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The Catholic Churches of Rhodes

The long occupation of Rhodes by the Venetians and the Italians, from the middle ages till 1948, has left its strong mark on the island’s culture. This is depicted in the architecture as well as the many Catholic churches in Rhodes Island. Very few of them operate today.

Church of Agios Frangiskos

The Church of Agios Frangiskos (Saint Francis of Assisi) is the official Latin Church of Rhodes, situated next to the Orthodox church of Saint Athanasios, with its construction beganing in 1936 and completed in 1939. It is dedicated to Agios Frankiskos, a man who fought in many wars and lived a high- spirited life in great poverty. A vision he saw during a serious illness, led him to dedicate his life to charities. He is known as the patron saint of animals.

The church was designed by the Italian architect Stefano Pellini, has very good acoustics and a unique architecture with white marble, while the walls of the chorus depict the three most significant events from the life of Saint Francis. A local craftsman created an iron statue of Saint Francis, at the right side of the church, where it stands till today. The statue is surrounded by blackberry bushes, palm trees, and animals. The church celebrates on October 4th.

Church of Our Lady of Victory

The church of Our Lady of Victory, known as Santa Maria, is the most famous Catholic Church on the island. Originally the church was destroyed during the Grand Siege in 1522. The church, distinguished for its gothic architecture, was rebuilt in 1742, while it became the official Catholic Church of Rhodes. The building complex includes the Monastery of Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land, the pastors of the island and the monastery guesthouse, which has been the scope of historical studies and researches. During the 1960s, the church underwent many renovations and reconstruction works. Today, the church is centrally located in the New Town of Rhodes, near the Casino.

Chapel of St. Anne

The Chapel of St Anne was a gift to the Catholic Church in the 19th century by Henri Masse, in loving memory of his wife Adelaide. It is a small chapel in the district of Ixia with a convent house and garden attached.

Chapel of the Holy Cross

The chapel of the Holy Cross is in the Catholic Cemetery of Rhodes and is used mostly for funerals and memorial services. Mass for the repose of the souls of the dead, takes place here, once a month.

Kahal Shalom Synagogue

The Kahal Shalom

The Kahal Shalom is the oldest Jewish synagogue in Greece, and the sole remaining synagogue on the Island of Rhodes used for services. There were once six synagogues and prayer halls in the Jewish Quarter (called “La Juderia”). The Kahal Shalom is located on the corner of Dossiadou and Simiou Streets and is believed to have been built in the year 1577. The full name of the building is “Kahal Kadosh Shalom” (Holy Congregation of Peace). It is used for prayer services when visitors or former residents and their families visit the Island for Friday night prayer services, High Holiday services and for special occasions.
The Jewish community of Rhodes has an historical background, dating back to ancient times. During the past five hundred years, the background of the Jewish community was influenced principally by the Jews who fled Spain, at the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Large numbers of Sephardim traveled across the Mediterranean Sea to the Island of Rhodes, as well as other cities such as Salonica, Istanbul and Izmir. The descendants of the Jewish people from Spain, are known as Sephardic Jews, due to the Hebrew word for Spain being Sepharad. Since this large migration, the Jewish community on the Island of Rhodes spoke the Ladino language (also called Judeo-Spanish) which is similar to modern day Spanish. During its height in the 1930s, the Jewish community had a population of approximately 4,000 people.
The interior of the Kahal Shalom synagogue follows the traditional Sephardic style of having the “tevah” (the prayer reading table) in the center of the sanctuary, facing southeast toward Jerusalem. The floor is decorated with graceful black and white mosaic stone patterns, which is a distinctive design motif used throughout the Old City of Rhodes.
During the 1930’s, a balcony was built in the Kahal Shalom sanctuary, for the seating of women. Prior to that time, women sat in rooms, adjoining the south wall of the synagogue. The women’s prayer rooms (known in Ladino as “la azara”) viewed the sanctuary through windowed openings adorned by latticework.
In the courtyard on the east side of the synagogue, there is a plaque above where a water fountain once existed, and it bears an inscription dated the month of Kislev, 5338 (1577). Apparently, this fountain was constructed at the same time as the synagogue. On the west side of the synagogue there was a religious school (yeshiva), however it was destroyed during WWII. An intriguing feature of the Kahal Shalom sanctuary, is the decoration with numerous religious wall paintings.

Our-Lady-of-Victory

The church of Our Lady of Victory

The Church of Our Lady of Victory, known as Santa Maria, is the most famous Catholic Church on the island. Originally the church was destroyed during the Grand Siege in 1522. The church, distinguished for its gothic architecture, was rebuilt in 1742, while it became the official Catholic Church of Rhodes. The building complex includes the Monastery of Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land, the pastors of the island and the monastery guesthouse, which has been the scope of historical studies and researches. During the 1960s, the church underwent many renovations and reconstruction works. Today, the church is centrally located in the New Town of Rhodes, near the Casino.

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