The Knights of St John in Rhodes

The Palace Of The Grand Master - The Knights of St John in Rhodes

Here I would like to talk to you about the presence of The Knights of St John in Rhodes – also known as The Order Of The Knights Of St John.

It is well documented that during the times of the occupation of the Knights Of St John on the island of Rhodes, it was the best period. The island was thriving and was doing well back even in these times.

The Early Years

Coat Of Arms - The Knights of St John in Rhodes
Coat Of Arms

The order of the Knights had also been established as an alliance in Jerusalem before this time. This was brought about from merchants from Italy who were inhabitants of the holy land.

The holy lands are in Israel and are called this because it is the land that belongs to the people all relative to the birth and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

The Order Of The Knights went under the jurisdiction and regulation of the church after 1099, the time of the Crusaders occupying Jerusalem. After this the order attained massive strength and took up the role of a militant authority.

Saladin, the first Sultan of Egypt went on to seize Jerusalem in 1187 and with this the Order Of The Knights relocated to Acre in northern Palestine and set up operations from there.

The Arrival in Rhodes

After this they landed in Cyprus. Handed over to them was the area of Limassol by King Henry, but their presence here was short-lived.

Knights Of The Old Town - The Knights of St John in Rhodes
Knights Of The Old Town

After 18 years in Limassol they went on to fight the inhabitants of Rhodes. In 1309 the Order Of The Knights Of St John established their force here on the island of Rhodes.

As I mentioned above, the presence of the Knights here on the island was a fruitful one and is deemed one of the best periods in the island’s and the Knights history.

The name of the order was changed from ‘The Order Of The Knights Of St John Of Jerusalem’ to ‘The Order Of The Knights Of Rhodes’ after the islands domination, and they went on control the other neighboring islands.

They also went on to control the area of Smyrna, which was a powerful and strategical point in Anatolia at that time. This land today is called Izmir which is in Turkey!

The Surrender To Suleiman

The Knights remained on the island of Rhodes for over 200 years. On the 29th of December 1522 control was relinquished to the Sultan Suleiman.

This battle had ensued for over 6 months. The Knights were aided by the inhabitants on Rhodes and put up a fierce fight. The Sultan was too powerful though and finally the Knights were forced to surrender.

The Knights In Malta - The Knights of St John in Rhodes
The Knights In Malta – Courtesy Of Isonik (Wikimedia Commons)

With this defeat the Knights were forced away and they went on to relocate in Malta. This was achieved with the help of the Pope and Charles V and from there they were renamed The Knights Of Malta. The Turkish went on to remain on the island of Rhodes for over 400 years until they were overridden by the Italians in the 1900s. This led to what is known today as the more modern times of Rhodes.

However, even when you visit the island even to this day, you can really see the impression that the Knights left behind on Rhodes.

Related Posts  The Roman History Timeline In Rhodes

The impenetrable walls and gates of the old city remain as do the palaces and huge

Coat Of Arms - The Knights of St John in Rhodes
Coat Of Arms

churches. To be standing in the same place as where all this happened truly is an insatiable feeling.

The Assembly Of The Knights

The order of the Knights were separated into three groups or classed of members.

  • The Actual Knights – This category of Knights were never more than 600 members and had to come from a noble background. These were the Knights tasked with the military obligation.
  • The Priests – These Knights were the Orders Chaplains and were responsible for undertaking religious activities. All religious business and affairs were handled by these Knights.
  • The Serving Brothers – These Knights had the duties of caring for the injured or those with illness. They were also assisted with matters of war and were obliged to stand by the Noble Knights during battle.

The Priests and the Serving Brothers were not required to be of Noble Class like the Actual Knights were, however they were required to be born free. IE not born as slaves.

The Linguistic Groups

All the members of the order were from a Catholic background and were from all around Europe.

Because of this the order was divided into different groups reflecting the language or “Langues” as it was known then! There were 7 groups as below!

  • Auvergne
  • Provence
  • Italy
  • France
  • Germany
  • England
  • Spain

Spain was later divided into the following!

  • Castille
  • Aragon
The Order Of The Knights

Each group had its own master and council and they were all required to stay in their own separate areas of the Order.

The Grand Master had overall control in the Order and was elected by the Order itself. The Master of each group was responsible for their own legal and disciplinary duties but were required to assist The Grand Master with government issues.

For the general operation of the Knights, French was used as the general language for communication purposes, but all documents and legal papers were written in Latin.


Did you know The Order Of The Knights Of Rhodes was made up by members of different countries? Did you know the Actual Knights had to be of noble standing?

Personally I find the history of The Knights my favorite and love reading about them.

