Corfu Greece - Fortresses

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Fortresses in Corfu.
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The Fortresses and other auxiliary buildings





The Old Fortress

The earliest fortifications on what is now the small island where the Old Fortress stands were started about the sixth century A.D. The two peaks of the Old Fortress were for many centuries topped by castellated towers, the eastern one overlooking the sea was called by the Venetians Castel a Mar or Castel Vecchio, and was later used as a powder magazine. It was fortified in the early eleventh century. The western and higher peak facing the town was first fortified by the Byzantines in the second half of the twelfth century, and was called by the Venetians Castel a Terra or Castel Nuovo. Between the sixth and thirteenth centuries the medieval town of Corfu, lay within the walls of the Byzantine fortress. Even later, when a new town outside the fortress was built on its present site, the fortress still contained several churches, such as the Greek Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, and a number of other buildings, the most important of which was the Palace of the Venetian Governor, destroyed during the Second World War. It was this building that housed the Ionian University founded in 1823 by Lord Guilford. On an open space at the foot of the rock of the eastern peak stands the Church of St. George, built in the eighteen-forties. The frontage, consisting of six unfluted Doric columns and a pediment, is typical of the simplified classicism of the time. The church was turned over to Orthodox cult at the end of British Protectorate. An artificial canal separates the fortress from the town, which is named “El Bazaro”. The two castles still dominate the fortress but the medieval town within the fortress is not shown, although there were still five hundred and fifty houses at the time.

 The New Fortress

It was built on the hill of St. Mark between 1572 and 1645. The British built the surviving buildings within the fortress. Among these are the ‘defensive’ stone building, now unused, crowning the fortress, and the brick building, now housing the Corfu Naval Station. The entire structure is honeycombed with an interactive network of vaulted chambers and galleries, stairs, ramps and ventilation shafts. There are two gates, both are very good Baroque renderings of Doric and Tuscan styles. The Eastern Gate is topped by a beautiful relief of the winged lion of St. Mark, the emblem of Venice.


 The Fortress of Angelocastro

 On a precipitous rocky peak dominating a wide range of coastline around Palaeocastritsa stand crumbling walls and battlements of the twelfth-century Byzantine Fortress of Angelocastro, not far from the village of Krini. Past ruined postern gate, within the interior and the fortress, the remains of walls, buildings and battlements lie scattered over the rocky platform. When the Republican French occupied Corfu from 1797 to 1799, the fortress was probably used by the military as a lookout post for ships. Later, under the Imperial French, Angelocastro was used as a semaphore station. During the British Protectorate the fortress was completely abandoned and left to gradual disintegration and ruin.

 The Byzantine Fortress at Gardiki

 It is located on the lower slopes of the hill of Ayios Matthaios. It dates probably from the thirteenth century. The walls form a nearly elliptical enclosure and are still for the most part standing at their full height. In the upper floor, there are traces of religious frescoes depicting Saints in full-face pose.

 The Angevin Castle at Cassiope

 In the village Cassiope stand the imposing ruins of a fortress, built in the thirteenth century by the Angevins of Naples. Today the encircling walls and bastions with the imposing main gate, though crumbling and mostly clad in creepers, still bear witness to a long vanished power.

 Venetian Warehouse at Potamos

An interesting survival of Venetian times is a sixteenth-century warehouse formerly used for the storing of salt. It stands at the Potamos flats past the New Harbor on the way to Kontokali. The primitive structure of its solid roof and the overall simplicity of this building are striking; Venetian lion, dated 1549, tops the entrance.



The Venetian Arsenal at Gouvia

 In 1716 Venetians built a shipyard on the shore of the lagoon at Gouvia. The building was used for general maintenance and repairs of the naval units in station or passing through Corfu. The structure survives with its walls, pillars and archways almost complete. Only roof is entirely missing.

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


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