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One Day in Rhodes, Greece: Visiting the Palace of the Grand Master

Updated on May 17, 2017
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Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures, experiences, and makes the world a better, more tolerant place.

The Palace of the Grand Master
The Palace of the Grand Master | Source

Located in the medieval city of Rhodes, on the beautiful Greek island of Rhodes, is the stunning Palace of the Grand Master. This imposing castle sits prominently on the highest point in medieval Rhodes and has a fascinating history to it. Appropriately situated on the Avenue of the Knights, today the palace serves as the home of the Byzantine Museum. Our visit to Rhodes was a brief one-day port of call as part of a Mediterranean cruise, and our priority for the day was to see the medieval walled section of Old Rhodes Town and the Palace of the Grand Master.

The Knights
The Knights | Source

History

The history of this grand palace dates back to the end of the 7th century when it was constructed as a fortress during the Byzantine period. Later, when the Knights of St. John established themselves on Rhodes, the structure was modified and converted into the residence for the Grand Master of the Knights. The palace remained in this function from the early 14th century until about 1522 when the Siege of Rhodes by the Ottomans successfully expelled the Knights from the island. The Knights moved on to establish themselves on the island of Malta while the Ottomans secured their grip on the Eastern Mediterranean.

Jump ahead to the 19th century when Rhodes was still part of the Turkish Empire and disaster unfortunately struck the palace. By this time the building was already in a severe state of disrepair but in 1856 a huge gunpowder explosion ripped through the palace causing extensive damage. Ammunition was being stored in the basement of the adjacent Church of St. John and was ignited by a lightning strike.

The Palace of the Grand Master
The Palace of the Grand Master | Source

For the next fifty years or so the castle remained in ruins. The turning point in the history of this once Grand Palace took place in 1912 when Italy took control of Rhodes from the Ottoman Empire during the Italo-Turkish War. With the Italians now in control of the island of Rhodes they set about in the 1930s to restore the palace to its former grand state. Using the original drawings of the building the Italians returned the Palace of the Grand Master to it once lofty and grandiose condition. With the work complete the building became the vacation residence of the likes of King Victor Emmanuel III and Benito Mussolini.

Avenue of the Knights
Avenue of the Knights | Source

By the end of World War II the fate of Rhodes would once again change and the island was re-united with Greece in 1947. Today, Rhodes is no longer wondering what its future will hold as the island has settled into a popular Greek tourist destination. There is no denying that Rhodes has seen its fair share of conflict over the years and visitors today will have the opportunity to see glimpses of its storied past. The Medieval Old Town of Rhodes was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and no visit to Rhodes would be complete without walking the cobblestone paths of this medieval town.

Rhodes
Rhodes | Source
The Roman Emperors in the courtyard.
The Roman Emperors in the courtyard. | Source

Interesting Fact

Rhodes is the largest of the Dodecanese Islands of Greece and has a population of about 116,000 people.

Visiting the Palace of the Grand Master

If you are visiting Rhodes for just a day and only have time to visit one historic site then by all means consider making the Palace of the Grand Master your destination. The main entrance to the palace is located right off of the Avenue of the Knights and you can’t miss the two imposing towers that guard the entrance.

Once inside the palace you will find yourself in the large courtyard around which the palace was built. From here you get a sense of just how large and grand this place is. Seemingly guarding the courtyard are numerous statues of Roman Emperors, which were excavated from the Odeon of Kos (theatre) on the nearby Greek Island of Kos. The statues are located in ten silos that are on the north side of the courtyard. The silos were used to hold grain to help feed defenders of the palace during sieges.

Palace Courtyard
Palace Courtyard | Source
The Chapel
The Chapel | Source

Upon entering the palace itself you will notice that there is a small chapel located just to the right of the grand staircase. This Chapel was not a part of the original design of the palace and was added by the Italians during their reconstruction of the palace.

As you ascend the grand marble staircase that takes visitors up to the first floor of the palace you get a heightened sense of what lies ahead. Everything in here is large and you quickly gain a keen appreciation for the opulence and detail of work that went into the restoration of the palace. As you work your away around the palace from one grand room to the next I think you will be impressed with the numerous floor mosaics that seem to get more impressive as you get further into the palace. Each room seems to outdo the previous and the period furnishings, artifacts, and sculptures really help to transport you back in time. Be sure to read the floor captions that tell you where each of the mosaics came from. Many of them are Roman and also came from the island of Kos.

