Corfu articles

Corfu Churches

Agios Spyridon Protector of the island

The top of the church is divided into 17 parts with golden frame, painted at first by the Kerkyrean artist, Panagiotis Doxaras, in 1727. The initial icons however, never managed to survive because of the humidity. In the middle of the 19th century, and specifically in 1852, the top of the church was restored and was given colour and liveliness from the hands of the artist Nikolaos Aspiotis. Another very important artist from the Eptanesian School, whose works decorate the church today, is S. Sperantzas.

He was born about 270 A.D. in Askia, a village in Cyprus. He was of poor and humble origin and earned his living as a shepherd. He was married and had one daughter named Irene whom he dedicated to the Church at the death of his wife, while for himself he chose the monastic life. He was loved and revered by the people for his deep faith, so that when the bishop of Tremithous died he became his successor. During last years of his life he performed a great number of miracles, which was the reason why the faithful considered him a saint even before his death, which occurred about 348. Sweet-scented exhalations were repeatedly perceived emanating from his tomb, until the local churchmen dug it up and found the saint’s body intact. The holy remains were kept in Cyprus for over three hundred years. Following an Arab raid in the second half of the seventh century; the saint’s body was carried to Constantinople, where it was kept until the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453. Shortly after the Turkish conquest the priest George Kalochairetis carried off the body of the Saint, concealed in hay, together with that of Saint Theodora. He disguised himself as a peasant and succeeded in crossing the Turkish lines; after long wanderings he reached Paramythia in Epiros, where he stayed until 1456 and then crossed over to Corfu with his precious burden. Three times a year, on St. Spyridon’s Day (12th of December), on Easter Saturday and on the 11th of August, the silver gilt case containing his body is exposed for public worship for three days and two nights (at Easter for three nights) in front of his chapel. Thousands of pilgrims pay homage by day and night and kiss his slippered feet. Many are the miracles attributed to the Saint and many people suffering from incurable diseases are relieved of their ailment.



The Metropolitan Church

Known as Panagia (Virgin Mary) Spileotissa, is situated where the old church of St. Vlasios stood and was built in 1577. The church is dedicated to three saints, Panagia Spileotissa, since after the destruction of the church the icon of Panagia Spileotissa was brought here, to St. Vlasios and to St. Theodora.

The church is in the category among the Eptanesian Basilica tri-aisle churches and in the front view it stands out for its renaissance elements.

Inside the church, the relics of St. Theodora are kept in a silver shrine. Its Byzantine chancel screen and various significant religious paintings of which the oldest is the icon of Panagia Dimosiana worth notice. Panagia Dimosiana is said that it was made in Ioannina at the end of the 14th century. Also, other notable icons are hosted in the Metropolitan church from religious painters such as Michael Damaskinos, Emmanouel Tzanne Mpounialis and Panagiotis Paramythiotis.



San Nicolo dei Vecchi 

The Holy Temple of Saint Nikolaos of Geronton, San Nicolo dei Vecchi, was built in the beginning of the16th century. The church of Saint Nikolaos of Geronton belongs, as most post byzantine churches of Corfu, to the basilica one-aisle churches, with the wooden tile roof and a perimetric corridor. The building complex of the temple also includes the priest’s residence in its northern side. It was one of the richest churches of Kampielo, the catherdral of the Great Fathers up to year 1712, and in 1916 it was granted to the Serbs.

Some very impressive elements in the interior of temple are the sanctuary’s wooden crafted chancel screen, one of the oldest of the temples of Kerkyra, as well as the Pulpit, in the northern side. Some significant icons of the temple are: Saint Theodora, the Saint Metalipsi and Saint Kerkyra that are possibly works of Emmanouel Bouniali – Tzanne.



Byzantine Museum (Antivouniotissa)

The Byzantine Museum of Antivouniotissa was founded after a donation in 1979 of the church of Antivouniotissa from the families Alamanou, Mylonopoulou, Risikari and Skarpa to the Greek State with the intention of accommodating the Museum there. The church of Panagia Antivouniotissa was built probably in the 15th century and is considered the oldest church of the city. In order for the museum to operate, which was inaugurated in 1984, it was necessary to make a few restorations, which began before the inauguration and finished in 1994. 



