The church of the Panayia tou Kastrou (Virgin of the Castle), one of the most majestic buildings in the medieval town of Rhodes, standing at the beginning of Ippoton street hosts the Rhodes Byzantine Museum. Built in the late 11th c., its architectural type is that of a domed, cross-in-square church, with the western leg of the cross longer than the others. Until 1309, when the island was captured by the order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, it was the Byzantine cathedral of Rodos. After the capture of Rodos by the Knights of St. John, the Panayia tou Kastrou was converted into the Roman Catholic cathedral, an event mentioned in a papal bull of 1322.
Large-scale, radical work was undertaken on it during the period of the Grand Master Villeneuve (1319-1346), as confirmed by the coats-of-arms of Villeneuve himself and Pope John XXII preserved in the upper pad of the sanctuary. The work was concentrated on the roofing over the aisles and the sanctuary, in which use was made of poros blocks of various sizes as it is easily seen in the masonry of the monument. The dome was replaced by a barrel-vault and ribbed cross-vaults, which effectively transformed the building into a three-aisled church with a transept. In 1826, the Belgian traveller Rottiers states that there were in the church a number of tombstones of Catholic residents in the city of Rodos and foreigners who died in there, and also that the sanctuary had stained-glass windows, which he drew before they were destroyed.
Some important fragments are preserved of the interior wall-paintings from the period of the Knights, amongst them a depiction of the Virgin, and those of four other saints, the best preserved of which is St. Lucia. This dates from the 14th c. and probably belongs to the school of Giotto, whereas the other wall-paintings combine Byzantine and Western elements.
After the capture of the island by the Turks in 1522, the church was converted into a mosque, called the Ederum or Kadouri Cami. Modifications to the building comprised the addition of a minaret to the outside of the south-west corner, of a mihrab (recess for prayer) to the inside of the south-east corner, and the white-washing of the masonry, which destroyed the wall-paintings. These Turkish additions were removed during the Italian occupation (1912-1945), and the building was subsequently conserved by the Greek Archaeological Service. Since 1988, the church of the Panayia tou Kastrou has housed an exhibition of Byzantine and post-Byzantine painting, including icons from the collection of the 4th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities and wall-paintings detached from the churches of the Archangel Michael at Tharri and Ayios Zacharias at Chalki. Architectural sculptures and members (column capitals, closure slabs, impost blocks, etc) dating from the Early Christian period to the period of the Knights have been assembled in the courtyard on the north side of the church.
Open: Tuesday to Sunday – 08:00 to 16:00
Address: Platia Mousiou, Rhodes 85100, Greece, GR