At the end of one the most scenic Medieval streets in the world, the Street of the Knights, lies the magnificent Grand Master’s Palace of the Knights of St. John. It was built during the 14th century under the rule of Grand Master H. de Villeneuve (1319 – 1346) on the site of a 7th century Byzantine fortress. This imposing building was used as the residence of the Grand Master but functioned also as the main administrative seat of the Order and the social cultural center of the island. The most important halls were located on the first floor, like the Great Council Chamber and the dining room, as well as the private quarters of the Grand Master, which were commonly known as Margaritae. The Palace played an important role in the medieval fortification of the northwestern part of the walled city of Rhodos.
After the Ottoman occupation of Rhodos in 1522, the building lost its importance and was mainly used as a prison. Several earthquakes progressively damaged the building until, in 1865, a devastating explosion in the nearby basement of the church of St. John, used as an arsenal by the Ottomans, turned the Palace in a mass of ruins. The first floor collapsed completely, and very little of it survived until 1937, and the beginning of restoration work.
It was during the Italian occupation in 1937 that extensive restoration works were carried out. Supervised by the architect Vittorio Mesturini the restoration was later criticized for destroying part of the original construction.
The building has a rectangular plan, shaped around a central courtyard. The main entrance that leads to the central open courtyard is on the south side. Today the Grand Master’s Palace has the function of a museum/exhibition center. The ground floor hosts two permanent exhibitions of the ancient and medieval city of Rhodes, while on the first floor the visitors can admire the restored magnificent halls of the Palace as well as the remarkable floor mosaics of the late Hellenistic period originally mainly from Kos moved there during the Italian restoration to adorn the space.
Opening hours and tickets information: Ministry of Culture and Sports | Archaeological Museum of Rhodes