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The history of Rhodes at the time of the Knights

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From the fall of the Byzantine Empire, Venetians and Genoese attempted to take possession of Rhodes until the arrival of the Knights of St. John, who fortified the city, leaving an imprint unaltered.
The installation of the Knights of St. John in Rhodes
Portrait of Fulk of Villaret. Click to enlarge the image.In 1291, the fall of Acre - last bastion of Christianity in the Holy Land (Palestine) - marked the end of two centuries of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. After the loss of St. Jean d’Acre, the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem , led by Grand Master Jean de Villiers, settled for a time in the Christian Kingdom of Cyprus, Limisso (Limassol), where they founded a new convent of the Order.

Upon arrival of the Hospitallers in Cyprus, Henry II of Lusignan, ex-king of Jerusalem and King of Cyprus since 1285, but they quickly welcomed tensions between the two powers will appear. As the size of the order increased with the arrival of new European knights and the Hospitallers sought a form of independence, his rivalry with the King of Cyprus ceased to grow, and the king of Cyprus began encourage knights look elsewhere for a permanent residence.

Guillaume de Villaret preparing the conquest of Rhodes. Rhodes is a Byzantine possession but the authority of the empire is very theoretical, it is mainly a pirate base. The princes of the house of Gualla to reign supreme. The island is inhabited by Ottoman merchants who traded with the Turkish ships race.

The defense of the island of Rhodes by Fulk de Villaret, painting Gustaf Wappers. Click to enlarge the image.The defense of the island of Rhodes by Fulk de Villaret, painting Gustaf Wappers. Click to enlarge the image.In 1306, the Knights of St. John, under the leadership of Grand Master Fra ’ Fulk de Villaret (1305-1319) nephew of William de Villaret, set sail three hundred miles to the west and landed at Rhodes, then under the sovereignty Byzantine buy the island to the Genoese admiral Vignolo, but are struggling for three years to obtain the Byzantine emperor the right to stay.

Coots is to the Pope when 35 Knights Hospitaller and the troops embarked on two ships and four galleys of the Order helped by boats attacked the Genoese Castle Philermos November 11, 1307. After the besiegers became besieged by the Greeks and the Ottomans, the Order of St. John of Jerusalem becomes master of the island of Rhodes August 15, 1310 after taking the castle of Rhodes. In less than three years, the Order also became master of the forts of Cos and Kastellorizo ​​/ Megisti, Limonia Islands, Alimnia, Halki, Symi , Tilos, Nisyros, Kalymnos, Leros and the port of Smyrna.

August 15, 1310, the Knights complete the conquest of the island became the new seat of the Order. The West does not oppose the coup and Clement V confirmed the Hospitallers possession of these islands they therefore qualify Knights of Rhodes , a new title was confirmed by Pope Clement V, but keeping their ancient title.

Rhodes has long been converted to Christianity by St. Paul nascent, the Knights are welcome and there they build: in 1311, they created the first hospital on the island of Rhodes .

The Knights of Rhodes (1310-1522)
Map of Rhodes. Click to enlarge the image.Map of Rhodes. Click to enlarge the image.
May 2, 1312, the Pope suppressed the Knights Templar and spent much of their property, "ad providam" the Knights Hospitallers in Rhodes (with the exception of their possessions in Spain and Portugal, where two orders are born ashes of the Order of the Temple, the Order of Montesa and the Order of Christ). With the wealth of the Templars received the donations from wealthy benefactors and income properties in Europe, the Order prospered and built at Rhodes, one of the strongest fortresses of the time.

Ditch fortifications of Rhodes. Click to enlarge the image.Knights of St. John in fact apply to build a thirty magnificent fortresses to protect the island and Turkish invasions pirates. In the city of Rhodes , the Knights built a strong fortified city capable of supporting long sieges.

The island of Rhodes has still thirty medieval citadels.

Gate of Amboise fortifications of Rhodes. Click to enlarge the image.

Main gate of the Palace of the Grand Masters Rhodes. Click to enlarge the image.The knights do not only transformed the island into a giant fortress, the world’s largest at the time, but also built many buildings of quality. The Palace of the Grand Master , churches and especially the hospital the admiration of Europe.

Street of the Knights in Rhodes. Click to enlarge the image.

Galley of the Knights of Rhodes. Click to enlarge the image.Knights of St. John, combined with Rhodians built an impressive fleet of galleys fighting to liberate the Eastern Mediterranean and Muslim pirates.

Galley of the Order of St. John in Rhodes. Click to enlarge the image. This fleet will illustrate in the naval battles of Negrepont and Methoni, and contribute to making Smyrna st of Halicarnassus (Bodrum and Izmir).

Coins of the Knights of Rhodes. Click to enlarge the image.In Rhodes, the Order became for the first time a sovereign power, exercising authority without sharing in its own territory and governed by a great master who enjoyed a rank equal to that of kings and other heads of independent states. Sign of enrichment of the Order at the same time as a conquest of sovereignty, the masters began to mint coins in their own image.

