Fine Image of the City Gates of Rhodes, from the Nuremberg Chronicle
Striking view of one of the city gates of the city of Rhodes, from the famous Nuremberg Chronicle. The Chronicle featured many city illustrations, some of which were the first printed images of those places.
The image shows a portion of the city wall, with a tower block, and several higher buildings clustered nearby.
Published in 1493, the Chronicle was made during the occupation of Rhodes by the Knights of St. John, also known as the Knights Hospitaler or the Knights of Malta. Located on the largest of the Dodecanese islands in the southeastern Aegean Sea, the Knights ruled there from 1310 to 1522.
Rhodes has been inhabited since prehistorical times, with Neolithic, Minoan, and Mycenaean settlements remains and artifacts. The island joined the Athenian League in the fifth century BCE, was taken by the Persians twice, and then became part of Alexander the Great’s Greece.
After the split caused by Alexander’s death, one of his generals, Antigonus, ordered his son, Demetrius, to besiege Rhodes. He came with massive siege engines, but gave in after a year. He left behind the massive military equipment, which the Rhodians sold. They used the proceeds to commission a massive statue of the sun god, Helios, better known as the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Rhodes was independent for a time before being folded into the Roman Empire in 164 BCE. In the fourth century CE, it became part of the Byzantine Empire. They were not left in peace, with occupations by the Sasanians, Umayyads (who carted away the remains of the Colussus), and the Arabs in the seventh century CE. Later, the Seljuk Turks invaded in ca. 1090, although the island was retaken in the First Crusade. In the early thirteenth century, the island and city became semi-independent, but then the Genoese briefly took over, followed by the Nicaeans.
This passing back and forth stopped in 1310, when the Knights of St. John made the island their stronghold following the loss of the Holy Land. They rebuilt much of the city, including the parts in the illustration seen here. They fortified the city walls, which were tested by attacks in 1444 and a siege in 1480. Suleman the Magnificent finally breached the defenses in 1522, forcing the Knights to surrender and withdraw, first to Sicily and then to their new base in Malta. Rhodes then remained an Ottoman possession for four centuries.
In the Nuremberg Chronicle, Rhodes is described as follows (folio XXVI verso):
Rhodes, the city on the island of Rhodes, off Lycia, from which it derived its name, was built in 740 B.C., in Joseph’s time, by the Telchines and Carians, who soon thereafter were conquered by Phoroneus, the king of Argira. It is one of the islands called the Cyclades for reasons known to the learned. Those who first came there from the East, while the city was being built (as Pomponius writes) and the ground was being dug up, found there a rosebud, after which the city and the island were called Rhodis; for, according to the Greek tongue, Rhodis means a rose. The island is 900 furlongs in circumference. Among other wonders it contained a statue 70 cubits high, built by Lindus, a disciple of Lisippus. The city suffered much through wars, and finally at the hands of the Turks. It was finally relieved and protected by the Order of the Kings of St. John.
Rhodes is the most easterly island of the Aegean, or more specifically, of the Carpathian Sea, and lies off the south coast of Caria. According to mythology it was first peopled by the Telchines, the children of Thalatta (the Sea). Homer mentions three Dorian settlements, namely, Lindus, Ialysus and Camirus, formed the Dorian Hexapolis, which was established from a period of unknown antiquity, in the southwest coast of Asia Minor. For centuries the island of Rhodes was the constant seat of war. During the Peloponnesian war, Rhodes was subject to Athens. Later it joined the Spartans. It was subjugated by Athens and Sparta in turn, till the end of the Social War of 355 BCE, when its independence was acknowledged. There were frequent internal dissensions. At the Macedonian conquest they submitted to Alexander, but upon his death expelled the Macedonia garrison.
The city of Rhodes, successfully endured the most famous siege by Demetrius Poliorcetes, who at length in admiration of the valor of the besieged, presented them with the engines he had used against them, from the sale of which they defrayed the cost of the celebrated Colossus by the artist Chares of Lindus in Rhodes, the favorite pupil of Lysippus, who flourished about 290 BCE. This, his chief work, a statue of the Sun, was celebrated as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, under the title "The Colossus of Rhodes." Its height was upwards of 105 feet, and it was twelve years in the making. It stood at the entrance of the harbor of Rhodes, but there is no authority for the statement that its legs extended over the mouth of the harbor. It was overthrown and broken to pieces by an earthquake 56 years after its erection in 224 BCE. The fragments remained on the ground 923 years, until they were sold by the general of the caliph Othman IV to a Jew of Emesa, who carried them away on 900 camels in 672 CE.
The Rhodians were at length deprived of their independence by the Roman Emperor Claudius, and their prosperity received its final blow from and earthquake which laid the city of Rhodes in ruins in 155 CE. In the Middle Ages Rhodes became the seat of the celebrated Knights of St. John.
