When it comes to discussing the history that has taken place in Rhodes, the actions and leadership of Pierre d’Aubusson are very important.
Once more, and as with other important names from the past, he can often be overlooked. Just know that if you are ever in Rhodes, Pierre d’Aubusson was the 40th elected Grand Master of The Knights Order Of Saint John, and a lot of the Medieval Fortress Walls of Rhodes that you see standing today, are his work. (These walls became a required stronghold for the later 1480 Siege Of Rhodes).
Aside from this project, he also undertook renovation work on other structures in the Dodecanese which belonged to The Order Of The Knights.
A Little More About Pierre d’Aubusson
Pierre d’Aubusson was born in Central France in 1423. His birthplace was actually in a castle named ‘Le Monteil-au-Vicomte’ in the area called Creuze (named after the river Creuze). The castle today is known as ‘The Castle Of Le Monteil’.
Born in 1423, the youth of Pierre d’Aubusson has not been clearly defined. There have been alleged stories which have circulated into print, but have been declared unreliable.
This was the case until the mid 1440s when it is said he joined The Knights Order and relocated to Rhodes.
In the early weeks of 1476, he was elected within the Langue d’Auvergne as ‘Grand Prior’ and only a few months later in mid 1476 he went on to be elected as the 40th Grand Master Of The Knights Order.
It is from here that he went on to order and carry out the restoration work on the walls and gates of the medieval city in Rhodes and other Knights Order locations throughout Greece. On the walls of The Medieval City you can still see his Coat Of Arms.
The 1480 Siege Of Rhodes
The Sultan Mehmed (who was also known as Mehmed The Conqueror), was of the Ottoman Empire and he was their ruler from August 1444 until September 1446. He then went on to rule for a second time from February 1451 until May 1481.
After many successful campaigns in places such as Constantinople (known now as Istanbul), Serbia, The Black Sea Coast, Moldavia and Albania, Mehmed The Conqueror set out to invade Rhodes on the 23rd of May 1480.
On this day, the Ottoman Empire appeared on the coastal waters of Rhodes, with 160 vessels and over 70,000 soldiers. They were ready to seize the island. Their first interest was to bombard and capture the port areas known as Mandraki and Akandia. St Nicholas Tower which sat in their defense was first to take the force of the Turkish Army.
On this occasion, Pierre d’Aubusson and his army of Knights put up a huge effort to defend, and they were able to defer the attacks against them.
A second attack was not far behind, and this time they hit the Jewish Quarter of Rhodes. This was considered a weak area of the city. After many losses of life from both armies, Pierre d’Aubusson and his Knights were once more able to repel the enemy attacks.
A third attack on the 27th Of July then followed, and the Ottoman Empire were able to breach the city on this occasion. The Grand Master himself fought on the front line and suffered injuries in battle. After hours of heavy fighting, many people were lost. The enemy had no more strength to fight, and those left standing started to retreat.
It was on August 17th 1480, The Ottoman Forces finally abandoned their efforts to seize the island of Rhodes.
The actions of Pierre d’Aubusson were critical in the success of this siege. He was able to obtain assistance from France, and they dispatched 2000 soldiers and 500 Knights to his aide.
His leadership, decision-making and fighting from the front made sure he was recognized all over Europe. He was famous for his actions at that time.
Pierre d’Aubusson The Cardinal
Mehmed The Conqueror was succeeded by his son Bayezid The Just after his death in 1481. This decision was questioned by his brother who was named Prince Cem. Being dissatisfied with this, he left for Rhodes.
He finally took shelter with The Knights Of Saint John and he was imprisoned thereon.
Pierre d’Aubusson had promised Cem protection and hospitality, however this came to pass and he forced Prince Cem into the hands of Pope Innocent the 8th after 6 years had passed. He was sent to the castle of Pierre d’Aubusson in France.
This was undertaken as a monetary bribe from Bayezid The Just (45,000 Ducats). Bayezid went on to make further annual payments to Pope Innocent the 8th ensuring his brother remained in captivity.
These were all political decisions and Pope Innocent the 8th used Prince Cem as leverage. In return for Prince Cem, he went on to make Pierre d’Aubusson a Cardinal. With this authority The Grand Master went on to make changes to The Knights Order ensuring increased strength.
It is known that Pierre d’Aubusson was planning an attack against The Ottoman Empire in his later years. Pope Alexander the 6th was on the throne during this time however, and he was against the plans to go to battle. These plans never came to be.
He did go on to lead a crusade to take over Mytilene (now known as Lesbos), but this was finally aborted.
The last years of his life were spent dwelling on his later failures and he passed away on the 3rd July 1503.
Before his death he was successful in eradicating Judaism from the island of Rhodes. He had forced out all of the adults, and he made it compulsory for all their children to be baptized.
Pierre d’Aubusson is certainly a man that will be remembered on the island of Rhodes.
His strong will to fight and his leadership made him a well-known name throughout Europe.
Personally I like to visit The Medieval City in Rhodes even today, and see his efforts and hard work still standing in all their glory. The huge defense walls of the old town still hold the markings of Pierre d’Aubusson hundreds of years after his death,
So, I hope you enjoyed this information, and please leave me a comment if you have any questions or points of view. I like to hear from all of you.
Thanks for reading.