The Mosaics
The Mosaics | Source
Palace Rooms
Palace Rooms | Source

When you have completed a tour of the palace rooms, be sure to visit the small museum located in the far right corner of the courtyard that has a 2,400 years of Ancient Rhodes exhibition. Here you will find an interesting collection of pottery and historic artifacts from ancient Rhodes.

While walking around old large castles may not be for everyone we were certainly impressed with the scale and detail of the palace. If you enjoy history you will certainly appreciate the Palace of the Grand Master and its storied past. The building itself is massive and from the outside you really get a sense that it was built to protect whoever and whatever was inside. You can almost envision the Ottomans attacking this fortress with their catapults and other weapons of the day.

Palace of the Grand Master
Palace of the Grand Master | Source
Palace of the Grand Master
Palace of the Grand Master | Source

Another Interesting Fact

The Stag Statues represent the Rhodes Deer, which is an endangered species of deer that is unique to Rhodes.

With our visit to Rhodes limited to just one day we spent a good portion of the morning and early afternoon visiting the Grand Masters Palace and walking the medieval section of Old Rhodes. It’s a fascinating collection of medieval buildings, mosques, cafes and street vendors trying to sell their wares. In the afternoon we did venture off to a local beach on the northern tip of Rhodes that was walking distance from the dock. It was an interesting walk and it took us by the site where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood. The Colossus of Rhodes is one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World and the giant bronze statue once stood at the entrance to Mandraki Harbor where the statues of the Stags stand today. Legend and historical records tell us that the statue, which was over thirty meters tall, was erected in 280 BC and destroyed by an earthquake 56 years later in 224 BC.

Statues of the Stags - Site where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood.
Statues of the Stags - Site where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood. | Source

If you decide to visit the Palace of the Grand Master, it is open from April through October:

  • Monday 9 am - 4 pm
  • Tuesday to Friday, 8 am - 10 pm
  • Saturday to Sunday 9 am - 4 pm

In the off–season, November through March, they are open from 8:30 am to 3 pm and are closed on Mondays.

There is a 6-euro entrance fee for adults, which is very reasonable. Those age 65 and over get a reduced fee of 3 euro and kids under age 18 are admitted free. In addition to the Palace and the Ancient Rhodes Museum there is also a small gift shop and coffee shop located just off of the courtyard.

I hope you enjoyed this look at the Palace of the Grand Master, located within Medieval Old Rhodes Town. There is an abundance of amazing history here and this beautiful palace has many stories to tell.

A markerRhodes -
Rhodes, Greece
get directions

A markerRhodes -
Rhodes, Greece
get directions

© 2014 Bill De Giulio

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    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Linda, thank you. Glad you enjoyed the tour.

    • mylindaelliott profile image

      mylindaelliott 3 years ago from Louisiana

      Great tour. Thanks for sharing it.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Nadine. Thank you. I've been very fortunate to have visited some interesting places. A place I haven't been yet is Africa and I would love to get there sometime soon. I'll stop by to give your Cape Town hubs a read. Have a great day.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      You are truly great at writing about interesting places to visit. Wow to be on a cruise. So many places I have not been when I lived in Europe! Great photos! I've written two hubs about Cape Town where I live, but more to see if I could write enough words about one day events.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Glimmer. Small world. Great cruise. We enjoyed all the islands but it's hard to beat Santorini. Rhodes and Malta really were more about the history. It was all good.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

      We definitely took the same cruise. I enjoyed Rhodes, but definitely like those more whitewashed islands with the blooming bougainvillea and charm. Rhodes was definitely more interesting historically. Well done Bill!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Toytasting. Thank you for stopping by to read and comment. There is a lot of history on the island of Rhodes. We really enjoyed our time there.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Flourish. Thank you, glad you enjoyed Rhodes. Very interesting place indeed. Thanks for coming back and for the pin. Have a wonderful day.

