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The church of St Mary of the Castle
Facing up the length of the Street of the Knights from its lower end is the grand church of St Mary of the Castle, or of the Panaghia tou Kastrou (open daily, except Mon, 8.30– 3). The façade is militarily bare in design, although its central, corniced panel was probably decorated in the 15th century with a mural of the Virgin Mary as Protectress of the Castle, flanked by Saints and Knights of the Order.
The church was first raised in the 11th century as the Panaghia tou Kastrou, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Rhodes , on an inscribed cross-in-square floor-plan—a design not particularly common on Rhodes . Within the first decade of the Knights’ arrival in 1309, its damaged and probably un finished structure was almost entirely rebuilt as the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Mary, referred to in a Papal Bull of Pope John XXII of 1322. The interior was transformed and the barrel-vaults of the aisles and crossings given Gothic elegance and verticality by the ribs of cross-vaults and the inclusion of a clarestory of pointed windows. The interior is luminous and airy: originally there was stained glass—visible as late as 1826 when it was drawn by the Belgian artist, Witdoeck—which modified its light. After 1522, a minaret, mihrab and porch with three cupolas (west front) were added and the building was used for Islamic worship as the ‘Enderum Cami’.
Inside the mostly unadorned interior of the church are areas of paintings of two kinds: those decorating the church itself, and those brought here for safety from elsewhere.
In the first group are patches of 13th century, Byzantine wall-paintings of saints and martyrs, which have been retrieved from under the Turkish whitewash on the pillars of the eastern arch. In a markedly different, Western style, is the late 14th century figure of St Lucy on the west wall, which dates from the Hospitaller period. The pale fresco tints and the modelling of her eyes and brows are probably the work of a North Italian artist, close to the circle of Altichiero.
The second kind of paintings displayed here are the detached wall-paintings which are of two separate origins: the first, to the north side are Byzantine wall-paintings from the monastery of St Michael at Tharri. These include two late 12th century figures of Church Fathers, and a series of early 17th century paintings from the drum and dome of the catholicon, which are grand in scale and clear in style. These were removed in 1972 during restoration to the building so as to reveal layers of earlier painting in situ beneath. The second group, in the southeast corner, are late 14th century paintings salvaged in 1984 from the tiny, dilapidated church of Aghios Zacharias on the island of Chalki (see p. 260). These are in poor condition, but a dramatic Christ Harrow Hell, in which the Saviour wrests Adam from Limbo, is of considerable stylistic quality.
An area to the north side of the church exhibits a collection of fragments and marble elements from carved, Byzantine templon screens. Sections of mosaic floor are also displayed: the fine ‘cosmatesque’ panel of inlaid polychrome marbles in the centre, comes from the excavation of the Early Christian basilica on Heimaras and P. Mela Sreets in the west of the city (see p. 149).
Rhodes Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.
By air: With a total of 6–7 daily flights from Athens to Rhodes operated by both Olympic Air and Aegean Airways, Rhodes is easily accessible at all times of year. Its airport is also the hub for local flights within the area to Kastellorizo, Karpathos and Kasos (almost daily), and to Kos, Leros and Astypalaia (three times weekly). There are also daily connections direct to Thessaloniki and to Heraklion (Crete). The airport is 15km southwest of the centre of Rhodes town (€15 by taxi).
By boat: The port of Rhodes is also the principal hub for the Dodecanese Islands, with daily connections to all the principal islands, though the frequency of connections to the lesser islands varies considerably according to season (see entries for individual islands). There are year-round, direct connections by car-ferry to Piraeus (c. 16 hours) every day; and connections to eastern Crete twice weekly. In the holiday season, there are also daily connections (by private carriers) to Marmaris in Turkey. Since the port is large and has several harbours, it is important to ascertain from which part of it a ferry will leave.
The neighbouring island of Chalki is served twice weekly from Rhodes town, but there is a daily service from Kameiros Skala (2 hours). The GNTO office in the New Town (corner of Makariou and Papagou Streets, T. 22410 44335) provides helpful sheets with weekly boat departures, museum opening times, a price-list for taxis and schedules of bus times and fares for the whole island. Its web-site is: www.ando.gr/eot
Rhodes Travel Guide
Rhodes offers some of the best and most varied eating possibilities in the Aegean— although in the city itself, the visitor will need to explore outside the Old Town to sample the best Greek food. Within the walls of the Old Town, unimaginative and often overpriced tourist-fare prevails; we would suggest only: the -Marco Polo (see lodging, above); Dinoris Restaurant (upper medium price) in a tiny alley across from the entrance to the Archaeological Museum— an elegant and traditional taverna of long standing, one of the few in the Old Town regularly frequented by locals; Photis Restaurant (expensive; open all year) in Menekléous Street—also an elegant and well-established fish restaurant, where the undoubted high quality and presentation of its dishes compensates for the hauteur of the reception and service. At lunchtime, -Indigo (medium price), inside the Nea Agorá market building (at no.105/6) beside Mandraki harbour, offers delicious, finely prepared dishes from the cuisine of Greek Asia Minor. Further afield (but without question worth the short taxi-ride) in Zephyros, southeast of the city centre, is the -Paragadi fish restaurant (medium expensive; corner of Klaude Pepper & Australias Streets: reservation recommended, T. 22410 37775) with an exceptional quality of service and of seafood and fish dishes, prepared in the best and simplest manner. This is one of the best fish restaurants in the Dodecanese. Nearby, open all year, and usually packed with locals, is To Steki tou Cheila (inexpensive) at the southern end of Kodringtonou St., on the corner of Hadjiangelou and Dendrinou Sts: the symiakó (tiny shrimps) and the wine are both fresh and delicious.
Around the island: Mavrikos in Lindos (expensive; reservations, T. 22440 31232) is a fine and justly famous restaurant with pleasing setting, serving many homemade products. The excellent and panoramic -To Limeri tou Listí ("The robber"s den") in Prophilía (T. 22440 61578) in the central south of the island, certainly merits the long journey and represents one of the best places to eat on the island: it has imaginatively and care fully prepared traditional dishes of the highest standard, e.g. a light and unforgettable imam bayaldı. Nearby, Petrino in the picturesque plateia of Váti, is a good country taverna with fresh and unaffected cuisine.
Rhodes Travel Guide
Cecil Torr, Rhodes in Ancient Times and Rhodes in Modern Times (first published by CUP in 1885, both now re-issued by Archaeopress ‘3rd guides’, Oxford); Lawrence Durrell, Reflections on a Marine Venus (Faber & Faber, London, 1953); H.J.A Sire, The Knights of Malta (Yale, London & New Haven, 1994); Vassilis Colonas, Italian Architecture in the Dodecanese Islands, 1912–1943 (Olkos Press, Athens, 2002); Elias Kollias, The Mediaeval City of Rhodes etc.,(Ministry of Culture, Athens, 1998).
Rhodes Travel Guide
Rhodes Travel Guide
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