Hartmann Schedel's Liber Chronicarum: Das Buch der Croniken und Geschichten (loosely translated as World Chronicle, but popularly referred to as the Nuremberg Chronicle) was the first secular book to include the style of lavish illustrations previously reserved for Bibles and other liturgical works. The work was intended as a history of the world, from Creation to 1493, with a final section devoted to the anticipated Last Days of the World.
This work is without question the most important illustrated secular work of the fifteenth century and its importance rivals the early printed editions of Ptolemy's Geographia and Bernard von Breydenbach's Perengrinatio in Terram Sanctam in terms of its importance in the development and dissemination of early illustrated books. Published in Nuremberg by Anton Koberger, the book was first printed in Latin and followed five months later by a German edition translated by George Alt. This work enjoyed immense commercial success. A reduced-size version of the book was published in 1497, in Augsburg, by Johann Schonsperger. The illustration for Venice is adapted from the larger illustration of Venice in Breydenbach's Peregrinatio, which was illustrated by Dutch artist Erhard Reuwich, who was working in Mainz in the 1480s.
While the majority of the illustrations in the book depict the various saints, royalty, nobility, and clergyman of the period, the work is perhaps best known for the large-format views of a number of the major European cities, including Rome, Venice, Paris, Vienna, Florence, Genoa, Saltzburg, Crakow, Breslau, Budapest, Prague, and major cities in the Middle East, including Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Constantinople. The work also included a magnificent double-page map of the world, a large map of Europe and several famous illustrations, including the "Dance of Death" and scenes from the Creation and the Last Judgement. While many of the double-page city views are less than accurate illustrations of the cities as they existed at the end of the fifteenth century, the illustrations are of great importance in the iconographic history of each of the cities depicted. Some of the double-page views were also apparently offered separately for sale, including some which had been colored prior to sale.
Schedel's world map is based upon Ptolemy, omitting Scandinavia, southern Africa, and the Far East, and depicting the Indian Ocean as landlocked. The depiction of the world is surrounded by the figures of Shem, Japhet and Ham, and the sons of Noah, who repopulated the Earth after the Flood. On the left, printed from a separate block, are pictures of various mythical creatures, based upon classical and early medieval travelers' accounts, including "a six-armed man, possibly based on a file of Hindu dancers so aligned that the front figure appears to have multiple arms; a six-fingered man, a centaur, a four-eyed man from a coastal tribe in Ethiopia; a dog-headed man from the Simien Mountains, a cyclops, one of those men whose heads grow beneath their shoulders, one of the crook-legged men who live in the desert and slide along instead of walking; a strange hermaphrodite, a man with one giant foot only (stated by Solinus to be used as a parasol but more likely an unfortunate sufferer from elephantiasis), a man with a huge underlip (doubtless seen in Africa), a man with waist-length hanging ears, and other frightening and fanciful creatures of a world beyond" (Stanford Ruderman catalog). The world map also includes a large island off the west coast of Africa, which may relate to the account of Martin Behaim's voyage to the region, which is referenced by Schedel in the text.
Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514) was a physician, book collector, and writer whose most famous work, the Liber Chronicarum (Nuremberg Chronicle), included some of the first printed views of many cities in Europe and across the world.
Schedel was born and died in Nuremberg, but he also traveled for his education. From 1456 to 1463 he lived in Leipzig, where he attended the University of Leipzig and earned his MA. From there he went to Padua, where he earned a Doctor of Medicine in 1466. After university, he worked for a time in Nördlingen and then returned to Nuremberg. In 1482 he was elected a member of the Great Council of Nuremberg.
The Chronicle was published in 1493 and contained 1,800 woodcut images executed by Michael Wohlgemut (1434-1519) and his stepson Wilhelm Pleydenwurff (1460-1494). Wohlgemut’s apprentice, the famous printmaker Albrecht Durer, also likely worked on some of the woodcuts. The work includes large format views of many cities including Rome, Venice, Paris, Vienna, Florence, Genoa, Salzburg, Krakow, Breslau, Budapest, Prague, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Constantinople, as well as a number of towns in what would become the German Empire. A double-page map of the world was also part of the Chronicle’s many illustrations.
Besides the Nuremberg Chronicle, one of Schedel’s most enduring legacies is his magnificent manuscript and printed book collection, one of the largest of the fifteenth century. In 1552, Schedel's grandson, Melchior Schedel, sold about 370 manuscripts and 600 printed works from Hartmann Schedel's library to Johann Jakob Fugger. Fugger later sold his library to Duke Albert V of Bavaria in 1571. This library is now mostly preserved in the Bayerische Staasbibliothek in Munich.
Among the surviving portions of Schedel's library are the records for the publication of the Chronicle, including Schedel's contract with Anton Koberger for the publication of the work and the financing of the work by Sebald Schreyer and Sebastian Kammermeister, as well as the contracts with Wohlgemut and Pleydenwurff for the original artworks and engravings. The collection also includes original manuscript copies of the work in Latin and German.