Pierre d’Aubusson – 40th Grand Master

Pierre D' Aubusson

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

Coat Of Arms - Pierre d'Aubusson
Coat Of Arms – Pierre d’Aubusson

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.

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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.

Pierre d'Aubusson
Pierre d’Aubusson (Courtesy Of Wikimedia Commons)

Final Years

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.

My Thoughts

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.

Click From Below To Learn More About Some Important Historical Figures In Rhodes

Posted by

Chris Towers

Hi there, I am Chris and I live on The Island Of Rhodes In Greece. I am more than happy to assist you in anyway possible if you are looking for information or help on this amazing Greek Island.

Feel free to leave me a message if you have any questions or need advice!

Hey, maybe you have visited this beautiful place yourself and you have something you want to share?

I look forward to hearing from all of you.

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(40) Comments

  1. Lev

    My mothers side of the family was from Lesbos and I find this part of history that you touch on fascinating. 

    I’m also glad that Pope Alexander the 6th had the good sense not to go to battle with the Ottomans as Pierre d’Aubusson was planning. I had thought the only unsuccessful military campaign the Ottomans had was in Vienna.

    1. Chris Towers

      Thanks Lev.

      Yes, The Ottomans certainly had a lot of strongholds back in the say, but by no means were they successful on every siege they took part in.

      The Knights of Rhodes were able to put up a very strong stance against them much to their frustration.

      Thanks my friend.


  2. Daniel

    I remember this man. I was learning about him on my history class in high school. You did great job by writing about him because I think that it is important to know about such important and brave people who lived before us and not forget what deeds they did. Great article.

    1. Chris Towers

      Thank you Daniel. I agree, courageous and history changing acts should never be forgotten.

      Thanks for dropping by!


  3. Stew

    I am a lover of these European times and my wife and I have travelled to France a few time to experience this history.  

    To stand before city walls hundreds of years old is fantastic.  Then reading about them, castles and such.

    I have never heard of his name though and have never been to Rhodes.  Thank you for a great history lesson

    1. Chris Towers

      Your welcome Stew, thanks for your visit and interest.

  4. julienne murekatete

    Thank you for sharing, I am happy to read your post. I have never heard about Pierre d’Aubusson before but i was attracted by his great doing on the Island of Rhodes. I wish I could visit Greece to see all those buildings.

    I like to hear about great men in past history and you are great too to search for us such wonderful posts.


    1. Chris Towers

      Thank you Julienne, I am happy you enjoyed your visit.

      I hope one day you can come to see the impact of the history here for yourself!


  5. Richard Hoffmann

    History and the stories of men of such courage and faith have always fascinated me as they have shaped the course of history often with the effects still being evident today. \

    Other than the eradication of Judaism, are there any other significant contributions or effects that can still be seen today of have they all been lost to time and the changing of empires?

    1. Chris Towers

      Hi Richard.

      Simply by walking around the island, you can see the impact The Knights had here. The history runs deep and to be honest to list everything here would be a daunting task.

      The courage shown by Pierre d’Aubusson was amazing as it was with other Grand Masters of The Knights Order too. These actions have shaped history and they have certainly left an everlasting mark on Rhodes.

      I will be making a lot of literature available soon via the shop if you would be interested to take a look.

      Thanks Richard!


  6. Emmanuel Buysse

    Great article and it is more information about what I have already from that age, I’m saving everything (like historical pictures, information worldwide, and sometimes artifacts), so this information is awesome for me.

    I’m a historical lover, but about Rhodes I am still expanding my knowledge. Thanks to your post I know more about it and also I know the person behind the name of Pierre d’Aubusson.

    Thanks to share it with us!

    1. Chris Towers

      Thank you sir. I am happy you found the information of interest and help.

      Just let me know if you need something more.


  7. Kenny

    Wow what a detailed account if such an important historical figure. I feel that you must do so much research to be able to feed so many accurate and great accounts of the history of Rhodes. Thanks for this and please do keep them coming as they are very interesting. Thanks Kenny 

    1. Chris Towers

      Thanks Kenny.

