Gates and Walls Tour, Rhodes

Gates and Walls Tour (Self Guided), Rhodes

Owing to its geographical location, as a gateway to the Aegean Sea, Rhodes has always had a vantage position on trade routes between the West and the East – well protected against both foreign invaders and corsairs sailing the Mediterranean waters. The early defense system of Rhodes dates back as far as the 4th century BC.

Starting the Middle Ages – the year 1309, when the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John captured the island, these fortifications took the shape of a crescent, enhanced by the knights using the existing Byzantine walls.

The medieval walled city of Rhodes has been on UNESCO's World Heritage list since 1988. All together, this huge complex covers a distance of four kilometers and includes 11 gates, some of which are open to the public. Among the key highlights here are:

Eleftherias (Liberty) Gate – one of the Old Town's main entrances, built and named by the Italians in 1924 after “liberating” the island from the Ottoman rule in WWI.

Temple of Aphrodite – reminder of the splendors of ancient Greece; built in the 3rd century BC.

Tarsanas (Arsenal) Gate – the former passage through which the knights brought their weaponry into the citadel.

Arnaldo Gate – provides access to the former hospital of Saint John, now home to the Archaeological Museum.

Marine Gate – one of the medieval strongholds, situated near to the water; hence the name.

St. Anthony's Gate – aka the Saint Francis Gate; named after the nearby Saint Francis Church.

D'Amboise Gate – an imposing structure adjacent to The Palace Of The Grand Masters.

To explore these and other historic gates, towers and walls of one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe in more detail, take this self-guided walk.
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Gates and Walls Tour Map

Guide Name: Gates and Walls Tour
Guide Location: Greece » Rhodes (See other walking tours in Rhodes)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 Km or 0.9 Miles
Author: rose
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Eleftherias (Liberty) Gate
  • St. Paul's Gate
  • Temple of Aphrodite
  • Tarsanas (Arsenal) Gate
  • Arnaldo Gate
  • Marine Gate
  • St. Anthony's (St. Athanasios) Gate
  • D'Amboise Gate
Eleftherias (Liberty) Gate

1) Eleftherias (Liberty) Gate

Sitting right in front of Symi Square, otherwise known as Place de l’Arsenal, is one of the main entrances into the medieval city of Rhodes – Eleftherias (Liberty) Gate. The original gate on this site dates back to the time of Grand Master Heredia (1377-1396) and used to link the northern flank of the seaside wall to the Mandraki Harbour. Back then it was also colloquially referred to as the Shipyard Gate or Shipyard Vaults, being a short distance from the local arsenal and the knightly shipyards that formed part of the domain of the Langue (Tongue) of France.

Two square towers that once flanked the gate on both sides were razed by the Ottomans in 1910. Historic records indicate that one of them appears on the coat of arms of Grand Master d’Aubusson (1476-1503). The structure shows a pronounced influence of Byzantine architecture, and its dimensions (9.9 meters wide, 5.2 meters high) support the projected use of the passage – letting through voluminous vessels or appurtenances thereof en route to the shipyard. Under the Ottoman rule, this gate may have also operated as a bridge over the water to a basin designated in Turkish as “Eğri Liman” (“Concealed Harbour”).

The ramparts currently seen on top of the wall were erected during the Italian rule (1912-1943). The Italians, who deserve much credit for historical reconstruction in Rhodes, created this gate in 1924 after they had taken possession of the island during WWI. Portraying themselves as liberators from the Ottoman rule, they called it Liberty Gate. Although modern as such, the gate was built in a strict accordance with medieval architectural practice.
St. Paul's Gate

2) St. Paul's Gate

Located in the north-eastern corner of Rhodes' Old Town, Saint Paul's Gate once served as an entry point to the city from the harbour of Mandraki and the De Naillac Pier.

The bastion protecting the gate is an eloquent token of masterful construction technique and a point of reference for fortification works specialists: 12 cannon holes meant to cover a wide range between the two harbours and the mole of Agios Nikolaos (St. Nicolas). A common feature among this gate, the Agios Athanasios (St. Athanasius) Gate and the d’Amboise Gate was the drawbridge module, estimated to have operated through a system of beams and counter-weights, the presence of which is suggested by the vertical slots into the external wall, where the beams of the drawbridge module must have been affixed.

