Rhodes Island, Greece.
851 00-09 Rhodes : area 1,401sq. km; perimeter 220km; resident population 115,334; max. altitude 1,216m. Port Authority: 22410 22220, 28888, 28666. Travel and information: www.travel-Rhodes .com
Rhodes Travel Guide
West of the main junction at Kalathos (42km from Rhodes ) just north of Lindos, the road climbs for 2km to Pilonas; at the summit of the rise is the 15th century church of Aghios Giorgios whose north interior wall has paintings in deteriorating condition. A right turn off the main road is signed to the Mycenaean cemetery of Aspropilia which was excavated between 1993–96. This consists of six tombs, two with side-chambers cut into the soft sandstone rock, dating from the late Mycenaean period—14th-12th centuries bc. Each is entered by a dromos or entrance gallery on the same, almost due-south, axis. Finds made here include pottery—much of it imported from the Argolid in the Peloponnese—and glass paste beads of Egyptian manufacture. The village of Lardos (46.5km), which has given its name to the mottled grey marble quarried in the area, is an important junction at the crossing of a seasonal river and is the main market-town of a large hinterland to the north. A fortress which substantially predates the Knights’ presence on Rhodes guards it from the hills to the southwest. It was this fortress and its estates in the valley below that the Genoese adventurer, Vignolo de’ Vignoli, who already had a foothold on the island, was to receive for his personal use as part of his reward for his military support in helping the Knights take Rhodes from the Byzantine Empire in 1306–9. The coastal road south of the village passes between the shore and low cliffs which are visibly shaped and perforated by the marble quarries both of Antiquity and of more recent times. These are the last limestone outcrops encountered as the road heads south; beyond, the land scape changes, sweeping down to the sea in folds of softer, formless sandstone. At 55km (13km from the Kalathos junction), a turning inland leads 3.5km to Asklipieio, similarly guarded by a conspicuous fortress of the Hospitaller period. The village’s treasure is the 11th century church of the Dormition, or ‘Koimisis tis Theotokou’, in the central square, whose magnificent -painted interior is comparable with the church of the Panaghia in Lindos and with Moni Tharri for the completeness and beauty of its decoration (often locked outside times of liturgies; the custodian in the house directly to the south keeps the key). The church, which dates from 1060, has been cleaned externally and the masonry re-pointed: the discontinuity in the stonework on the west façade shows from out side how two aisles to north and south have been added in the 18th century onto the central nave of the original cruciform church: this original structure may also have evolved in two phases, beginning as a Greek cross plan, and then being modified into a Latin cross plan by addition to the west arm. This becomes clearer once inside the long, low interior, which is paved with a chochlakia mosaic floor and covered on all sides with wall-paintings of the late 16th century. The whole range of Scripture is here, from Genesis to the Revelation, disposed around the walls with the meticulous ‘universal’ logic typical of Byzantine church designs. The Pantocrator in the celestial circle of the dome; the Evangelists, as transmitters of divine wisdom in the pendentives; the Virgin and Child in the conch of the apse; scenes relating to mortality in the transepts—the Apocalypse and the Virgin’s Dormition to the south; a dramatically large and solemn Archangel Michael clasping a shrouded human soul in his hand, and Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents to the north; then, along the vault of the nave, the Fall from Grace related in the scenes from Genesis, mirrored by the Redemption through the Life of Christ. All this swirls above us, while— standing at our level, are the reassuring intercessors—St John the Baptist and St George in their own niches to either side of the congregational area, and the other saints ranged around. Most splendidly dressed of all are SS. Constantine and Helen in the north arm. As we exit to the world outside, images of the Last Judgement around the door in the west wall act as a salutary warning. A perfect whole—more memorable for its completeness as a decorative cycle than for the particular quality of the painting. A small Ecclesiastical Museum and, next to it, a Folklore Museum are housed in the adjacent buildings to the south. From the vantage point of the small early 15th century castle above, the plan and development of the church below is clear. The fortress itself is considerably ruined, but its two cylindrical towers survive and a very deep, irregularly shaped cistern in the centre of the compound still conserves its impermeable lining. A number of small churches can be seen dotting the landscape all around the village. The most interesting of these is Aghios Giorgios Labra which lies below the village to the south, a little above the river course. In a niche in the north wall is a mural of the Virgin and Child: the quality of the simple modelling and definition of the face and the blessing hand of the Virgin is noteworthy. The altar of the chapel is a re-used antique capital.
Rhodes Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.