Since 2007 the old town of Corfu has been inscribed in the Wordl Heritage List of the UNESCO. According to UNESCO, Corfu is a fortified Mediterranean port and it’s urban and port ensemble is notable for its high level of integrity and authenticity.
THE ANCIENT KERKIRA
Ancient Kerkira was discovered during the demolition of the Venetian fortress of San Salvadore in 1843, in the area which the locals call Palaiopolis, on the peninsula ending at Kanoni. It was established under the name of Chersoupolis, by the Corinthians, in the 8th century BC. The wall (4th century BC) surrounding the city from three sides, was built in such way so as to be surrounded by the port of Alkinoos (the current bay of Garitsa) in the North, the Lagoon of Chalkiopoulos, also known as the bay of Chelaios, in the West, and the sea of Mon Repo, in the East.
The market of the city was built north of the current bay of Garitsa. The acropolis was built on the current position of Analipsi. The only existing tower of the wall was situated at the entrance of the port of Alkinoos, while today it is the foundation of the church of Agios Athanasios. Not far from the cemetery, one can see the tower of Neratziha where the church of Virgin Mary stood and also preserved the statue. This is also the area of the ancient aqueduct. In the area of Garitsa, archaeologists have discovered traces of tombs of the Archaic and Classical eras, which were part of the town’s ancient cemetery.
Among them, the most significant is the statue of Menekratis. The town’s fleet sought refuge in the well-protected port of the bay of Chelaios. The bay’s entrance was formed by the two islets of the church of Vlaherna, along with green Pontikonissi which is opposite. The town was characterized by scattered temples of all sizes, built by the first inhabitants from Corinth and Evoia. The largest and most significant temples, built in the 7th and 6th century BC, are the Temple of Hera, Diana and Kardaki -built in honour of Apollo- and the Temple of Dionysus. Relics and findings from these temples are exhibited in the local Archaeological Museum.
THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
The Archaeological Museum of Corfu is located in Vraila str., near the seaside highway of Garitsa. The most significant archaeological findings of the island are kept here, which were exhibited in the Museum of the Palaces, in days gone by. The most interesting of these exhibits is the western stone pediment of Gorgo (17 m. wide and over 3 m. tall) and part of the temple of Diana (590-580 BC), constructed by a Corinthian artist.
The oldest Greek pediment, still in existence, represents the winged Gorgo surrounded by snakes, her two children Pegasus and Chrysaor (according to myth, they were born from her blood after her decapitation by Perseus) and two lion-panthers, while on the sides one can see representations of the Battles of the Titans. According to archaeologists, the pediment had vivid colours, while Gorgo was connected with Diana, the goddess who protected the animals and the beasts.
Another exhibit is part of the left archaic pediment found during the excavation in the location of Figaretto (500 BC), which represents a scene of a bacchic symposium. One can also admire the findings of the Neo-Lithic Era, from Sidari, which include pots, utensils and the representations of the lionhead from the Temple of Hera (7th century BC). Other interesting exhibits are the archaic lion (7th century BC), discovered near the statue of Menekratis, as well as a livid sink from Attica (6th century BC).
Among others, there are remarkable findings from the tombs of Garitsa (7th – 6th century BC), the Temple of Roses (5th century BC), the Temple of Diana at Kanoni (480 BC), Mon Repo, the Temple of Apollo, statuettes of typical ancient craftwork, objects made of copper and ivory, a tombstone praising the ancient hero Arnias, the capital of the column of Xembaros (6th century BC), as well as coins, the most significant being the one depicting a cow, released after the liberation of Corfu from the Corinthians.
THE CHURCH OF AGIOS SPYRIDONAS
The church of Agios Spyridonas is dedicated to the patron saint of the island of Corfu. It was built in 1589, in order to replace the older church of Sorokos which was demolished because of the construction of the walls of the town. Saint Spyridonas took part in the Ecumenical Synod A’, which took place in Nice (325 AD). On the exterior of the church there is a tall, castellated bell-tower with a clock which resembles the one of the church of Agios Georgios in Venice. Inside the church there is a temple which the architect M. Mawers made of Kararas and Paros in marble.
The painter Spyros Prosalentis made the icons on the temple of the church. The most valuable treasure of the church is the golden shrine made in Venice in which Saint Spyridonas’s remains are kept. At first these remains were kept in Constantinople, but after its fall, they were transferred to the island of Corfu. The wonderful icons on the dome have golden frames, they are divided into 17 pieces, and they represent, among other things, the life of Saint Spyridonas.
The icons were first made by the hagiographer Panagiotis Doxaras in 1727, but because of their decay from moisture, they were replaced by Nikolaos Aspiotis’s copies in 1850-1870. On December 12th, there is a feast in honour of the saint. The litanies of Agios Spyridonas are also famous, as they have been performed here since the Venetian years, and they are connected with the history of the island.
THE MUSEUM OF ASIAN ART
The Museum of Asian Art is housed in the Palace of St Michael and George, in the town of Kerkira. The Museum is unique throughout Greece and the exhibits were originally from China, Japan, Korea, Tibet, Nepal, India, Pakistan and Siam. Most of the current exhibits were collected by the diplomats Manou, Siniossoglou, Almonahou and the ambassador N. Hatzivassiliou.
Among the exhibits there are chinese works of all chines eras: The Sheang era (1,500-1,027 BC) the Chehou era (1,027-221 BC), the Han era (221 BC-220 AD), the Soung dynasty (960-1,279 AD), the Ming dynasty (1,368-1,644 AD) and from Kamakoura era (1,192-1,338 AD). The most significant exhibits are the infamous copper cauldron used for worshipping reasons, from the Ming dynasty, tombs statues from the Tang dynasty, a wooden japanese statues from japanese statue of a temple’s guard and facades from the japanese theater Noh.
