Corfu Greece - Churches

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Churches and Monasteries in Corfu.
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Early Christian & Byzantine Churches

 The Byzantine Church of Saints Jason and Sosipater

At a little distance from southern shore of the Bay of Garitsa in the suburb of Anemomylos, the site of the ancient city is one of only two typically Byzantine churches on the island. This beautiful building, a former monastic church, is dedicated to Saints Jason, Bishop of Tarsus, and Sosipater, bishop of Iconion in Asia Minor, who had been disciples of St. Paul and brought Christianity to Corfu in about 70 A.D. This church, evidences masonry technique and decoration similar to contemporary churches in Attica and Boeotia. Two eleventh-century inscriptions framed by dented brick bands are embedded in the wall on either side of the western door. Frescoes dating from the seventeenth century can be observed on either side of the main entrance. An elaborately ornate eighteen-century iconostasis bears on either side of its central door two full-length icons (dated 1650) which may be attributed to Father Emmanuel Tzanes. The history of this church is of special interest for its connection with the wider history of Byzantium and its tragic downfall. The church has been declared a historical monument and is now under jurisdiction of the Department of Byzantine Antiquities of Constantinople.


 The Early Christian Basilica of Palaeopolis

 Opposite the entrance to the estate of Mon Repos stands ruined church Palaeopolis (of the ancient city). The extant remains of the church show successive building stages going back to different periods, especially the twelfth and seventeenth centuries. The building was a majestic early Christian basilica, with two aisles on each side of the nave and covered by a timber roof. The church was richly decorated with sculptures and a mosaic floor, and was one of the largest basilicas in Greece. Building materials and decorative elements from surrounding buildings and temples were used for the construction and embellishment of the basilica. Almost all the marble materials used in basilica come from a Roman odium. Embedded in the walls of the long sides are eleven marble lion heads of the beginning of the fourth century B.C. The church is connected with one of the most popular legends of Corfu, that of St. Kerkyra. She was the daughter of Cercillinus, the Roman Governor of the island, and was put to death about 70 A.D. on her father’s orders for having converted to Christianity. According to legend St. Kerkyra is the guardian of fabulous treasures hidden in the catacombs of the church.


 The Convent of the Saints Theodore

 This convent stands close to the temple of Artemis. St. Theodore the Tiro was a fourth-century soldier who died a martyr in Asia Minor. The church forms part of an early Christian basilica of which the nave and the southern aisle still exist. The basilica dates back to the fifth century. The apse of the sanctuary is intact, and has a trefoil window with small pillars. The row of cells in the courtyard, with a covered gallery along their length, is typical Greek monastic architecture of its period.

 The Byzantine Church of Pantocrator at Pontikonisi

 A small Byzantine church dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ crowns the tiny islet at the entrance to the lagoon of Chalikiopoulo opposite Kanoni. It is in shape of a Greek cross with an octagonal dome in the center, and has one central three-sided apse behind the altar. It can be dated to the eleventh or twelfth century.

 The Chapel of Saints Michael and Gabriel

 It is situated in the district of Omali in the northern part of the island, contains some interesting frescoes.

 The Chapel of Saint Merkouris

 This chapel stands below the village Ayios Markos in a narrow plain. It was built and decorated, according to one of the two inscriptions in left apse, in 1074-1075 by Nikolaos Drongarios. The church is of particular interest because it contains the oldest dated frescoes in Corfu, going back to the eleventh century.


 The Church of Pantocrator

 A short distance above the village of Ayios Markos is the old barrel-vaulted Church of Christ Pantocrator (Lord of the Universe) dating from 1577. The church is especially interesting for its frescoes most of which belong to the sixteenth century and which cover the walls almost completely.

 The Church of St. Nicholas

 In the village of Kato Korakiana, on a hill crowned by the small Monastery of St. Elijah, southwest of the Church of St. Merkourios described above, stands the ruined and roofless church dedicated to St. Nicholas. It is a single-nave basilica dating from Venetian times. The frescoes are of special interest and date in part from the eleventh to the fourteenth century and in part from the seventeenth century.

 The Church of St. Michael

 The Church of St. Michael, commonly known as St. Michael on the Mountain stands above the village of Kato Korakiana and in its present form is an extension of an older chapel whose long walls are still intact. The iconostasis dates from the seventeenth or eighteenth century, and there are also the fragments of eleventh-century frescoes.

 The Church of St. Nicholas

 It is a single-nave basilica located in the village of Vatos in the western part of the island. It bears on the east wall some interesting fragments of Byzantine frescoes probably dating from thirteenth century.

 The Church of St. George

 Near the small village of Vatos a little church with a semi-circular apse is dedicated to St. George. It stands on the summit of a high and steep hill, which dominates the bay of Ermones southwest of the village. The building existed in 1469. In the sanctuary a few remains of frescoes are still extant. These frescoes belong to the fourteenth or the first half of fifteenth century.