St. Ioannis o Prodromos (the Precursor)

The interior of the temple has some characteristic elements like the “ourania” (ceiling), which was painted by Sp. Sperantzas in 1773, as well as the pulpit, which after the request of Nikiforos Theotokis, was placed on the right side of the temple in order that when he preached, he would be turned to the crowd. The marble chancel screen is decorated with eminent works of Eptanesian Schools of Painting of Georgios Chrysoloras, Tzenos and Emmanouel Bouniali-Tzanne. Other appreciable work that are in the holy temple of Saint Ioannis the Precursor is the Crucifixion of Sperantza, precisely above the Despotic throne, the Epitaph, the Assumption of Virgin Mary and other icons of the temple. Saint Ioannis the Precursor of Kerkyra was one of the first Cathedral Temples of the Great Head Priests. The most distinguished priests that served in this temple were Nikiforos Theotokis and Anastasios Avlonitis. 



Panagia of Xenon – Faneromeni

Near the temple of Saint Ioannis the Precursor, the church of Virgin Mary of Xenon (Foreigners) is found. The holy Temple of Yperagia Theotokos (Virgin Mary) of Xenon was built by the priest Nicodemos, who was from Epirus and wanted to build the church for the refugees from Epirus, who came to Kerkyra after the persecutions during the Ottoman domination. 



The Temple of Pantokratoras

The temple of Pantokratoras was built in the mid or end of the 16th century but because of the bombardments by the Germans, in 1943, it suffered a big destruction and was restored by the Archaeological Service Department. The temple belongs to the Eptanesian type of basilica one-aisle churches with a wooden tiled roof and has an exterior narthex only in its northern side. The building complex also includes the priest’s residence. A characteristic element of the temple is the sculptured angel, work of sculptor Torretti of the 18th century. It is on the top of roof, which with the two circular windows of different dimensions, the one below the other, and the main entrance in an arc-shaped form, stresses the vertical axis of the front side. 



Monastery of Panagia (Virgin Mary) of Tenedos or of Carmelo


It is Catholic Church, which began to be built in 1678 from the Latin archbishop of Corfu Marco Antonio Barbarigo and was completed in 1723. Accordingly to various documents that have been discovered, the church began to be built in 1663 and was completed with in 1749. The baroque architectural style is obvious, particularly in the dome, which is similar to the Duomo of Firenze. The dome roofed church of Virgin Mary of Tenedos belongs to the basilica eptanesian one-aisle type which presents particular historical interest as it accommodated in 1798 the first printing-house of Greece, and in 1800, the island’s first public library. Moreover in 1805, the first Greek faculty of public education with director Ioannis Kapodistrias was founded and placed in the temple. 



Monastery of 'San Francesco di Assisi'

The monastery of Saint Fragisko of Asissi constitutes one of the oldest and most important monasteries of the island because of its history. It is dedicated to Saint Angelo and it is said that it was built in the 13th century. However, there are no tangible proofs of the date of its construction. The monastery initially, during the years of the Bishops of Epirus, Aggelon Komninon, was granted to the Greek nuns, while in May of 1367 it was granted to the Battalion of monks of Saint Fragisko, which developed the Monastery as much as possible. In the beginning of 17th century it appears that there were reconstructions and in September of 1621 it was blessed by the Archbishop Benedetto Bragadino. In 1798 it the first public school functioned in the Monastery for the first time. From the end of 1943, because the Catholic Cathedral suffered serious destruction from the bombardments of the Germans, the Monastery of Saint Fragisko became a Cathedral for the Catholic population of the island until the reconstruction of the new Cathedral. 



Catholic Cathedral of Sts. Jacob and Christopher / Duomo

The Catholic Holy Cathedral of Sts. Jacob and Christopher constitutes, like the temples of Saint Fragisko of Asissi and Virgin Mary of Tenedos or Carmelo, one of the holy temples that are included in the Catholic Archdiocese of Kerkyra-Zakynthos and Kefallonia. Perhaps it is the first catholic temple in Greece since it was founded in 1369. The Cathedral belongs administratively to the Catherdal of Venice, which belongs to the Cathedral of Firenze and constitutes the Cathedral of the Ionian Sea. It mainly serves the religious needs of roughly 3000 believers of mainly Maltesian origin in Kerkyra. 




The first presence of Jews in Kerkyra is dated, according to written evidence, in the 12th century. Specifically, the German historiographer Gregorovius reports that in the 12th century only one Jude was, at that time, in the island although, there was a large number of Jews in Greece. In the 13th century with the sovereignty of Angevins many Jews were transported to the island. The next arrival of Jews to the island is in 1493 with the persecution of 200.000 Jews from Spain, which a few were led to the island of Kerkyra. In 1549 a few more Jews arrived, the Jews of Apulia, who were later joined with the Jews of Spain as well as Portugal, from which the second resided in Kerkyra in 1589. The Jews of the island were separated in two Communities, the Apuliani and Romaniotiki, which constitutes the oldest in the island. In the year 1588 the Jews in Kerkyra reached 400 and after roughly 200 years this number quadrupled. In the year 1879, the population of the Jewish Community in Kerkyra exceeded 2500. After the Holocaust and the decimation of the Jewish Community, only 190 accomplished to escape from the hands of the Nazis of Germany, from which a large number emigrated from the island. Today in Kerkyra, there are only 100 Jews and the two Communities of Apuliani and Romaniotiki have been joined. 



