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The largest Greek island in the stunning Aegean Sea is the island of Rhodes. Rhodes was once home to the Colossus of Rhodes - one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The island has enjoyed a very long and storied history going back thousands of years. It was also the main base for the Knights of St. John (aka Knights Hospitaler), and the Crusader architecture is one of the greatest attractions to the island today.

The main city on the Island of Rhodes is the city of Rhodes. It is only a small city with 50,000 people or 90,000 in the larger area. While a small city, it is one of the best preserved Medieval towns and one of the best places to learn about the Crusaders and the Orders of Knights.

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Who The Knights Hospitaler Was

The Knights Hospitaler originated as a military Crusader order during the Crusades in the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The Knights Hospitaler continues today. The most famous order of St. John is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. It can be found around Europe and across the world as an organization dedicated to charitable works and helping people in need.

After Jerusalem was retaken by the Arabs, they relocated to Rhodes and then to Malta and have been without a sovereign territory since they were expelled from Malta by the French in 1798. They are sometimes said to be the only "country" without land.

  • Rule Of Rhodes: From 1309 to 1522

The full name of the Knights Hospitaler is "Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem."

After ruling the island eventually fell to the Ottomans after over 200 centuries of rule, the Christians were banished from the Old Town while the Knights fled to Malta.

Related: How This 7th Wonder Became A Crusader Castle

The Citadel Of Rhodes - One Of The Best Preserved Medieval Fortifications

Visitors today explore the citadel of Rhodes. It is one of the best preserved medieval towns and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. It is mostly composed of crusader fortifications equipped with bastions, a moat, a counterscarp, a scarp, and a large wall.

  • Designated: UNESCO World Heritage Site In 1988

The impressive fortifications were the product of the medieval knights using skills they acquired in France to defend against the powerful Ottoman Empire.

It is possible to walk around the ramparts of the old town. These walls are around 4 kilometers (2.5 miles long) and are up to 12 meters thick in places. See the many impressive towers, bastions, gates, artillery firing posts, and the dry moat.

Walls Of Rhodes:

  • Length: 4 km or 2.5 miles
  • Thickness: Up to 12 Meters

The impressive fortifications on Rhodes were built by enhancing the existing Byzantine walls from 1309. They took Rhodes from the Christian Byzantines (Crusaders didn't just attack Muslims in Palestine).

The Crusaders came from different parts of Europe, and different parts of the castle were held by Knights from different places according to the language they spoke. The castle had different "Langues" (language areas) - there was the French Langue, the English Langue, etc.

While most of the historic fortifications one will see on Rhodes today date from the Crusaders, the city of Rhodes stretches back to 408 BC.

Related: How To Visit The Mesmerizing Canyon Complex Of Petra In Jordan

Key Attractions Of The Old Town Of Rhodes

Explore the Old Town of Rhodes and discover a maze of narrow cobbled streets and squares. A double set of massive walls separates the modern town of Rhodes from the Old Town. Here one will see influences from many people who ruled Rhodes at different times (like the Greeks, the Knights of St. John, the Ottoman Turks, the Italians, and finally, modern Greece).

The castle is considered one of the greatest defensive works of medieval history.

The top medieval attractions include the Street of the Knights, the Palace of the Grand Masters, the town walls, and the Archeological Museum of the Hospital of the Knights.

The Palace of the Grand Master is a massive stronghold that was defended by a triple circuit of walls. It is located at the highest point of the Old Town and was built by the Knights of St. John.

  • Admission: 8 Euro (Dollars) For Palace of the Grand Master

Today people can visit many impressive crusader castles in the eastern Mediterranean (and Malta). The most impressive crusader castle today is considered to be the Krak des Chevaliers in Syria.