The Knights Hospitaller - A Military History of the Knights of St John
Click The Image And Visit The Book Shop For Some Great Reading On The The Knights Of St John

Living in a place where they used to reside all them years ago also helps, and it really brings it to life for me.

The Knights are rich in history and even today The Palace Of The Grand Masters is one the most visited places on the island. To walk through The Medieval City inside the incredible walls really brings it to life and it is something everyone on the earth should be able to witness. Really magnificent.

If you have any questions or you have something to share I would love to hear from you. I always welcome your thoughts so feel free to leave me a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can!

Learn More About The History Of Rhodes Here. Click The Tour Buttons Below.
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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(28) Comments

  1. Laurie

    I had the good fortune of having a professor in college who was a Greek Cypriot, so my curiosity about Greece is high. Visiting Greece is on my bucket list, so I was very excited to read your post. I love looking at the history of a place, and there is no shortage of history when you are talking about Greece!

    Thank you so much for the valuable information about this beautiful walled city. I do disagree with one thing you said about how the Holy Land got its name. It did not get its name from being associated ONLY with Jesus Christ. The area is also extremely important to Jews and Muslims.

    I really love visiting medieval cites, and I really enjoyed your featured image at the top of the page. Thank you for linking to more information about the medieval city as well!

    1. Chris Towers

      Hello Laurie and thank you for getting in touch and leaving your thoughts.

      I have a lot of friends here that are from Cyprus, and I myself stayed in Cyprus for some months, although it was many years ago. It is a beautiful place.

      When it comes to your disagreement about the Holy Lands, I will take that on board. Thanks for pointing that out to me. I appreciate it.

      Do you have plans to visit Greece in the future? Maybe even Rhodes? If you love medieval cities, then Rhodes would be just the ticket for you.

      Thanks Laurie, it is really nice to hear from you.


  2. Jordan

    Fascinating! Especially the linguistic and cultural diversity of the Order. I didn’t expect such difference to be tolerated in an order from the 14th century, even in spite of their religious commonality.

    Is this history still celebrated in Rhodes? Is it a significant part of the contemporary culture’s fabric? 

    I did some history and theology research and studying in Eastern Europe, mostly in Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, and briefly in Montenegro. I never had the chance to visit Rhodes.

    How is travel to Rhodes? Can it be done on a pretty tight budget?

    1. Chris Towers

      Hi Jordan, thanks so much for your interest in The Knights!

      This section here is still very much an important fabric for the history of the island. Wherever you go you can see evidence of The Knights presence here.

      If you visit Rhodes, there is a regular show called ‘Sound and Light’. If you go to see this is tells you the story of The Knights and all of the relevant parts of the old structures are lit up to highlight the areas being discussed. It is amazing to see!

      Getting to Rhodes is easy enough. Of course you can go through your normal holiday tour operators for information. The budget will all depend on what you want to spend. You can get here and stay here with a small budget if you so wish, but just make sure you have enough not to miss out on the important historical sites.

      Hope this helps you. Let me know if you need something more Jordan!



  3. Ylet

    I am not a history buff, but reading your blog drives me to travel and experience historical places more. 

    There is just so much to see in that part of the world and it amazes me how the architecture has stood the test of time. 

    I shall be following your blog and be immersed on the richness of your writings!

    1. Chris Towers

      Hello Ylet and thank you for reading and for getting in touch. It is nice to hear from you.

      There is a lot to appreciate when you visit Greece as it is really rich with interesting history. Some of the structures here have stood for centuries and walking around them is quite a feeling I can tell you.

      Simply walking around The Walls And The Gates of The Medieval City takes you back in time and is definitely something not to miss.

      This of course is the tip of the iceberg. Visit Rhodes and you will find yourself immersed in history and ancient architecture.

      There is more coming too, and I will keep updating and making my information here better. So be sure to keep following me 🙂

      Thanks Ylet


  4. Jim

    Did you know that the “Knights of St. John” were also known as “The Hospitallers” or the “Knights Hospitallers?”

    The order was originally created to provide medical care to Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem. They later developed a military faction that protected the pilgrims from harm.

    The main rival of the Knights of St. John was the order of the Knights Templar, who were disbanded by the Pope in the early 14th century. And, most of the property belonging to the Knights Templar was given to the Knights Hospitallers.

    Your article was a very interesting reading. It brought back some old memories of history I had learned many years ago.


    1. Chris Towers

      Hey there Jim and thanks for your insight on this.

      If you actually visit Rhodes and make your way to The Medieval City, you will come across a building that is now The Rhodes Archaeological Museum.

      This was actually the original hospital of the Knights and was used to offer care to the pilgrims as you mention.

      There is a lot of history when it comes to The Knights Of Saint John and they have certainly left their mark in Rhodes.

      It was a prosperous time for the island until it was taken by the Turkish in 1522.

