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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page added in March 2007.

St Peter's Castle (Bodrum)
(relief in the fortress of Bodrum)

Today's Bodrum is one of the leading Turkish resorts: its marina is full of luxury boats, the town has plenty of restaurants and cafés. On the promenade along the harbour there are more real estate agents than other shops: they sell a variety of buildings from luxury villas to one bedroom flats in large apartment blocks, but regardless of size, facilities and location all the offers promise a view over the fortress of the Knights.

View of the fortress eastern side

Bodrum owes its name to that given by the Knights to St Peter's Castle, the fortress they built on the site of the palace of Mausolus, the Persian governor of Halicarnassus (Engl Peter; Greek Petrunion; hence Bodrum). The name of Mausolus is associated with the noun mausoleum which indicates a large and stately tomb. Artemisia, Mausolus' wife (and sister) built in memory of her beloved husband such a large monument that it was included among the Seven Wonders of the World. The ruins of the Mausoleum were excavated in the XIXth century by the British archaeologist Charles Newton: he found some slabs of a frieze which are now in London's British Museum.
In nearby Mylasa a replica of the Mausoleum was built in the IInd century AD.

View of the fortress western side

In 1402 the Knights' fortress of Smyrna was seized by Timur, the leader of Turco-Mongol tribes, who invaded most of western Asia. Grand Master Naillac (1396-1421) made an attempt to reconquer Smyrna, but it is said that his troops lost heart when the heads of their fellow-knights who had capitulated were thrown at them from the walls of the town.
It was important for the Knights to have a fortress on the mainland in order to control the coastal route: in 1406 Naillac therefore decided to fortify the ruins of ancient Halicarnassus which was located opposite Kos: the new fortress was called St Peter's Castle.

Entrance (left) and location (right) of the ancient secret harbour; this image shows also Del Carretto's bastion.

The palace of Mausolus was known for its secret harbour: its entrance is still visible in the fortress while its site is now silted: it allowed Mausolus and later on the Knights to receive direct supplies and to shelter a few ships. Grand Master Del Carretto (1513-21) built a round bastion to strengthen the land side of the fortress: he had done the same at Kos and at Rhodes.

Some of the gates leading to the interior of the fortress bearing the coats of arms of (left) Grand Master Naillac, (centre) Grand Master d'Amboise and (right) Grand Master Orsini in addition to those of the Order and of the fortress commander.

The access to the inner part of the fortress was protected by seven gates, which were built making use of ancient stones; in many parts of the fortress one can see pieces of columns, reliefs, statues which at first were all thought to come from Mausolus' monument, but which now are assigned to a later period of the history of Halicarnassus.
The passage leading to the gates was full of twists and turns and the assailants had no protection from the arrows, stones and boiling oil which were thrown at them by the defenders.

(left) 1473 Relief portraying Virgin Mary and St Peter holding the (quartered) coats of arms of the Order and Grand Master Orsini; (right) Inscription above the (quartered) coat of arms of the Order and Grand Master D'Amboise

The Knights did not forget they were a religious order and by placing sacred images on the walls they called for celestial help; several inscriptions did the same; that shown above is particularly moving:

Salva nos domine vigilantes,Lord, protect us while we are on watch,
Custodi nos dormientes.Take care of us while we are asleep.
Nisi dominus custodierit civitatemIf the Lord did not protect the city
frustra vigilat qui custodit eam.those who are in charge of it would vainly be on guard.

(left to right) Towers of France, Italy, England and Germany

Each Langue had its own tower, the tallest one being that of France; the variety of their design adds to the beauty of the fortress and one understands why real estate agents advertise the view over the castle as a benefit of the houses they sell. From the fortress however the view over modern Bodrum is a very depressing one.

(left) Coat of arms of France; (centre) coat of arms of England; (right-above) coats of arms of the Order, France and the Pope; (right-below) coat of arms making reference to Italy

There are more than 200 coats of arms in the fortress; in addition to those of the Grand Masters some make reference to the countries of origin of the knights: these coats of arms are often part of a larger decoration.
On January 5, 1523 the knights surrendered the fortress to the army of Sultan Suleyman; they did so in compliance with the agreement concerning the capitulation of Rhodes.

(left to right) Mask of Hercules; coat of arms of Cardinal/Grand Master d'Aubusson; the chapel/mosque of the fortress; Ottoman tomb

The fortress, in addition to being an open air museum by itself, houses a permanent exhibition of statues, potteries and other artefacts found on board ancient vessels which sank in the region.

Move to:
Fortresses of the Knights: introductory page
Rhodes: the Gates
Rhodes: the fortifications
Rhodes: the town of the Knights
Rhodes: Byzantine, Ottoman and Jewish memories
Rhodes: modern Italian architecture
Kos: the fortress
Kos: the ancient town
Other fortresses
Fortress of the Orthodox church
Patmo (Patmos)

Clickable Map of the Ionian and Aegean Seas with links to other locations covered in this website (opens in a separate window)

SEE THESE OTHER EXHIBITIONS (for a full list see my detailed index).