      To be honest my friend, the research is made so much more easily simply by living here.

      On this island where all these events took place, and the people that made a difference is dominant on the island. It is hard not to take notice 🙂

      Thanks and I am happy you enjoyed your visit!


  8. Kabakov Mark

    Chris, hello. Your article about the 40th Grand Master Pierre d’Aubusson is historically correct. 

    For my supplement, I complement the historical connection, the struggle against the Ottoman Empire lasted another 400 years.

    And 200 years ago, the greatest European poet, Lord Byron, gave his life and all his fortune to this struggle.

    He did not live in Rhodes, he lived and fought among the swamps of Messolonghi. Greeks honor the fallen hero Byron.  I have no doubt that you recognize this supplement as relevant. 

    With great respect for your creativity. 


    1. Chris Towers

      Thank you very much for reading Mark and for your additional information.

      Although I am referring to the actions of Pierre d’Aubusson here, I clearly acknowledge that the struggle continued and thank you for the insight into the actions of Lord Byron too. I will admit this is not an area I am educated in. I will head off and learn some more.

      Much appreciated Mark, thank you.


  9. Jan


    I had never heard about Pierre d’Aubusson before I read your exciting history lesson here:) It’s always fun to learn more from the history that took place all around our world.

    I hope I can go to Rhodes with my family and see all these buildings and feel the wings of history within the walls he protected!

    Do you know long the defense walls are?

    Regards, Jan

    1. Chris Towers

      Hi Jan and thanks for getting in touch!

      The Medieval City in Rhodes is a fantastic place and if you do manage to visit, it is not hard to capture the history that has been left behind by the different Grand Masters and their Knights. I urge you to visit and see it all for yourself. It is breathtaking.

      In regards to your question, are you asking how long the walls are distance wise? Or do you want to know how long they have been standing?

      Either way, if you visit the section on The Medieval City and check out The Walls And The Gates, you will find a lot of information here and the answers I hope you are looking for.

      Of course, let me know if you need something more.

      Thanks Jan.


  10. Riaz Shah

    Hey Chris,

    Huge fan of medieval folklore here, didn’t know there are castles there in Rhodes! I love visiting castles, I’ve covered a lot of castles in France (home to Pierre d’Aubusson) like Carcasonne and Chateau de pierrefonds.

    I planned to visit Rhodes this year but I am packed with events till the end of the year, so early next year is a must!

    Out of curiosity, is a week enough to cover the historical areas there?

    1. Chris Towers

      Hello Riaz, I must admit that I am not well traveled when it comes to France. I would also love to see these locations that you mention. I have had the good fortune to visit many castles and palaces in Germany, but as yet France has eluded me.

      Rhodes does have its fair share of castles too including the medieval city in Rhodes Town itself. To think they have witnessed such history with the likes of Pierre d’Aubusson and Philippe Villiers de L’Isle-Adam as Grand Masters defending the island with their Knights. It is quite amazing to stand and witness these locations and the history for yourself.

      To answer your question, a week is a good amount of time to get a good look around yes. You can see quite a lot over this time period. You will want more though 🙂

      Thanks Riaz, great to hear from you.


  11. Michael Howell

    The Island of Rhodes must have been one of the most strategic fortresses for conquest and self-defense. I imagine that when the Ottoman Empire finally did seize the islands, it was kind of a Pyrrhic victory.

    There are many people who may not be very likable — but have to be given their due as military heroes. The Island of Rhodes is much more important to our Western heritage than I first imagined.

    1. Chris Towers

      Hi Michael.

      Yes, Rhodes was, and still is considered a very powerful and strategic location. The shipping here on the island is very important and it is considered the gateway to the west. It was always like this and this is one of the reasons Suleiman The Magnificent wanted it and pressed his forces on the island in 1522.

