If you enter the Medieval City of Rhodes through the Liberty Gate (the entrance just opposite to Mandraki Harbour) and you turn to the left on Apellou Street, as you pass the temples of Aphrodite and Athina (on your left hand) and the Square of the Hebrew Martyrs (on your right hand), you’ll see a relatively large and straight street with narrow sidewalks. This street running uphill from the Hospital of the Knights of Saint John (actually the Rhodes Archeology Museum) to the Palace of the Grand Master is Odos Ippoton, aka the Street of Knights.
Even if you don’t care much about history you’ll find Odos Ippoton interesting. The combination of straight lines and arches, the cobblestones and the stone sidewalks work together to create a sober yet stylish look. There are no plants on this medieval street. The only greenery is a bunch of palm trees showing up above the stone wall.
The Street of Knights looks very well-preserved. This is actually the result of restoration works done by Italians in the 1930s after the end of the Ottoman rule. Italian architects were very careful to preserve the Gothic look of this street, so they removed all balconies, as well as any other elements of Ottoman influence.
For the best photo opportunities, visit the Street of Knights early in the morning, just after the sunrise. Not only you’ll have the whole street to yourself but you’ll also benefit from the wonderfully soft early morning light. Try to capture the beautiful archways partially revealing the first sun rays of the day.
Watch the lazy cats following you with their eyes.
Enjoy these peaceful moments before local people show up to their jobs in the government institutions that function today in the former inns that used to house the knights of Saint John.
The Seven Tongues or Langues
The Order of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem (also known as the Knights Hospitaller), that occupied Rhodes from 1309 to 1522, was organized into guilds, the so-called “tongues,” each of them having its own inn or lodge. The members of this order were living a comfortable life in Rhodes, after building strong fortifications, extending the palace and pushing local Greek Orthodox to the suburbs (source: worldhistory.org).
Four of these knights’ inns are still here today, but they aren’t open to visitors. Government and cultural institutions in Rhodes have their headquarters inside.
The Chapel of the French Langue & the Statue of Virgin Mary with Child
As you walk along the Street of Knights, you’ll see a door featuring a marble frontispiece and guarded by a statue. This is the entrance to the chapel of the French Langue. Next door to Virgin Mary’s statue, there’s the entrance to the French tongue inn, with thee coats of arms.
How To Visit Odos Ippoton
The Street of the Knights is about 200m long, so it’s maybe too much to say that you visit it. You’ll walk it anyway during your strolls through the Medieval City of Rhodes. Even though it seems steep, climbing it is easy. It’s worth doing it even if you don’t want to visit the Palace of the Grand Master.
If you want to have some fun in the process, check out this Segway tour of the Old City of Rhodes that also includes the Street of the Knights.
Why Is the Street of the Knights Important?
This place may not look like Greece at all, but it surely helped defending Rhodes from the Ottomans for quite a while. This street is important because allows us to take a glimpse into a past where knights didn’t mingle with locals. They didn’t even mingle with their peers. They rather lived in these inns, grouped by tongue. Furthermore, they built a wall to separate the upper town where they lived from the lower town.
Together with the Palace of the Grand Masters and the Great Hospital, this street is part of the Upper Town of Rhodes, a wonderful urban ensemble of the Gothic architecture. It is a UNESCO Heritage site.
Click here to see the Street of the Knights in Rhodes on the map.