    • Toytasting profile image

      Toy Tasting 3 years ago from Mumbai

      This is such a beautiful place to visit. Read about its history and also got to know so much from this hub. Thanks for sharing the information. :)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Hi, Bill - Great hub about yet another interesting place I've never heard of. I read this hub the other day and thought I'd commented, certainly meant to. I've returned to pin it on my Awesome Places I Want to Visit board. Well done as always.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi there Anne. It was very interesting on this cruise that we stopped in both Rhodes and Malta, two very important Mediterranean islands that played key roles in the history of the Knights. Their history on Rhodes and especially later on in Malta is just so interesting. I would love to return someday to both islands to see more of their history. And yes, I was never much of a cruise person but it was amazing how much we were able to see on this particular cruise.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you Linda. I do find it fascinating to learn about the history of the places that I visit. It really adds to the experience. We're already planning the next adventure so stay tuned :)

    • Anne Harrison profile image

      Anne Harrison 3 years ago from Australia

      A great article - I have always been fascinated by the Knights Templar, and would love to see where the Colossus once stood. It's amazing how much you can see in one day when crusing. Thanks for the hub

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Beautiful photos and a very interesting hub, Bill. How wonderful to learn about history by visiting places such as Rhodes and the Palace of the Grand Master! I'll share this hub. I'm looking forward to your next travel article!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Joelle. Thanks for the info. It's definitely on our radar for a future trip. You are so correct, Europe is just loaded with treasures. The problem is figuring our how to prioritize them and then getting to all of these places. With our kids grown and on their own it's definitely a little easier now. I'll keep writing until I run out of places to visit :)

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi tirelesstravler. You will love Greece and the islands, simply beautiful. Rhodes was very interesting, we loved the palace and the Old Medieval Town. A lot of history there with the Knights having used Rhodes as their home.

      I did continue to run while of the cruise. They had an outdoor track so to speak on the top level that I used a few times. They also had a very nice gym with treadmills, which I also used a few times. Running on these trips can be a challenge as we are always up and out early. I get up extra early in order to get runs in. Thanks for stopping by, have a great week.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      The day you decide to visit Carcassonne, keep one day to visit the "Abbaye Saint-Martin-du-Canigou"; it's about two hours away and it's just beautiful. The abbey is now more than 1000 year old now...but if you visit, beware, you have to walk a long road up :-) The history behind that abbey is wonderful and the reconstruction is very well done!

      One of our sons introduced us to the game "Carcassone" and that's what pushed us to visit that place during one of our holidays in Europe a few years ago; the funny part is we could have visited Carcassonne a long time ago during another holiday in that ares when were still living in Europe and we had no children.

      There are so many treasures to visit in Europe! In the mean time I have the feeling that I am visiting some of those places through your eyes! Please, continue to share :-)

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      Drooled the entire read. The green monster of envy got a hold of me. Have always wanted to visit Greece and her islands. Nice work as always.

      Did you run on your cruise?

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Alison. Thanks for stopping by. It is nice to see these historical sites as they really are instead of a re-creation in a theme park. This particular palace really was amazing. Have a great day.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. Thank you. We have been to some interesting places and I love writing about them. I now plan all of my trips keeping in mind that I will write about them when I return. Have a great day.

    • alison monroe profile image

      Alison Monroe 3 years ago

      It's interesting to see that such an opulent building is real, and not a movie set or Disneyland creation.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I am more familiar with Europe because of you, and that means you write informative and interesting articles, and isn't that what it is all about my friend? Well done, Bill, and thank you! Have a great Sunday!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Joelle. Thank you. It's funny that you mention Carcassonne. We are planning a trip to France in the fall and were looking at this beautiful town. It doesn't look like we will make it that far south on this trip but I am definitely aware of Carcassonne.

      The Italians did do a great job in restoring the palace. The workmanship and attention to detail is amazing. I'm not sure how they came to possess the original building plans but it's great that they were able to bring it back to it's former glory.

      Thanks for stopping by, have a great week.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      What a beautiful place to visit, Bill! I am definitely adding that one on my bucket list of places to visit! They did a magnificent job rebuilding it! Inside and out, everything seems just magnificent! It makes me think of Carcassonne where they had to start from ruins and rebuild. I am glad that some countries find it's important enough to take care of their heritage!

      Voted up, useful, interesting, beautiful, awesome (I would like to add magnificent)! Thank you for sharing your visit and pictures and making me dream!

      Have a great week!