A new classification based on Knights nationality was introduced. The Order was then divided into languages ​​(seven languages, and later eight), each headed by a bailiff and with its own inn to accommodate his knights.

Crusade of 1396
Despite the maritime control exerted on the Knights of Rhodes in the Aegean, the Ottoman dynasty gradually takes precedence over the dying empire of Byzantium and the Latin states in Greece arising from the Fourth Crusade.

In 1396, a crusade supported by the Order suffered a bloody defeat at Nicopolis. After this episode, the Sultan Bajazet I had a free hand in the Balkans. Only defeat of 1402 against the Mongols of Tamerlane saves Rhodes. For the Order, with the failure of Nicopolis, the dream of reclaiming land of the Holy Places is permanently lost.

Seats in 1440 and 1444
Jean de Lastic, Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. Click to enlarge the image.In 1440, then in 1444, the island of Rhodes was besieged by the Sultan of Egypt, but the Knights of Rhodes repel these attacks.

The first attack took place in September 1440: the Egyptian fleet goes first to Rhodes, and to the island of Kos and Rhodes before this again in November. The Hospitallers, the ships of the line are lower than those of their opponents, the parade are passing on their fighters punting embarking on the collision of enemy ships. Heavy toll: 700 dead Egyptian side, 60 on the Christian side. The Egyptians did not insist.

The second Egyptian expedition took place in 1444: the fleet of Mamluk, high of 75 vessels, landed this time an army of 18,000 men, laid siege to Rhodes August 10, 1444. A emerged victorious, and almost desperate, ordered by Jean de Lastic , would even allowed to throw overboard the Egyptian artillery placed outside the main gate of the city, poorly defended from the pier between the commercial port and the port military. On September 18, a new assault ended in failure. The seat is lifted. 300 Mamluks were killed and 500 others wounded, not counting the loss of non-combatants and Mamluk auxiliaries.

The siege of 1480
Siege of Rhodes by the Turks in 1480. Click to enlarge the image.Siege of Rhodes. Click to enlarge the image.Siege of Rhodes in 1480, painting by Edouard Odier. Click to enlarge the image.
Meanwhile, the Ottoman Turks, who had replaced the Saracens as the first Muslim power is claimed. The capture of Constantinople by the Turks of Sultan Mehmet II in 1453 ended the Byzantine Empire and announced the next attack Rhodes. The Order was now overwhelmed by the Turks on earth who occupied the land only twelve miles away.

Caoursin, 1480. Click to enlarge the image.The Grand Master Jean de Lastic is preparing for a siege. It is put around Rhodes in 1480: the Grand Sultan Muhammad dispatch 160 ships and other vessels of smaller size to the island and made land an army of 70,000 men, under the command of Pasha Meshach Palaeologus, Byzantine former prince converted to Islam. Ensuing 89 days hammering a seat in which the Turks try to cannon shots and explosions of mines to breach the walls of the fortress, but without success.

Portrait of Pierre d'Aubusson. Click to enlarge the image.The Grand Master Pierre d’Aubusson opposes the force 450 Turkish knights, mercenaries and some 4000 companies formed citizens. Pierre d’Aubusson is adapting the walls of Rhodes gunpowder artillery. He dug the Rhodes harbor to accommodate large vessels. The attack of several days is terrible, resulting in the loss of thousands of people in both camps. Despite the treachery and spies, Pierre d’Aubusson, at the price of five wounds, with the help of his knights and their courage, pushing the Turks. He pushes three times the attack Turkish troops through aid from France, led by the brother of the great master, Antoine d’Aubusson.

Siege of Rhodes in 1480. Click to enlarge the image.The Turks managed to open a breach in the walls of the fortress, in which the great master lived a cons-attack. In the ensuing battle, the Hospitallers killed 3,500 Turks. The siege lasted three months and had 9,000 dead and 27,000 wounded among the Turks. When a few days later, the Spanish ships crossed the dam and the garrisons provisioned in fresh food, the Turks retreated.

The attacker withdraws, leaving the island of Rhodes in ruins, covered with corpses, but free.

Upon retirement, the Muslim fleet faces galleys came to the rescue of the order. Meshach Palaeologus died during this engagement. Mahomet saw this failure very badly and decides to raise a new army which he will command to reduce the knights. But he died suddenly shortly after his departure.

A conflict arose between his two son, Bajazet II and Cem, who dispute the birthright.

