The Church of St. Francis of Assisi is the official Latin Rite Parish church of Rhodes. It is next to the Athanasius Gate, between the two districts of Acandia and St. John. On Sundays and Holidays Holy Mass is celebrated in Greek. Thanks to some volunteers, the faithful can follow the Mass in their own language through brochures with the readings translated into 12 languages. After each Mass, Father Luke and his parishioners gather in the hall behind the church or in the garden for a moment of celebration: some of the women take turns baking cakes typical of their countries to offer with good coffee to celebrate together.
The church also hosts sacred music concerts; the first was by the Italian organ player Stefano Pellini. The church was designed in the 1930s with wonderful acoustics, and the sound starting from the altar gets to the end of the church and viceversa.
On 20th September 1936, in the presence of the Archbishop and
the Italian Governor Lago the foundation stone of the church was laid in place. The church, planned by Arch. Bernabiti and built by Engineer Vellini, was completed in 1939. The church is larger than Sancta Maria, and it became the Parish church of the Franciscan Mission in Rhodes, which at the time hosted many Catholics.
The complex – the church, the bell tower and the monastery (including the parish offices, the vestry, the library and some lodgings) with the apse on the southeastern side – is coated with rustic Koskinou stone.
The church façade has three three arches corresponding to the 3 doors. The church has a basilica layout with three naves with flat ceilings, a transept with two chapels at the ends, and a semi-elliptic choir, which gets light from narrow windows. The lateral naves, lower and narrower, are separated from the central nave by pillars; the naves end in chapels and each one has 6 long-arched windows.
The inside of the church is made of different but harmonious materials: the floor is of Kalithea white marble with a grey cross of Gramata marble – the same kind of stone was used to build the pulpit; the window panes are in onyx, the balustrades and the altars in marble, the tables are monolithic blocks of Gramata stone and the tabernacles are in Kamiros stone.
The sanctuary wall frescoes are by Pietro Gaudenzi, who reproduced three important incidents in St. Francis’ life: the Miracle of the Stigmata in the centre, the Preaching to the Birds on the left and the Water Miracle on the right. On the ceiling above the central altar there is a cross, surrounded by the symbols of the 4 Evangelists set symmetrically.
The panels on the lateral altars are also by Gaudenzi, representing the Annunciation and St. Maurice. A local artisan has recently built an iron statue of St. Francis, presently on the right side of the church: the Saint’s statue is surrounded by bramble bushes, palm trees and animals, which particularly draw the attention of the children.
In 1940 the Church was also given its magnificent organ and enriched with 14 terracotta bas-reliefs representing the Via Crucis, sculpted by Monteleone.