26 Feb The Towers of Rhodes Town
Everyone knows about Rhodes’ St. Nicholas Tower, Naillac Tower and the Tower of France (aka Tower of the Angels). Between them, they protected Mandraki Harbour, the Commercial Harbours and Acandia Bay. However, there is another possible tower 825m from St. Nicholas Tower, where the West coast meets Georgiou Papanikolaou Street. The protecting towers of Rhodes Town were four, not three.
Like many others, I mistook it for another windmill (there are four others nearby), until I looked at the Insularium Illustratum. There it is clearly shown as a tower, not windmill, along with the towers of St. Nicholas, Naillac and France. Curiously Naillac is named the Tower of the English and France the ‘turris catenae’ or Tower of the Chain. A chain did stretch from Naillac to the Tower of France, protecting the main harbour: perhaps it was kept there.
Purpose of the Tower
Why, though, did the Hospitallers have a tower on this west coast so close to St. Nicholas Tower? Fleets could attack from the direction of Marmaris or the sea near Symi: the tower had views towards both. It had inter-visibility with St. Nicholas Tower and could relay messages from other towers on Rhodes or the nearby islands. Anthony Luttrell has shown how the Hospitallers used mirrors and smoke (daytime) and fire (at night) to relay simple alerts. For example, in 1449, three fire signals from Symi were seen on Rhodes. So, there was a practical use in having this tower as part of a defensive chain. It was not a fort like St. Nicholas that could fend off attackers, but it was an important lookout point.