A semi-cylindrical tower in the inner part of wall bears a marble sculpture of the coat of arms of the House of Grand Master d’Aubusson (1476-1503), right next to those of the Hospitallers Order and Pope Sixtus IV. Right below the coats of arms there is an effigy of Paul the Apostle and the inscription, in Gothic characters, of “Sanctus Paul”. The presence of such blazons puts the time of completion of this part of the fortifications at around 1477, as part of a grander project set to restore the northern walls, commissioned by Grand Master d’Aubusson.

During World War Two, St. Paul’s Gate was hit heavily and almost fell. It was rebuilt early in the 1950s.
Temple of Aphrodite

3) Temple of Aphrodite

The Temple of Aphrodite, or rather the remains thereof, located on Symi Square, outside the Eleftherias (Liberty) Gate in the Old Town of Rhodes, serves as a reminder of the splendor of ancient Greece that it once was. The sanctuary dates from the 3rd century BC and was built in honor of Aphrodite, the mythological Greek goddess of love and beauty.

Today the ruins of the formerly majestic temple are surrounded with a small fence. While the site is closed to the public, an information board outside the fence offers a detailed overview of the complex. The descriptions here are written in both Greek and English.

Those determined to have a glimpse of the place's former glory may get close enough to see the old building blocks and fallen columns. Some may even be able to make out some inscriptions on a couple of the flagstones.

The statue of Aphrodite Pudica, currently in the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes, is believed to have once stood in this temple, venerated by ancient worshipers.
Tarsanas (Arsenal) Gate

4) Tarsanas (Arsenal) Gate

Just a stone's throw away from the Aphrodite Temple, in the north-eastern part of the Old Town, is Tarsanas Gate (Pili Tarsana or Pili Navarhíou in Greek), also known as the Gate of the Arsenal. This gate was built by Juan Fernandez De Heredia, who was the appointed Grand Master Of The Knights from 1377 until his death in 1396. His coat of arms is displayed right here, at top of the gate.

Back in the day, the knights' arsenal was located between the gates of St. Paul and St. Catherine, and had direct access to the port. The Arsenal Gate got its name from the fact that through this passage the knights used to carry their weapons, munition and other military equipment into the citadel.

In 1908, to widen the access road to the Kolona Harbour, the Ottoman administration demolished the two side towers flanking the gate. As a result, today's Arsenal Gate allows a fast flow of vehicles between the Kolona Harbour and the new city, and also provides a direct link from the Old Town to the Commercial Harbor.
Arnaldo Gate

5) Arnaldo Gate

Further south of the Tarsanas Gate is another gate, called Arnaldo. The Arnaldo Gate is a small entrance that allows access to the hospital of Saint John, now home to The Archaeological Museum, and is part of the Marine Gate complex, constructed under Grand Master d’ Aubusson. In particular, the gate provides exit from the Old Town to the Commercial Harbor.

Up until the second half of the 14th century, this passage is believed to have connected the main dock of the medieval port to the urban quarter of the City of Rhodes. According to a relevant written document from 1391, this particular gate was traditionally used by knightly novices (Filii Arnaldi) to enter the city. In later references, the gate is also referred to as the “Middle Gate” or the “Castellania Gate”.

The Arnaldo Gate features Provence style, which is similar to that of the Agia Aikaterini (St. Catherine) Gate, aka “the Gate of the Mole”. This is a small wonder, however, given that all the Grand Masters in office during the construction of such gates (from 1309 to 1373) originated from the Provence region of France. One of the two square towers designed to guard the gate, the one on the east side, crumbled after the 1481 earthquake. The interior of its western counterpart was later remodeled into a chapel, named Agios Georgios (St. George). Outside it bears the coats of arms of Grand Master Juan Fernández de Heredia (1377-1396) and his second-in-command, Pierre de Culant.

