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
A winding road (signed) climbs up from Trianda through dense pine woods to the panoramic acropolis of ancient Ialysos on the flat limestone summit of Mount Philerimos (267m). (Open Apr–Oct 8.30–7.30; Nov–Mar 8.30–2.30; closed Mon.) In spite of its importance in Antiquity, there is less for the modern visitor to see here than at either Lindos or Kameiros. A strange atmosphere prevails, due partly to the lifeless and over-restored mediaeval buildings which occupy much of the ancient sanctuary. On entering the enclosure, the remains of the 3rd century bc Temple of Athena Ialysia (which is probably built over the site of an earlier Phoenician temple) are visible directly in front of the monastery buildings. The stylobate is preserved, perfectly oriented to the cardinal points, and nearby are the drums of fluted columns, some of which retain vestiges of coloured stucco. In the 6th century ad an Early Christian basilica with three aisles was built over the temple. Its southern apse, just southeast of the temple, encloses a cruciform baptismal pool. Steps for immersion set in its floor are clearly visible, as well as remnants of its lining in Proconnesian marble. The existing church to the north is dedicated to the Virgin of Philerimos (or Filermo) and was heavily rebuilt by the Italians in 1931 to recreate the original mediaeval monastery which was mostly destroyed during the Turkish occupation. The plan is highly unusual, with three separate chapels inside, reached through a vaulted vestibule. To the left (south) is the Orthodox chapel, with a pleasing but slightly artless floor in polychrome marble; this was the first element of the complex to be built in the 13th century. To the right (north) of this, a further sanctuary and a subsidiary chapel were added by the Knights of St John in the 14th century to accommodate Roman Catholic rite. The Knights also added a bell-tower, of which the existing fortress-like version built by the Italians is no more than a fanciful memory. On the outside of the church (east side) is an unusually high pulpit in stone looking onto the monastery’s tranquil cloister, lined with cells; beyond this is the former abbot’s residence. The most unspoiled mediaeval survival is the tiny chapel of St George ‘Chostos’ (‘underground’), below the level of the temple (reached by turning left at the entrance to the site) which was probably the crypt or funerary chapel of a church which once stood above. Its interior is covered in wall paintings which, though in poor condition, are still legible and of considerable interest: beneath some 17th century repainting are areas of the original 15th century images. In the vault, to the left are scenes of the Passion of Christ, and to the right, the Early Life of the Virgin; a dynamic St George occupies a large space towards the bottom of the east wall. On the side walls—painted as if to resemble figures on hanging tapestries—are kneeling knights being presented by their patron saints. The hill-top to the east of the monastery bears the remains of much history: the commanding, wide panorama of the full sweep of the north of the island and the neighbouring islands and sea-routes explains why. At the northeast extremity are the remains of a Byzantine for tress, incorporating fragments of ancient building mate rial; this fell to the Knights of St John in 1306, was enlarged by them and in turn was captured by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1522. From a camp on this vantage point the Sultan planned his siege of Rhodes . More recently the hill was contended by the Italians and Germans in 1943. Between the monastery and the castle on the promontory, are the steep entrances into two large underground cisterns, as well as a number of deep-cut water courses which traverse the area. The unexcavated foundations of ruined structures are everywhere on the plateau; erosion of its southern perimeter has left cisterns, staircases and habitations—the visible remains of the ancient city of Ialysos—hanging on the precipice. This was a large settle ment, and densely inhabited in antiquity. The treasure of the site (currently closed) is the ancient spring and the -Doric, colonnaded water-fountain, deep down the southern side of the acropolis amidst a stand of plane trees. Steps descend steeply for 50m, from the southern extremity of the archaeological enclosure, down to the elegant Hellenistic structure which dates from the mid 4th century bc and was reassembled in 1926 by Italian archaeologists. The colonnade is about 9m long, with the fountain tanks behind faced in marble with decorative lions’ heads both on the rear wall, just above water level, and on the front: only one of these was perforated and functioned as a spout. One of the antae bears a scarcely legible inscription with regulations for the use of the fountain. The water, which rises close by, is particularly soft. Outside the enclosure of Philerimos, from the small square beside the entrance, a tree-lined avenue leads west past relief images of the fourteen stations of the cross and culminates in a massive cement cross at the summit, which has the appearance of something constructed to withstand nuclear attack. To the left of the avenue, on the southern edge of the hill, are more ancient remains buried in the undergrowth; to the right are the ruins of a three-aisled cruciform church with narthex, dating from the 10th century. This was probably the catholicon and nucleus of another small monastic complex. The icon of the Virgin of Philerimos The monastery’s treasure was the priceless Icon of the Virgin of Philerimos, which was brought from Jerusalem in the 13th century and was believed to have been painted by St Luke. At times of great danger it was transferred to Rhodes to give the city divine protection. During the siege of 1522 it was lodged in the small church of St Mark (see p. 43) close to the bastion of St George. The icon was one of the only possessions the Knights took with them when they sailed away from Rhodes in January 1523. It was then kept in the Co-cathedral of St John in Valletta. Later, when Malta was surrendered to the French in 1798, the ill-starred Grand Master, Ferdnand von Hompesch, sent the icon to Czar Paul of Russia; after the Bolshevik Revolution it was taken to Yugoslavia where it subsequently disappeared.
Rhodes Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.