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
At the junction (58.5km) in Gennadi, 3.5km further south along the east coast road from the turning to Asklepieio, a road cuts west across the tip of the island to Apolakkia and the southwest coast. 2.5km inland on this road is Vati, a small village with a picturesque main square of stone houses, which is at the centre of a hilly landscape, ideal for exploration on foot. In the valley to the east of the village a Mycenaean necropolis has been uncovered. There are several ruined windmills in the vicinity and many rural churches—some with wall-paintings, some with ancient marbles as altars, some decorated only in the last few years. The most remarkable church in the area, however, is in the village of Prophilia, 6.5 km to the north, which hugs the ridge of a hill with distant views of the sea. Beside the road in the centre of the village is the 12th century church of SS. Michael and George—a small, vaulted space with -paintings of the late 12th century of the highest quality, in a fresh and vigorous style which is seen in few other places on the island. The spare lines of the figures, and in particular the compelling faces and eyes of the protagonists (Christ, John the Baptist, the Virgin) are marvellous examples of art of the Comnene age—one of the last periods of Byzantine art before an unhappy fossilisation of forms sets in. For this author, at least, these are the finest paintings on the island. On the north wall (symbolically the side of Satan, from which evil comes) are the saints who defend us from that evil: St Anthony, and the two mounted figures of St George and the Archangel Michael, beautifully conceived in relation to one another. (Note also St George’s square stirrups.) Above is the Crucifixion and the Harrowing of Hell. What dominates the interior, however, is the powerful -face of the Pantocrator in the conch, between His Mother and St John the Baptist. On the arch above, an almost monochrome Al mighty in a nimbus, framed by angels boldly and beautifully depicted in flight, points to His Son below and to the Virgin Mary to one side, who accepts the acclaim with innocence and dignity. On the south side the scenes from the Life of the Virgin and from the Apocalypse are less well-preserved. The colours are fresh: a (ferrous oxide) yellow ochre, typical of wall-painting of the period, predominates. By coincidence—as if to round off the pleasure given by these paintings—one of the best rural tavernas on Rhodes is directly opposite the church (see ‘Eating’ below). The villages of Istrio, Arniha and Apolakkia to the west of here are small agricultural centres, set in a verdant and well-watered landscape, with stone houses grouped around a plateia and church at their centres. There are several functioning monasteries in the area, the most at tractive of which is Aghios Ioannis, between Prophilia and Arniha. Near to it is the site of Aghia Irini where there are remains of two Early Christian basilicas and a baptistery. (The site is in a field beyond a small grove of young olive trees, 100m west of the Arniha to Istrio road, at a point which is 30m north of the sign to the monastery of Aghios Ioannis, as you come from Arniha.) There are the remains of at least two (?) 6th century churches standing to over 2m in height in places. One, to the south of the area, has a double apse; the larger one to the north, has its synthronon still visible as well as the base of the altar and its canopy. There are several columns in fine, local marble within the area of the ruins; just to the west, in the field, are fragments of a large water-stoup or font, and other pieces of worked stone. To the north is the floor of a tetraconch baptistery with mosaic floor, figuring both abstract patterns and designs with birds. It is difficult to assess how large the site once was; shards—predominantly of pithoi and storage vases—litter the area for some distance around. From the east side of the village of Apolakkia, a track leads off to the north towards a water-reservoir and dam. After 3km a turn left leads up a steep slope to the isolated church of Aghios Giorgios Vardas—a simple, sin gle-aisled building whose paintings inside can be dated precisely to 1289/90 from the donor’s inscription. Even though their condition is not good, many of the scenes are legible: Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem (south side), and some of the figures of saints, such as St Tryphon and St Nikitas (northwest corner), stand out in particular. Their quality is good, but they have no great originality: a moment’s comparison with those in Prophilia shows how that ‘fossilisation’ had taken hold in the hundred years that separate these two cycles.
Rhodes Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.