Sultan Bajazet II. Click to enlarge the image.Arrival of Prince Cem to Rhodes in 1482. Click to enlarge the image.Indeed, two years later, the son of Mehmet II, Prince Cem (Zizim), entered in Rhodes, not as a conqueror but as a guest. In 1481, Mehmet II died while he was preparing a new attempt to take Rhodes and his son Bayezid II was proclaimed sultan, but Prince Cem, one of his younger brothers who ruled the two provinces in Anatolia, proclaimed himself Sultan of Anatolia. But his troops were soon defeated and the Prince Cem fled to Egypt. In 1482, he landed again in Anatolia and tried to foment a revolt against the sultan. This second attempt failed and Prince Cem found refuge in the fortress of St. Pierre (now Bodrum), the fortress of the Knights of Rhodes in Asia Minor opposite the island of Kos. The Grand Master D’Aubusson invited to Rhodes where he was received with great honor. This miniature sixteenth century shows his arrival at Emporio : the Gate Sainte-Catherine and harbor fortifications are clearly visible. For his safety, Pierre d’Aubusson places in France Bourganeuf Creuse, seat of the Grand Priory of the Order for the nation of Auvergne, where he remained a few years.
The siege of 1522
Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam. Click to enlarge the image.Sultan Selim I had extended his empire to the east by conquering Syria and Egypt made it crucial for the Ottomans to control the road from Constantinople to Alexandria. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (Suleiman II Kanuni, the legislator) considers what this stronghold Latin Rhodes, the last state of Franco-Latin Crusades as an obstacle to its domination of the Greek islands and navigation.

In 1521, the death of Grand Master Fabrizio del Caretto , Philippe Villiers de L’Isle-Adam was elected as successor against his eternal rival Amaral, Grand Chancellor of the Order, which was proposed by the language of Castile. It is said to have sworn qu’Amaral this time that L’Isle-Adam was the last Grand Master of Rhodes.

The following year, in 1522, 300 Turkish galleys (rowers Christian slaves), led by the Grand Vizier Mustafa, brother of the Sultan, come and seat begins August 1, 1522. Soliman comes through Asia Minor and especially with the infantry artillery, and passes through the island, with 200,000 men (140,000 men and 60,000 engineers responsible for carrying out the work of seat). Later, 15,000 soldiers reinforcement came to the rescue of the Sultan. The invaders occupied the hill of St. Stephen in the west of the city (the site of the ancient acropolis), where they put their guns.

Rhodes is defended by the 44th Grand Master Philippe Villiers de l’Isle-Adam (1464-1534), head of the French Language, 650 knights, 200 Genoese, Venetians 50, 400 Cretans and Rhodians 6000. Pope Adrian VI adjure Christian princes to rescue the besieged, but internal divisions in Europe and unfavorable elements nuisirent attempts mailing reinforcements from Europe.

After a heroic resistance of six months 650 Knights and betrayal André do Amaral Language of Castile-Portugal (denounced as torture by his valet Blaise Diaz, Amaral was convicted and beheaded before his peers on November 8) The city fell to the Ottomans. They opened a breach in the ramparts near the Gate St. Athanase and were about to give the final assault, but Soliman, remembering that in a similar situation in 1480, the assault had turned to rout Ottomans, he preferred to negotiate with the Knights. Five days before Christmas, December 22, 1522, the Grand Master capitulated, obtaining honorable conditions in order to spare the civilian population. The terms of surrender included Accort fortresses of the Order in the island of Cos and Château St. Pierre . After the muezzin’s voice had sounded from the belfry of the church of St. Jean, Philippe Villiers de l’Isle-Adam embarked, with his last knights to Crete and Europe.

Sultan Soliman, respectful of the courage of his enemies, the Knights gave twelve days to leave the island with their ships, their treasure, their records, their weapons, their property and their relics (including precious icon of the Virgin Philermos, a symbol of order, and even provides them with some Turkish ships to transport them. January 1, 1523, the Grand Master Soliman kiss the hand by offering four vases in gold and will ship with 180 knights survivors, and 4,000 Christians.

The city of Rhodes will not be destroyed, its civilian population will not be massacred, the churches will be met, the Greeks who practice their religion remain. The island ravaged, depopulated, will be exempt from taxes five years.

Without assistance of European sovereigns, Knights survivors wandered between Candia (Crete) and Messina (Sicily), Civitavecchia and between Marseille.

October 26, 1530, the Grand Master Brother Philippe Villiers de l’Isle Adam took possession of the island of Malta, assigned to the Hospitaller Order by Emperor Charles V with the approval of Pope Clement VII, where he try to keep up to the French Revolution.

Sacred ArchitectureArchitecture
Medieval City of Rhodes, engraving 15th century. Click to enlarge the image.The Knights showed the extent of their architectural engineering and building military fortifications particularly modern for their time. This will be the beginning of the fourteenth century to the end of the fifteenth, a very large architectural era.

The medieval period is represented by a Gothic architectural style, very close to the Provencal style of the era, characterized by intersecting ribs, shields, et cetera. And the Palace of the Grand Masters he reminds the Palais des Papes in Avignon and the churches of St. Jean or the Notre Dame des Doms Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.

Walls, inns, castles are still standing, immutable and beautiful, to give us an idea of ​​what was the extraordinary power of this small community.

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The history of Rhodes in Antiquity
The history of Rhodes in the Byzantine Empire
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