      I agree, that once he had achieved victory, it was most likely bitter sweet. The Ottoman Empire did achieve its goal back then, but it did not go as planned. Heavy losses were suffered on both sides and the final press was with dialogue and agreement and not with force.

      Thank for your interest Michael.


  12. Jaime

    You paint such a clear and interesting picture of the history of this guy. Obviously Pierre is significant to the history of Rhodes as he was such a huge part of the siege and defense. 

    That he’s STILL sort of put on a pedestal today is kind of surprising to me, after reading about the efforts before his death to eradicate Judaism from the island. I think it just stands out to me because of my own personal background.

    1. Chris Towers

      Thanks for your comment on this Jaime.

      I think like most leaders, it is hard to carry out actions that are pleasing to everyone. When it comes to the defense of the island, he certainly played an important role.

      As to his actions after this event, naturally then can be questioned by many.

      One thing for sure, he will always be remembered in the history of Rhodes, for right and wrong reasons.

      Appreciate your visit Jaime.


  13. Vicki Crawford

    Hi Chris – Wow what a great website

    I love history and I learned so much reading from what you have written here.

    1. Chris Towers

      Thank you Vicki, I am pleased you liked your visit here to my website.

      Pierre d’Aubusson played an important role in the history of the island, as did a lot of other important people too.

      There is a lot more coming in this section, so be sure to call back again 🙂



  14. Patty

    Looks and sounds like a beautiful place.  Rich in culture and so much History.

    I must admit, I have never heard of Pierre d’Aubusson. His strength and leadership and courage is incredible.

    I remember doing an assignment back in school years ago about the Ottoman Empire, and what I remember, their armies were huge. But reading your article proves that victory belongs to the purest of hearts and bravest and faithful men. 

    Thank you for this amazing article, I look forward to reading more about Rhodes.

    1. Chris Towers

      Hello Patty, you are not the only person that has not heard of Pierre d’Aubusson. 

      I can understand it to a point, especially if you are either not Greek, not studied Greece and its activities, or have not been to Rhodes.

      There are people though that visit Rhodes, sometimes year after year, and visit the old city where this Grand Master defended, and they have still not heard of him.

      You are right though, he and his Knights had huge courage to defend against The Ottoman Empire. Their armies were huge and the effort to defend Rhodes was hard.

      On this occasion victory was theirs, but unfortunately later on, The Ottoman Empire returned for the siege in 1522. The Grand Master for this one was Philippe Villiers de l’Isle-Adam. He did not have success and the Knights were forced to leave the island.

      Thanks for your interest Patty. Nice to have you here.


  15. Sonya

    Hi Chris; Thanks for writing such an interesting article. 

    Pierre d’Aubusson certainly lived a large life. I had not actually heard of him so I am grateful for the history lesson. As Jason mentioned in one of the other comments, I wonder if there is a movie about Pierre? If there was, it’s one that I would definitely be interested in seeing.

    I have visited mainland Greece and many of the islands but, somehow managed to miss Rhodes. It seems that I will have to put it on my list of places to see now. 

    You have done such a magnificent job of telling the stories of your beautiful island. 

    Thank you.

    1. Chris Towers

      Hello Sonya and thank you so much for your kind words. I am happy you enjoyed your visit here.

      Yes, I remember talking to Jason with this, and I did have a look around (and I am still looking) to see if anything was produced with regards to a movie about the life of Pierre d’Aubusson.

      I will admit I have not found anything. Like I say, I know there are a lot of documentaries about The Sieges Of Rhodes and history, and his name his mention, but I cannot find anything dedicated to him and his life directly.

      Believe me I will keep looking, as I would love to see something produced too 🙂

      Thanks Sonya


  16. Matt’s Mom

    Your website is always amazing, and this is great information on the history of Rhodes. 

    Pretty interesting that his efforts kept the Ottoman Empire at bay. A definite strong leader to hold off all the attacks with the Ottoman Empire finally retreating. I have read up on the Ottoman Empire before, but had not heard of Pierre d’Aubusson, so it was a great read for me!