 The Church of Saints Michael and Gabriel

 It is located in the village of Kamara, at the foot of Mount Ayi Deka and decorated with frescoes dating from the seventeenth century, containing ancient architectural fragments and early Christian reliefs.

 The Church of St. Blaise (Vlasios)

 The partly roofless church is situated at a short distance south of the Church of Saints Michael and Gabriel. It was enlarged in the seventeenth century and is decorated with Byzantine and post-Byzantine frescoes. The church ends in a three-sided apse, embellished in the prosthesis and on the south wall with pointed brick stars.

 The Church of St. Marina

 It is situated not far from the Byzantine fortress of Gardiki. It contains some frescoes dating back to the sixteenth century.




    The Church of St. Spyridon

Is situated at the far end of the square of the Ionian Bank, and is by far the most venerated place of worship on the island. It shelters the body of St. Spyridon, the patron Saint of Corfu and one of the great Saints of Greek Orthodoxy, and in consequence draws a constant stream of pilgrims from all over Greece all the year round. The church was built in 1589, but most of the decoration, as well as the big bell-tower, were completed a few years later. It is a single-nave basilica, a type prevalent in Corfu; two white marble railings, made in Venice in 1852, as recorded in the dedicatory inscription in Italian, separate the main nave from the raised area in front of the sanctuary. Imposing silver and gilt lamps and massive chandeliers presented to the church as pious offerings hang from the ceiling. Number of icons and paintings by different painters (mentioned in the part ‘Fine Arts’ of this web site) are also to be seen in this imposing church.


 The Orthodox Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Spiliotissa

 It is situated in the old quarter of the town facing the square of the Old Harbor. The church was erected in 1577 and it was first built as a single-nave basilica; the two present side aisles were created by incorporating the pre-existing narthexes into church in 1841 when it became the Cathedral of Corfu. A wealth of icons of artistic merit covers the neo-classical iconostasis and walls. The Greek Orthodox Church proclaimed Theodora a Saint for her leading role in the reinstatement of the holy images. Her body was kept in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople and was brought to Corfu together with the body of St. Spyridon after the fall of that city in 1453.


 The Church of Saint Antony

 It is located at the end of Nikiphorou Theotoki Street and it is one of the oldest and interesting churches in Corfu, named after the Saints Antony and Andrew. The church is probably the most ancient ecclesiastical establishment in the old town of Corfu, dating from the fourteenth century.

 The Tenedos Church

 At the top of Solomou Street, stands the Roman Catholic Church. Tenedos Island lies off the Aegean entrance to the Dardanelles. The church and adjacent monastery was started in 1663. This church is closed associated with the history of the island. In 1798, the French established the first public library in Corfu, in the Tenedos Monastery. The building, housed also the first Greek school in the Ionian Islands, inaugurated in 1805 by John Capodistrias.

 The Church of All Saints (Ayion Panton)

 The church stands in All Saints Street near Esplanade. It belongs to the Butchers’ Guild and is rich in silver and liturgical vessels; built in 1684 as a single-nave basilica.

 The Church of Saint Eleftherios

 The small church stands on St. Spyridon Street; it was first built in 1700. It is the usual single-nave basilica.

 The Church of St. Catherine

 It stands on the corner of Capodistria and the narrow St. Catherine Street. It is a single-nave basilica like almost all the churches in Corfu, and was built in 1690.



 The Monastery of the Blessed Virgin Platytera

 It stands between the suburbs of San Rocco and Mandouki. The church contains a number of icons of high artistic value. A monk first built it in 1743. The front of the monastery church is decorated with six pilasters. The interior is divided into the nave, a narthex, and the sanctuary. The icons are representative Italian work of eighteenth-century style. The ceiling is divided into eleven compartments, decorated with icons within gilt frames. John Capodistrias, is at the rest under a simple slab of white marble, in a covered space behind the sanctuary, along with other members of his family and other eminent Corfiots, among whom is also the historian Andreas Moustoxydis.

 The Monastery of Mount Pantocrator

 It is situated on the island’s highest peak Pantocrator (906 m). The monastery church was built in the year 1347, during the rule of the Angevins. The Baroque iconostasis is of the late eighteenth century and the frescoes on the walls are of the seventeenth century.

The Monastery of the Blessed Virgin

It stands on a rocky promontory on the west coast of the island in the village of Palaeocastritsa. According to tradition a monk built the monastery in the thirteenth century. It now consists of the church in the center, surrounded by an extremely picturesque complex of courtyards, rows of monks’ cells, oil-presses, archways, store-rooms, abbot’s quarters and by an open terrace and a garden on the south side of the church, from which the view sweeps on a magnificent panorama of rocks, hills and an open sea. An elegant bell tower in the typical local style is attached to the church at its northwest corner closing the main courtyard on that side. The church is a single-nave basilica with a masonry iconostasis of no great distinction. The Monastery Museum housed in a room off the main courtyard contains a small but interesting collection if icons as well as sundry memorabilia.



Bibliography: STAMATOPOULOS, N.: Old Corfu, History and Culture, K. Mihalas s.a., Athens, 1993


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