Monuments & Sights of Corfu to visit

Monuments & Sights of Corfu to visit

The Old Fortress

This was originally a natural promontory offering in it`s rocks protection for the residents of the 5th century AD when the ancient city of Corfu was moved here after the destruction of the ancient city by the Visigoths.Converted into a fortress by the Byzantines in the 8th century AD and contained all of the small medieval town.

The rock was always further reinforced to protect the city from the numerous invasions of the Middle Ages, and gradually the town grew around it.Later the Venetians, because of the Turkish threat, strengthened its fortifications, extended the bastions and dug the moat known as the kontra fossa separating the fortress from the land.

This way the Venetians created an impenetrable triple line of defense both by land and from the sea.Inside the old fortress in 1840 the Doric church of St. George was built by the British as a garrison church.

Most buildings that were inside the fort have now been demolished but deserving attention is the central gate, the bastions of Savornian, Martinengo and Mandraki, the towers of the land and the sea at the east, the English hospital and the English barracks, the clock tower and the lighthouse.

There is still a prison built in 1786 by the Venetians, which was later expanded by the British, the military chapel and the two English barracks in 1850.The military hospital now houses the Music Department of Ionian University.

The fortress also contains the historical records of more than six centuries of history, the Byzantine collection of sculptures and images of the Byzantine era, and the public library.

At the entrance of the fortress on the upper Esplanade is the statue of Prussian Marshal Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg, built by the Venetians in his honour after he successfully repelled the Turkish invasion of 1716.Today the fortress is a masterpiece of architecture and fortification art while offering visitors the best views of the city, its harbour, and over the sea to the mountains of Epirus.

The New Fortress

Another example of the high capacity of Venetians in fortification, and an architectural marvel of art built by the Venetians and with physical labor of the inhabitants from 1576 until 1645.

Venetians due to the permanent threat of the Turks, felt that it was necessary to complete the fortifications of the city which meanwhile had been extended far beyond the old fortress.They started the construction of the new fortress on the hill of San Marcos extended south with walls and ramparts reaching the sea at Garitsa bay, Corfu is now all within the walls, it was then that Corfu took the name Kastropolis.

To become a fortress, except the exhaustive work of the residents, 2,000 houses in particular where now stands the vast Esplanade square had to be demolished.The reasons that this happened was not only to find building materials, but primarily defensive, the Venetians wanted to create a large buffer zone between the old fortress and the city which would help better their defense plans.

So today Corfu has perhaps the largest square in Europe, the famous Esplanade.At the entrance of the castle is still the emblem of Venice, the lion of Saint Markos, while inside the fortress is worth seeing the underground galleries, reservoirs and ammunition depots.The fortress also houses the Museum of Ceramic Art, photography, painting, sculpture as well as concerts and other cultural events.

Inside the fortress today there is also the Naval Station of Corfu.

Palace of Saint Michael and George

During the era of the British rule, High Commissioner Sir Frederick Adams in 1819 decided to build a  house for him and his family.So he created in Corfu a unique palace in Georgian style.The building was designed by an English engineer Colonel Sir George Whitmore (1775-1862) and despite its enormous size is elegant and beautiful.It has been described as the best example of regency architecture outside Britain.

It is the largest palace in Greece except for the palace of King Otto in Athens,  which today houses the Greek parliament.The large line of Doric columns has two gates, the Gate of St. Michael and the gate of St. George.In the garden is the statue of commissioner Frederick Adams made by Corfiot sculptor Pavlos Prosalendis.

Outside it has carved representations of the Ionian Islands and within two rows of Ionic columns surrounding the main hall, showing scenes from the Odyssey.The first floor is decorated with Corinthian columns.There are three main halls: the ballroom, the throne-room and the symposium room.

The palace previously housed the Ionian Senate and is the home of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George .For a half of the century  it was  also the summer residence of the former Greek royal family. Today it has been refurbished as a museum displaying classical antiquities,.A meeting of  the summit of the European Union was held here in 1994.

The building looks over the north side of Spianada square on Iroon Politechniou street,  and also houses the Asian Art Museum and the Municipal Gallery.

The Ionian Parliament building

At the intersection of Napoleon Zabeli and Moustoxidi streets is the building of the Ionian Parliament.Here the representatives of the people of the Ionian Islands voted for union with Greece which was eventually ratified by a resolution of the Ionian Isles on 23rd September 1863.

The building was designed by Ioannis Chronis in 1855 in a neoclassical style with a distinctive entrance of Doric columns.It was restored in 1978 and since then has been the home of the Museum devoted to the struggle of the people of eptanisa (Ionian Islands) for freedom.We hope that it will be restored to its previous glory and officially become the Ionian Parliament.

