Saturday, 24 January 2015

Megalo Choria Castle, Piskopi (Tilos)

Piskopi 'lookout' took its name from its mountains on which the Knights of St John built seven castles and watchtowers, most of them with commanding views over the surrounding seas. Piscopi or Tilos  is 14.5 kilometers long from northeast to southwest and about 8 kilometers at its widest point. It is about halfway between Rhodes and Lango (Cos) and 15 kilometers southeast of Nisyro (Nisyros).


The most important fortified stronghold was the castle on the summit above the present day village of Megalo Chorio. In the Knight's period the villagers lived within the castle walls as protection from pirates. The hillside had been the site of an ancient settlement and parts of the fabric of the castle, in particular the lower courses, the gatehouse and the corner towers were largely constructed from reused Classical masonry.


From the castle are clear views across the sea to Nisyro. The garrison kept watch over the channel and lit a beacon as a signal to Rhodes and the other islands if any shipping was seen passing through the strait.


The need for strong defensive positions to protect the population was emphasized c 1317 when Orcan, son and successor to Osman considered Rhodes to be defenseless in the absence of the rival masters and the division of the Order and descended on Rhodes, in the process capturing Piskopi. He used the island as a depot  for the settlers he brought in his train and sailed on to Rhodes. However Orcan's fleet was defeated by the Vicar-General Gerard de Pins and the Turkish colonists on Piskopi were either put to the sword by the victorious knights of sent into slavery.