The Christian Orthodox churches and Byzantine monasteries are often overlooked in favour of the ancient ruins and beaches when people book cheap flights to Rhodes, but now they are being put back on the map with a programme to promote religious tourism, initiated by the Greek government in cooperation with religious leaders.
With names like Zeus, Poseidon, Heracles and Aphrodite, Greek religion may not always have been Christian, but it extends back thousands of years. Hellenismos, the alternative name for the religion of ancient Greece, is well represented on the Dodecanese island of Rhodes, which has temples dedicated to Helios, Athena and the particularly well-represented Apollo, though his gigantic statue that was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is long gone.
Opening Up New Places to Visit
The non-Hellenistic faiths are no less interesting. The Kahal Shalom Synagogue, for example, dates from 1577, but there has been a Jewish presence on the island for 2,300 years. The mosque of Suleiman, built in 1522, is representative of the Ottoman invasion. The Greek Orthodox religion predominates today, along with Roman Catholicism, brought here with the Venetians, and there are plenty of fine old churches dedicated to both. Numerous churches and monasteries built during the Byzantine period, or by the Knights of Rhodes, exist as well.
Now, the Greek government and Greek Orthodox Church have partnered to promote religious tourism – not only in Rhodes, but across the whole of Greece and its islands. As well as opening holidaymakers’ eyes to the country’s rich religious inheritance, it will provide a much needed boost to the ailing Greek economy.
Cheap flights to the Greek islands – including Rhodes – are available from Jet2.com.