The Holy Temple of Saint Paraskevi and Saint Ioannis Theologos

The holy Temple of Saint Paraskevi and Saint Ioannis Theologos was initially built in the beginning of the 17th century. The church was private in the past and the owners were the monks Christoforos and Christofora. The wooden covered building, has a beige colour in the exterior, and is built entirely from stone. The entrance of the church is protected with bars. The temple was restored in the late 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. 



Sts. Pateres (Holy Fathers) and St. Arsenios

The holy Temple of Saints Pateres (Fathers) and Saint Arsenios possibly has been built in the 15th century. The aim was to meet the religious needs of the Ipeiroton refugees. In 1860 the church belonged to the Monk from Epirus, Zamanos who later became a monk at the Monastery of Virgin Mary of Xenon. The exterior of the temple reminds of the Venetian monuments in the later Baroque period. A characteristic element of the interior decoration is the stone sculptured heads. The chancel screen of the temple is a more recent work (1768). It was made when the building was totally renovated. Certain of the changes that were made with the renovation in 1768 were the increase in the height as well as the shape in its appearance. During the 2nd World War, the church was seriously destroyed and was rebuilt relatively recently. 



Saint Sofia and Saint Josef (Iosif)

The holy Temple of Saint Sofia and Saint Josef was rebuilt in 1650. Initially it was a private church while from 1846 it was a brotherly church of the corporation of carpenters and builders. It is a temple that belongs to the Eptanesian basilica one-aisle type with a wooden tiled roof. The building with apparent stone-sculptured work is built entirely from stone. The entrance of the church is found in the western part with its characteristic being its symmetry with the semicircular skylight which is similar to the beginning of the 19th century Venetian style, like the church of Saint Mavrikios of G. Selva. Even though the temple is dated 1650, because it was rebuilt with designs by the architect Ioannis Chroni in 1848, it is considered one of the least ecclesiastical monuments of the 19th century in the city of Kerkyra. 



Saint Antonios and Saint Andreas

The holy Temple of Saint Antonios and Saint Andreas was rebuilt in 1753 in place of an older temple, which possibly was first built in the 15th century. Historically it is identified with the church in which the emperor Ioannis Palaiologos functioned when he visited Kerkyra as an intermediary stop in his travel for Florence in 1439, in order to resolve the matter concerning the union of the two churches. The church belongs to the ecclesiastical Eptanesian basilica one-aisle type and a characteristic element is that it is covered with groined-vaults. In the interior of the temple, the marble chancel screen is significant. It was created by the architect Alexandros Trivolis – Pierris, roughly twenty years after the reconstruction of the temple.



St. Charalambos

The Holy temple of Saint Charalambos was built in the 18th century. 



Saint Eleftherios and Saint Anna

The holy Temple of Saint Eleftherios and Saint Anna was built around 1700. 



St. Nikolaos Loutron or Plakas

The temple of Saint Nikolaos of Baths was built in the 17th century on an older church that had been built in 1414. The older church was destroyed in1537 from the Turks. The existence of the current temple of saint Nikolaos of Baths is essentially owed to the Cretan family Pastou. They undertook all the temple’s construction expenses. In the beginning of the 20th century, the property of the church was given back to the state and was sold to create the city’s Municipal Theatre. There were some renovations made to the building recently which altered its initial morphology. 



Church of Agios Georgios (St. George)

The Holy Temple of Saint Georgios was built in 1840, inside the Old Fortress, in order to meet the religious needs of the English soldiers that served in Kerkyra during the period of English Protection (1814 - 1864). In 1865, with the incorporation of Kerkyra in Greece, the church of Saint Georgios, from an English temple was transformed to an Orthodox one. The inauguration was realised on 21 March 1865. It was decorated with the chancel screen of the church Saint Spyridonos, work of the eminent Cretan icon painter, Emmanouel Tzanne. The chancel screen was donated from the family Voulgari. As most of the churches of Kerkyra, the temple of Saint Georgios also suffered serious damage from the German bombardments during the 2nd World War. 



Panagia (Virgin Mary) Mandrakina

The church of Virgin Mary Mandrakina, which is dedicated to Virgin Mary and to Saint Panteleimonas, was built in the 18th century. In 1944 it suffered serious destruction and was restored after approximately five years.