      Thanks Jim. nice to see you have not forgotten some of your early education 🙂


  5. Andrew

    I like anything that is connected with history and the holy crusades of The Knights against Salladin always interested me. 

    Rhodes is only an island but it is steeped in history and The Knights Of St John helped to maintain its
    strategic position..More people need to be educated about what went on in that period of history.

    1. Chris Towers

      Hi there Andrew, it is great to see you here and thank you for your interest.

      The Knights Of St John were a strong force here during their occupation, and their mark has certainly been left. As you walk around The Medieval City, the history of The Knights really shouts out at you and it is an experience not to be missed.

      I agree with you when it comes to the education too. A lot of people can even visit Rhodes itself, yet walk away not knowing half of what they could know. 

      The history is rich and exciting, and it is a shame to visit and not get the full story.

      Thanks Andrew.


  6. sarah

    This is a great page!

    First though, it’s saying your page isn’t secure. Maybe by time you read this it’s already taken care of but I just wanted to point that out.

    What a great read about the knights! I have always found them interesting to learn about, so this was a fascinating read for me. I like how you broke down the levels of knights!

    Now, I want to go visit! LOL Great job, and best of luck to you.

    1. Chris Towers

      Hi Sarah … I am glad you found the information interesting 🙂 

      If you ever get the chance to organize a visit just let me know and I will help you out with the information you need. The Knights are fascinating, and I have some information for visitors here.

      Thanks for the security warning too. I do not know why this has happened, but I am looking into it now 🙂

      Thanks Sarah


  7. Tabitha

    When I was younger and still in school, I was never a fan of history class. I always found it hard to pay attention and difficult to really learn anything. I never saw the value or point in learning things from the past, but then I grew up.

    Now that I am older, I can truly appreciate history and all of the steps taken over time that have brought the world to where it is now. I now find history to be so fascinating and I love learning interesting facts from the world’s past. Seeing where we have been makes me appreciate where we are now even more.

    Rich history also adds to the captivating features of a destination and can really get you excited about visiting that place. I really enjoyed your article on the history of The Knights of St. John in Rhodes. I learned so many amazingly fascinating details of the era of the Knights and their time at Rhodes. It sounds like a gorgeous place and I would love to see it with my own eyes. I will definitely be adding Rhodes to my list of places I hope to visit one day.


    1. Chris Towers

      Hi Tabitha.

      To be honest, I was also not a massive lover of history classes when I was back in school either. I mean history is history right, it is in the past – forget it eh? That was my attitude too.

      It is only as I got older, and realized how things have changed in the last 30 years since I was at school. Go back thirty years only, and there are so many things which have been and gone.

      This made me realize how things change and sometimes things should never be forgotten. The past has shaped what we have and who we are today. 

      I appreciate the past now, and I always have a thirst to learn more. Hopefully I can spread a little of this to my readers.

      Thanks Tabitha, and I appreciate you passing by 🙂


  8. Steve

    Great article and website. Whenever I travel to Europe, I’m amazed by the history.

    The Knights were on this island for 200 years. That’s about the same amount of time that the US has been around. But this all happen hundred’s of years before the US.

    200 years means they were there for many generations. The Knights were chosen and trained by their fathers.

    Who became the new leaders over time? How was the knights leadership, military structure etc maintained over these different generations during that 200 years?

    1. Chris Towers

      Hi Steve and thanks so much for your comment and for your interest.

      I guess the way you put it here, it can really cement the history. When you compare is to the timeline with the USA like that, it really does bring it home doesn’t it? The Knights were here for the same amount of time that the USA has existed! WOW, and it was centuries ago. It takes a moment for that to sink in!

      Great point of view Steve!

      To answer your question with regards to the structure and leadership of the Knights over all this time is something that would take me two days to write. BUT – I am not going to do that 🙂

      If you look at this link for The Knights Of Saint John, there is a lot of information that I think you will find interesting! Of course if there is something else you need just let me know and I will be happy to get you the information!

      Thanks 🙂


  9. Farhan

    Its really awesome to read the history of The Island of Rhodes. People who are planning for a holiday trip to Rhodes will be able to appreciate its history as well as its culture.

    Its also cool to know that this Order Of The Knights were related to the kingdom of Jerusalem and the crusades.

    I can’t wait to read your next instalment!

    1. Chris Towers

      Hey Farhan thanks so much for commenting here.

      I am actually in the process of developing the section on The Medieval City in Rhodes and this has a lot to do with the Knights.

      Here you will learn more about where they stayed. The Street Of The Knights and The Palace Of The Grand Masters will be discussed here too, so make sure you check it out.

      I would love your thoughts.

      Overall I am trying to make a website here for people who are interested in Rhodes. Some people are happy to see my work because they have been here, and others want to see it because they have not visited but maybe would like to.

