Greek authorities close medieval palace on Rhodes after rain damages walls

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ The medieval Palace of the Grand Masters on the island of Rhodes was closed Friday for repairs to parts of the battlements that collapsed after recent rains, officials said.

Rhodes antiquities authorities said the 14th century fort, which attracts more than 200,000 visitors a year, would probably remain closed for months for the restoration of the areas where large stone blocks tumbled to the ground last month after the rains.

The course of deterioration has recently increased, a Rhodes antiquities departments statement said, adding that some problems posed a threat to visitors. It is our intention to reopen the palace as soon as that can be done safely.

The palace in the heart of the old city of Rhodes was built by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, who ruled the southeastern Greek island from 1309 to 1522. The fortress was the seat of the head of the order, the Grand Master. It was rebuilt in the 1930s.

The Knights of St. John were a Christian military organization founded to protect the Holy Land after a European army captured Jerusalem from Moslem forces in 1099, during the First Crusade.

Following the fall of Jerusalem to the Moslem Seljuk Turks in 1187, the order moved its headquarters to Rhodes. The Turks captured the island in 1522, forcing the Knights to move to Malta.