THE NEW FORTRESS -FORTRESS OF AGIOS MARKOS
This fortress stands on the hill of Agios Markos, where the old harbor used to be. It was built by the Venetians (1576-1589). Later, the French and the English made alterations and improvements. The fortress consisted of two ramparts and two castles. On the left, there was the rampart of Sarandaris and the rampart of Agios Athanassios, both linked to the castle by a triple wall.
The two fortress, the Old and the New, were linked by an underground arcade and a rampart wall which surrounded the area of the contemporary city. The New Fortress had access to its ramparts through corridors, tunnels and underground arcades. Today there are only two gates left standing with the emblem of St Markos’s lion. The new fortress’s fortification played a significant defensive role, even in recent wars, as its arcades were used as refuge for the people. The fortress is famous for its architecture.
THE OLD FORTRESS
The Old Fortress is situated on an islet and is joined with the town by a cement bridge which used to be wooden and movable. Before the bridge, one can admire the marble statue of German Field Marshal Schulenburg, who bravely defended the island during the Turkish siege in 1716. It was constructed by the Italian sculptor A. Corradini, during the Venetian Rule, and it was originally housed in the fortress. Between the Old Fortress and the town, lies the canal of Contra Fossa (150 m. long, 10-15 m. wide), with the Stands of Saborniano and Martinego.
The construction of the building began with the Venetians, after the Turkish siege in 1537, and was completed in 1588. It had four gates and two peaks (Korifes), thus the island was named Corfu. The first peak (51 m. high) was built by the Byzantines and was called “Castell del Mar”, alias “Castell Vecchio”, while the second peak (65 m. high) was built by the Venetians and was called “Castell di Terra”, alias “Castell Nuovo”.
The Venetians extended the city beyond the fortress, while in the interior they built arches, prisons, storage rooms and new buildings for the soldiers, the nobles and the politicians. The new town called for a new fortification and a new fortress. The underground arches of the fortress prove the theory that it was linked underground to the opposite islet of Ptihia (alias Vido). Today, one can still see the ruins of the Venetian walls, the additional fortifications built by the English, the clock-tower, the Doric buildings and the church of Agios Georgios, built in 1840, during the English occupation.
THE PALACES OF ST MICHAEL & ST GEORGE
These palaces, built in the architectural style popular during King George’s reign, are situated near Spiniada square. They were built by the English major S. Whitmore. The English began the construction in 1819 and concluded it in 1823. The palaces were built to be used as residence for the English high commissioner. Later, here were the headquarters of the Monasterial Battalion of St Michael and St George, which was founded in 1818 by distinguished English employees of the colony on the Ionian islands. Later on, from 1864 to 1913, the palaces were used as a royal summer residence.
Today the palaces house the Public Library, the Archaeological Service and the Museum of Asian Art which was donated by the Manou family. Inside the building, the chambers are decorated with carved mythological representations of the Ionian island, created by Prosalentis. There are also lavish chandeliers, and the windows exhibit the medals that St Michael and St George won. In the beautifully decorated gardens, the statue of the English high commissioner F. Adam is a dominating figure.
THE TOWN HALL
The Town Hall stands near Spiniada square at Evgeniou Voulgari str. The construction began in 1663 AD by the Venetians and it was completed in 1693. It is a Renaissance, stone construction with carved walls. Among the interior’s carved representations, the most prominent one, placed in 1691, the bust of Morozini surrounded by four children-symbols of his virtues. In the beginning, the building was a lodge for the nobles (Loggia Nobilei) and a club for the venetian fleet’s officers.
In 1720, one of the most significant Greek theaters was housed here called “San Jiacomo” because of the neighboring catholic church of the same name built in 1632. Ever since 1903 AD, the building has been used as a Town Hall where the town’s new theater is also housed.
IONIAN BANK – PAPER MONEY MUSEUM
In a little square on Nickiforou Theotoki Street stands the building of the Ionian Bank, which was built in 1864 and displays a well-proportionated facade with finely detailed Ionian pilasters and pediment. On the firts floor of the building, the Paper Money Museum is housed.
Capodistrias is a historical building, an excellent example of neo-classical architecture. It was built in 1835 by the Corfiot architect John Chronis and is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Greece. It was here that Ioannis Capodistrias, the first Governor of Greece, was born.
BYZANTINE ART MUSEUM
Fabulous Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons are displayed in an attractive church. Church of Antivouniotissa, just off Arseniou Street. Open 8.30-15.00. Closed Mondays. Sundays open 9.30-14.30.
A collection of the memorabilia and archives of the Greek National poet, Dionysius Solomos. 3rd Parados, Arseniou Street, Corfu Town Open 09.30-13.00 weekdays.
MUNICIPAL ART GALLERY
Exhibiting Corfu Artists of the 19th Century and other works, including paitings by 20th century local artists. Palace of Saints Michael and George, East Wing. Open 09.00-21.00 .
Lovely garden containing graves from the British Protectorate to the present. Intersting plants and trees. Kolokotroni Street. Open all day.
SERBIAN WAR MUSEUM
Photographs and militaria commemorating the Balkan War of 1915-17. Moustoxidi Street. Open on request only.
Fine collection of old books, documents and prints, mostly relating to the Ionian Islands. 120, Kapodistrias Street. Open weekdays 10.00-13.00.
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