a small, architecturally unprepossessing church consisting of three contiguous barrel-vaulted aisles; but once again it is magnificently decorated with *paintings by 14th and 15th century artists of considerable accomplishment.
Particularly striking are the three figures of Christ with the donor couple above the entrance on the west wall—the husband presenting the church, the wife holding out a purse. The vigorous modelling of the figure of St Peter on the same wall shows the skill of the artist working here: though traditional in style, there is a freshness and lack of rhetoric, and an attention to the expressive use of colour. In the vault are the Twelve Sacred Feasts and scenes of the Life of John the Baptist; in the conch is the Deesis. All of these are late 14th century paintings. The series in the south aisle were painted perhaps a century later: these include the Last Supper; the Hospitality of Abraham; and scenes of the Life of St Catherine.
The area north and east of here was the city’s Jewish Quarter, once the most vibrant and lively corner of the Old Town. The Jewish community today is drastically diminished in size by comparison with what it was before the purges of the last century. The area is now a mixed neighbourhood: its architecture is one of low, simple buildings of popular character, with projecting wooden balconies—very different in feel from the stately streets of the Collachium area. At the point where Gavalas Street meets the walls an area of deep excavation has revealed the remains of a building referred to as the ‘Roman Triconch Building’. Only one of the conches is clearly visible at the north end; the other two are just perceptible to south and east. This was probably a nymphaeum, or else part of a gymnasium and baths complex incorporating a piscina.
Rhodes Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.