    1. Chris Towers

      Hello Leahrae, I hope you are keeping fine.

      Yes, Pierre d’Aubusson was indeed a great leader, and he was not afraid of fighting from the front. This siege of Rhodes was in the year 1480, but there was another that took place later on in 1522. This also demanded the strength and courage of another Grand Master called Philippe Villiers de L’Isle-Adam.

      There is more coming on this, and it will be covered in the next weeks. so make sure you come back and check out more history.

      As for Pierre d’Aubusson, his name his etched here and he will always be remembered for his actions.

      Thanks Leahrae


  17. Jason

    I was always interested with history. Every time I read one of your posts I am tempted to come and visit Rhodes. Pierre d’Aubusson sounds like he was quite a fighter and an interesting character. Have they made any movies about him?

    It would be nice if there were more information on his upbringing that brought about him eventually becoming the head of The Knights Order. It is, however, better for people not to write accounts if they are not sure if that’s how they really happened.

    1. Chris Towers

      Hi Jason. 

      Yes, Pierre d’Aubusson was known throughout all of Europe for his actions during the siege of Rhodes. He indeed was a fighter.

      As for movies that have been made about him, I will be honest and say I am not sure. There are documentaries that have been produced with regards to The Knights of Saint John and The Sieges Of Rhodes where his name is involved, but as for a movie I do not know. I will have a look around and find out.

      For sure his life was involved, and there was a path that he took to lead him to his achievements. I agree though, if things are not indeed fact, they can often be left better unsaid.

      Thanks Jason, I am grateful for your visit here and your interest.


  18. Ryan

    So cool to see these types of structures standing after 500+ years, and with such great documented history!.

    Thanks so much for the info on this historical figure of the island. In your opinion, who would be the top 3 most significant historical figures to the island of Rhodes? Also was the island attacked by the ottoman empire again after the grand masters death?

    Thanks for the info!



    1. Chris Towers

      Yes Ryan, the island of Rhodes was indeed attacked again after the death of Pierre d’Aubusson. 

      I am actually in the process of preparing the information on the next siege which took place in 1522. This time, Philippe Villiers de l’isle Adam was the Grand Master in place, and he was up against Suleiman The Magnificent of The Ottoman Empire..

      For me these actually name some of the 3 important people that you ask about.

      Pierre d’Aubusson

      Philippe Villiers de l’isle Adam

      The Sultan Suleiman.

      The next 2 posts that will be made available will cover the other 2 historical figures.

      Also, if you see the bottom of the posts in this section, you will see the links to other important people that you may find of interest.

      Thanks Ryan.


  19. Ted

    Hey Chris, thank you for the walk through for a little history of the Island of Rhodes. 

    Greece as a whole has so the much history that one has to wonder where to even start. I have always wanted to visit the country of Greece, just to see all the historical sites it holds. 

    After reading your article about Pierre d’Aubusson I have added the Island of Rhodes to the list of must see places in Greece.

    Thank You Again


    1. Chris Towers

      Thank you so much Ted.

      You are right too, there is a lot of history in Rhodes alone, never mind Greece as a whole. The mind can boggle with it all. It is all very interesting though, and I personally love learning more about it myself.

      Rhodes is a great place to visit, and if you are looking to see historical places then it has everything you could need here.

      It is always nice to be able to walk around and appreciate what you are seeing, but it is also nice to know about its history too. So, with that, thank you for your interest.

      I hope to see you here on the island soon!


  20. Emmanuel Tooulou

    Thanks for another great snapshot of Rhodian history Chris!

    1. Chris Towers

      Your welcome Emmanuel. I am happy you enjoyed it.

      I wanted to make this section on historical figures, as very often their names can go unnoticed. It is important to remember them and appreciate what they achieved in their lifetimes.

      Glad you enjoyed it.


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