The layout and Architecture of Settlements in Rhodes

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The layout and Architecture of Settlements in Rhodes

rhodes lindos

From ancient times Rhodes has boasted fine examples of town layout, organisation and planning. Settlements in Rhodes, from ancient times until today, can be divided into three categories based on their layout, organisation and position:

  1. Settlements dating from before the 7th AD century which are naval and agricultural in character, with a closed economic structure and standard planning and layout.
  2. Settlements dating from between the 7th and 16th centuries, ie up to the Ottoman conquest, when pirate raids and wars forced settlements to either be fortified (the medieval city of Rhodes) or to be near a fort.
  3. Settlements founded after the Ottoman conquest, when there was no longer any need for fortification. Settlements from this era are planned, and have a multicenteral, central or linear structure.

Given that the inhabitants in Byzantine times, the Knights of St John, the Turks and the Italians all left their mark on the city, the structure and appearance of the medieval city of Rhodes is remarkably well maintained bearing in mind how many centuries is has been standing for.  There are arches across the streets with living spaces above them, walls, palaces, mansions, public buildings, towers, windmills, simple houses, churches, drains and decorative fronts. All these together form an authentic and unique whole that leaves visitors speechless, despite all the alteration and destruction that the city has seen in recent years with bombings, earthquakes and other interventions.

The layout of the city streets is complicated. In many places there are narrow streets and many streets have arches and high walls, without any large openings. There are also small triangular squares and a medieval street plan and houses with enclosed courtyards and gardens with tall walls which kept private life separate from public life.

The residential development of Rhodes started in ancient times, and from then on the town’s successive conquerors have all contributed new ideas and styles which blended with local tradition to result in unique forms and types of architecture. Many examples of these are preserved today.

When it came to construction techniques and building materials, the residents used to make use of whatever was available in their natural environment. So in Rhodes the locals built with stone, earth and wood, using methods which were truly remarkable technically and economically, and which allowed them to build in accordance with their everyday needs.

The types of Rhodian house vary, with rural or simple single roomed houses being the best known.  These are found in almost all villages in Rhodes, mainly in the older areas of the villages.  As well as the rural simple houses, a type of suburban house developed early on the island, in areas where most of the population was involved in working large expanses of land or in shipping or trade. Usually these houses are a variation of a developed simple house, stressing its self-contained nature. Foreign influences had a more direct and larger effect on these houses which were often richly decorated both inside and out.

Lindos is one of the oldest settlements on the island, and the mansion houses in the village are, architecturally speaking, unique.  They are a mixture of island, Byzantine, medieval and Arabic styles and they give Lindos a truly distinctive feel. Most of the houses were built in the early 17th century and are in fairly good condition.  Most are still inhabited today.

There was a period of intense building activity at the time of the Knights of St John and many monuments and buildings from that era are still standing today. As well as the public and residential buildings to be found in the medieval city of Rhodes, many medieval buildings still survive in the countryside. These towers are stone-built, with flat roofs and elongated small openings in the upper storeys and windows.

With the arrival of the Turks, the city changed appearance. New details were added to existing homes in response to the new social and cultural needs. Besides the additions and changes made to existing buildings, new entirely eastern buildings also appeared.

Finally, some rather peculiar long and narrow, rectangular buildings are to be found in the Marasia districts. Here the rooms in the houses are arranged in a line. The simplest form is the single-storey house, which is fairly narrow and quite high. The two rows of windows on the façade are an interesting feature. The fact that Turkish elements were included in the form, structure and function of the houses was the result of the social changes that took place in the structure of society in Rhodes under the Turks.