On the southern flank of the gate there are also the coats of arms of the Grand Masters Hélion de Villeneuve (1319-1346) and Giovanni Battista Orsini (1467-1476). The latter, in particular, was responsible for widening the Arnaldo Gate in the 15th century.
Marine Gate

6) Marine Gate

Marine Gate is a medieval gate constructed in 1478. It is the main entrance from the harbor to the city. If you are arriving by sea, you will enter Rhodes through this imposing gate. Therefore, it is also sometimes referred to as the Sea Gate.

Grand Master Pierre d'Aubusson built the gate to imitate the Gate to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon in France, which is 200 years older.

The front of the gate features several reliefs. One relief shows the Virgin holding the Christ. Additional reliefs show St. John the Baptist, St. Peter, the coats of arms of France, the Order of St. John, and the blazon of the House of d'Aubusson.

On the interior side of the gate, visitors will see more relief work. An effigy shows an Angel with the coats of arms of the Order of St. John and another blazon of the House of d'Aubusson.

The towers have a series of devices that poured boiling oil on attackers. The gate is so close to the harbor that it would be impossible for an army of any size to gather below the gate and attack it.

This iconic and imposing landmark sets the scene for the rest of Rhodes. It was restored in 1951 when damage to the north tower from World War II bombings was repaired.
St. Anthony's (St. Athanasios) Gate

7) St. Anthony's (St. Athanasios) Gate

St. Anthony’s Gate, or the Gate of St. Athanasios, is a popular historic entrance to the walled city of Rhodes. The locals also habitually refer to it as Saint Francis' Gate due to the church of Saint Francis of Assisi, built by the Italians in the first part of the 20th century, located just outside.

As for the gate itself, judging by the coat of arms displayed above the entrance, it dates back to the times of Grand Master Jean de Lastic (1437-1454), and came into being as a result of the modification to the part of the wall near D’Amboise Gate, done by the knights from 1440 to 1442. The round tower of Saint Mary, designed to guard the gate, was also built in 1441.

Under the rule of Grand Master Pierre d’Aubusson (1476-1503), two bulwarks came to reinforce the fortification around the Gate of St. Athanasius, giving the stocky bastion its actual, massive outlook. Right above the opening of the drawbridge there is the coat of arms of the House of d’Aubusson seen along with the inscription “hoc antemurale”, reminiscent of the commissioning of the bastion in 1487.

Following the Ottoman conquest of Rhodes in 1522, the victorious troops of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent marched through the Gate of St. Athanasios into the city. An inscription in Farsi quotes reinstatement works of part of the bulwarks commissioned by the Ottoman Governor Abdülcelil, in the wake of the fall of Rhodes into the hands of the Ottomans.

This gate was subsequently closed by the Sultan in a bid to prevent any further conqueror from passing through it, ever. It was only re-opened, by the Italians, in 1922 to mark the 400th anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of the city and the island.
D'Amboise Gate

8) D'Amboise Gate

Set in the North West corner of the Medieval City of Rhodes, the imposing D’Amboise Gate is undoubtedly one of its most remarkable – from a military standpoint – structures. The gate represents a hugely fortified path with two gigantic round towers set to fend off any attack. Although the Ottomans eventually did manage to pass through it, they still couldn’t enter the city right away, as the knights had modified the fortification so that three more gates, specifically added nearby, also had to be cleared in order to get in.

The D’Amboise Gate is found near The Palace Of The Grand Masters, and bears the name of Grand Master Emery d’Amboise (1503-1512), in whose charge it was built in 1512. Although the actual construction started under his predecessor, Grand Master d’Aubusson (1476-1503), whose initial idea was to incorporate two earlier gates in this place, namely those of the Overseer and St. Anthony.

Proportionate to its vital role – defending the highly important yet vulnerable entrance from the west, along with the nearby Palace, – the gate features a number of sizable halls for the guards. Niched above its arched entrance is the image of an angel brandishing the coat of arms of the Order, as well as that of the House of d’Amboise, along with the inscription “D’AMBOISE M. DXII (1512)”.

Amid the havoc sown by the devastating earthquake of 1513, Grand Master del Carretto (1513-1521) commissioned reconstruction of the gate that was completed under the last Grand Master of the Order on the island, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam (1521-1522). As the most elaborate piece of fortification in Rhodes, D’Amboise Gate bears witness to the opulence and power of the Order preceding the Ottoman invasion in 1522.

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