      I am trying to cover all bases 🙂

      Thanks for your positive words Farhan. I am most grateful!


  10. Keith

    This is another historically rich article. I enjoy the way that you have written it.

    Again it is another reminder that next time I visit Greece or Turkey I must ensure that Rhodes is on my list of islands to tour.

    In fact I found the entire region of Greece and Turkey to be culturally and historically rich. So much to explore.

    1. Chris Towers

      Hi Keith and thanks so much for passing through 🙂

      Yes the island of Rhodes, as indeed I talk about Greece in general has so much to offer in the way of history. It is so fascinating to be here and see it all. There is so much to see and to learn. Sometimes there is more to a holiday than the blue sea and the hot climate 🙂

      Make sure you get a visit to Rhodes if you can. You will love it I promise you 🙂

      You mention Turkey too which also has a lot to offer in the way of history. It is only across the water from me and I am ashamed to say I have never visited.

      This will be on my agenda soon as there is a regular service by boat from the Rhodes harbor across to Turkey, so I have no excuses 🙂

      Thanks Keith!


  11. Kerryanne

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you for your wonderful history lesson regarding The Knights of St John in Rhodes. It looks like a fantastic place to visit! With the palaces, churches and walls still standing! It would be awesome to see.

    Just out of interest. Could the Serving Brothers ever get promoted to being the Actual Knights? Or would they have to stay in the position they started off as?Was there demotion and promotion in the ranks?

    Thanks in advance


    1. Chris Towers

      Hi Kerryanne, thanks for reading and for your question 🙂

      To the best of my knowledge, because the Actual Knights had to be of Noble Class, it was not possible for the Serving Brothers to serve in this role.

      Of course I am talking centuries ago, and The Order Of The Knights still exists and they are located in Malta.

      There is a lot of information on the current affairs and structure of The Order here if this helps you out?

      Let me know, and if you need more I will be happy to help you out 🙂

      Many Thanks


  12. Matt’s Mom

    Again, great information on Rhodes!

    The story of the knights of Rhodes is very interesting. I find it equally interesting how many different languages they spoke! So many!

    How did the different Knights converse with each other, they had to have been bilingual?

    I have been researching Rhodes for a visit. Now I am more interested than ever, especially to see the impenetrable walls and gates of the old city.

    Such history, and to have it all around you when visiting is truly awe inspiring to me.

    1. Chris Towers

      Hey thanks once again for visiting me Leahrae 🙂 How are you? I hope you are doing well!

      Yes the Order Of The Knights was made up of members from all over Europe and from the Catholic countries so of course there were many languages on offer.

      However for verbal communication, the French language was used and all written documentation was prepared in Latin. This for sure avoided the problems of which language was required.

      I know you have visit my site a few times now, and I can feel your interest growing with each visit, and I promise you, you will adore it here if you come. The Medieval City is something else, and something you will never forget 🙂

      Let me know when your plans are in place Leahrae, and if you need anything along the way just let me know and I will do what I can for you on this side 🙂



  13. Emrah Yalpur

    Very interesting article!

    I’ve read so much about the Templar Knights and so on. Some people say the Freemasons originated from these Knights. I don’t know how much of this is true:)

    I have a question for you though. Today the main religion of the Greeks is Orthodox, but are the people of Rhodes Orthodox as well?

    Great article! Thank you for your awesome, interesting posts!


    1. Chris Towers

      Hi again Emrah. You are right when you talk about the Knights being affiliated with Freemasonry. It was a fraternal order. There is a lot of information about this affiliation on the Wiki Pages here 🙂

      You are quite right again when you say the religion of the Greeks is Orthodox. This also goes for the island of Rhodes!

      I can see you know your stuff 🙂

      Thanks for reading!


  14. Riaz Shah

    Hello again Chris

    You’re on fire man, another awesome article you’ve posted here, I love Templars and I follow Jacques the Morais’ stories since I was young.

    I know they were in Transylvania but I had no idea Sultan Suleiman went all the way to invade Rhodes, that’s very far from where they came from. Out of curiosity though, what happened to Rhodes after the Sultan occupied it when the templars left for Malta?

    1. Chris Towers

      Hey Riaz thanks so much 😉 i am doing my best!

      After the Knights left Rhodes and went on to Malta, the Ottoman Empire (Turkish) went on to rule for over 400 years here on the island.

      They stayed here until 1912 which was the time the island was taken by the Italian forces led by Benito Mussolini, who was the Prime Minister of Italy that that time (1922 to 1943).

      You can read more about this on the page which I have produced called ‘A Summary Of The Modern Times‘.

      Thanks for visiting once again Riaz and there is a lot more coming that will answer more of your questions 🙂


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