Ionian Academy

At The intersection of Akadimias and Kapodistriou streets at Southwest Upper Square of Spianada was one of the entrances to the city at the era of Venetian rule.There the General Provveditore of the city (as he was called then) Grimani Correr started to build a building to be used as  a barracks.

In 1823 following a resolution of the Ionian parliament with the help of Lord Frederick Guilford the Ionian Academy was founded, the first Greek university, which until 1841 was hosted in a government building in the old fortress.In 1841 the university moved to the former Grimani Correr barracks which from then on was named the Ionian Academy, the schools of philosophy, law and medicine and later the polytechnic, the obstetrics and pharmacology were housed there.

In 1865, following the Union of Ionian islands with Greece, the Greek kingdom immediately rewarded the fervent desire of Corfiot people for union with Greece by closing our university.They also  removed the electricity factory already operating in Corfu and took all its machinery to Piraeus, leaving Corfu  in a state of spiritual and economic stagnation, denied by the Greek state the spiritual and cultural leadership, and removing a century of progress.

After the university was closed its building housed the Public Library, but during the Second World War the building was bombed by the Germans in September 1943. It was restored in 1994.

Annunziata, a monument of pan-European significance

At the intersection of Evgeniou Voulgareos, Vrahliotis and Montsenigou streets in Corfu, is the Annunziata, a church devoted to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary as well as to Santa Luccia, it was the Catholic Church of Lontsiada as the Corfiots knew it.

Achilleion(Achillion) Palace

The beautiful Achilleion(Achillion) Palace sits 10 km south of the city of Corfu and three kms north of the village  of Benitses on the edge of Gastouri village.It was built by Empress Elizabeth of Austria who became known as the sad queen Sissy.

Elizabeth was the younger daughter of the Duke of Bavaria, and the Emperor of Austria, Franz Joseph, was told by his mother to marry her elder sister, but he fell in love with her instead.She felt stifled by the very strict protocol, dominating mother in law, and the regimented life in Vienna, and appears to have suffered minor breakdowns and depression frequently.

She travelled extensively for her health, and this became almost manic following the suicide of her son Rudolf, who shot himself and his mistress in a suicide pact at a hunting lodge called Mayerling.Coming to Corfu she fell in love with the estate of the diplomat and philosopher Petros Braila -Armeni, and he gave it to her.

She then demolished the simple house and built the Achilleion Palace.She was well known in the vicinity, and much loved as she had a well dug in lower Gastouri which saved the women walking long distances to get good water.Once the palace was finished however she lost interest in it somewhat, and came less frequently to the island.

On a visit to Geneva she was assassinated by an Italian anarchist, who later said that he had gone to Geneva to kill a sovereign, and did not mind which one he killed, as long as he succeeded!Elizabeth was an exceptionally beautiful woman, and a skilful rider.

Remnants of the Byzantine castle in Gardiki

In the west coast near Chalikouna and the village of Agios Mattheos there are the remains of an old Byzantine castle known as the castle of Gardiki.

During the summer months concerts and other events have been performed there.

Municipal Theater

In the early 20th century it replaced the legendary Nobile Teatro di San Giacomo (which was converted into Town Hall).The building was destroyed by Luftwaffe bombardment at 1943 and after that it was demolished and reconstructed as a modern block building that has nothing to do with the beautiful old theater.It lays Between N. Mantzaros and Spiros Desylas streets

British Cemetery

Corfu British Cemetery was opened as a military cemetery in about 1855, and contains 13 First World War burials.The 16 Second World War burials are mostly of casualties from destroyers mined in the Corfu channel.Is is few yards into Kolokotroni st. on your left if you came from Mitr. Methodiou street.

Jewish Synagogue

In the center of the Jewish district of Corfu, it has existed since 1800 and was restored in honor of the 2000 Jews which were sent to Auschwitz and exterminated by the Nazis during WW2.

Statues of many historic personalities

There are statues of many historic personalities such as Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first governor of Greece, Sir Thomas Maitland, the first British High Commissioner of Corfu, Prussian marshal Johann Mathias von Schulenburg,who was responsible for repulsing the Turkish attack of 1716, Lord Guilford a British aristocrat and primarily responsible for establishing the Ionian Academy,All the above can be seen in or near the Espianade square.At the junction of Alexandras Avenue and the Avenue of the Republic, there is an obelisk in honor of the English Commissioner of 1835 Sir Howard Douglas, known to all locals as the column of Douglas.