Old Fortress - Corfu Town
It is built on a natural position and gradually from the 16th century it was developed into the Byzantine Corfu Town.
The Old fortress is a characteristic symbol of the Old Town and the two peaks were useful for inspectional control of the sea passage. The difference of the Venetian and British style of fortification is obvious all around the fortress.
The central gate, a great piece of art of Michele Sanmicheli (beginning of the 16th century), in the center of the connected wall between the bastions of Martinego, Savorgnan and Porta Soranza, the first entrance gate to the Old Fortress, from the side of the small port of Mandraki (1520).
The communication between the Fortress and the Town was made through an iron bridge of 60m length, replacing an old movable one above the moat, which is called contra fossa, on the symmetrical axis of the west side between the bastions of Martinego and Savorgnan.
The entrance area is composed of a central oval corridor and by two oval chambers, on two sides. The only arch-shaped entrance is composed by memorial composition, still preserved is the old wood and nailed door, as well as the crevices used for the chains for the hanging up of the movable bridge.
Parallel to the moat there is a dry ditch, which is 22m in width. This is joined with a stone arch-shaped bridge to the beginning of the wall of the main fort. Today, in this position, there is an impressive building, as a result of the British influence, and the way to the rest of the interior spaces is made through three oval corridors.
Perpendicularly, there is a wall supporting the highest level, where in its vault tops, you can see the blazons of the eminent personalities of the Venetian Society.
Two symmetrical stairways, made of stone, lead to the highest level, and on the right side, there is the open space of Versiada, with the Doric style built chapel of Saint George (1840) at the end.
On the left side, you can reach, through a lodge, the dry ditch, and continuously ample spaces and small sloping levels, arriving, through a vault arcade, in a small gate of the parametrical walls leading to the port of Mandraki. From this point, an underground way leads you to the fortified peninsula of Kavosidero.
Two fortified peaks compose the highest level of acropolis, which is the Tower of the Land, the Tower of the Sea and the space between them named Cittadella. The building of the Venetian Prison is still preserved with the addition of a building by the British, as well as a large building used as barracks.
From this point a steep incline, around the rock, ends at the entrance of a terraced lodge, leads to the top of the rock, where the views of the Town are spectacular.
The visitors are allowed to enter the Fortress, walk around and see the different style of architecture, such as the bas-reliefs Venetian emblems with the marble winged lions of Saint Marc, the inscriptions, the blazons and the cannons. The Old Fortress houses the Records of Corfu Prefecture, the Public Library, departments of the Ministry of Culture and departments of the Ionian University.
New Fortress (1570) – Corfu Town
You can see the impressive fortification of the New Fortress on the northwest side of the Old Town, on the hill of Saint Marc, above the Old Port, hiding Corfu Town from the west.
The central entrance gate from the sea (1577) was a magnificent work of Fernante Vitelli. You can see the symbol of Venice, which was the winged lion.
The most important period for the fortification of Corfu Town was during the Venetian rule, which lasted 411 years (1386 – 1864). The Venetians ordered the work to the best architectures and mechanics. The French and the British completed their work improving the constructions.
The New fortress is composed of two levels. On the lower level, are the pentagon barrack, an extra barrack and the small blockhouse of “Punta Pepretura”, there is an impressive building of 19th century, used today as the Naval Base.
The highest level includes two barracks on the west side by the name of “Seven Winds” supporting a three floor impressive building of the British period.
In the interior space of the barracks, there is a rich net of underground lodges.
The visitor has the opportunity to walk in the lodges (except the underground lodges and tunnels) and admire the views of the other part of Corfu Town.
Two supplementary fortresses were built in the hills of Avrami and Salvatore. Today, the Salvatore fortress houses the prison in Corfu.
The Gates of Corfu Town
Corfu Town was fortified during the Venetian rule. Eight gates were built originally for the communication with the sea, the suburbs and the countryside, four were the biggest and the most important but only two are preserved in nowadays:
- Porta Reale (Royal Gate):
It was the most impressive piece of art of the West walling. It was constructed between 1575-1578 and it was the main gate for entering the island. It was destroyed in 1893 for political reasons and a new road was constructed in this place.
- Porta Raimonda (Raimonda Gate):
It was on the south part of the Esplanade. It was destroyed on the side of the barrack in 1837 by the British and opened up a new beachside road to Garitsa.
- Porta di Spilea (Gate of Spilia):
It was joined to the barrack for the communication between the Town and the New Port, during the 16th century. It was the main entrance from the sea and the passage for the imported and exported goods from the Venetian boats.
- Porta S. Nicolo (Gate of Saint Nicolas):
The second large gate after the one of Spilia, which is still preserved. It was the gate on the north of the Esplanade, on the sea walling, below the level of the coastal road; it was joined to the Venetian building of the Military Hospital.
In proximity to the village of Agios Mattheos 23km from Corfu Town is located the impressive ruins of the Byzantine fortress of Gardiki aged since 13th century. The castle is situated on a hill and it has octagonal shape with eight towers and three gates. There are several architectural built parts decorating the towers. Some of the historians dated it at the 11th century, following the fortification of the west borders during Byzantine Empire era. It was used as a shelter for the locals, who were threatened by pirates.
Corfu Address: Agios Matthaios village, Corfu
Kassiopi Castle – Kassiopi Corfu
The castle is located on a hill on the northeast coast in the village of Kassiopi and it is the oldest one in Corfu Island. Originally, it was built by the Venetians (229 BC – 337 AD), when they conquered the island. The castle was seriously damaged through the years even though in 1267 the Angevins had strengthened it, but in 1386 during the Venetian rule, the Venetians destroyed it in a battle, re-built it, but the subsequently invasions of the Turks, with the last one in 1571, left the ruins. Today, the castle is mainly ruinous, but the walling of the fortress, the towers, the gate, the ramparts, the water tank and few of the Venetian cannons are still preserved.
Corfu Address: Kassiopi village, Corfu
Angelokastro – Krini village, Corfu
The Byzantine castle is located on a rocky peak (270 height) on the northwest coast at the village of Krini near Paleokastritsa. Its name is connected to the Despot of Epirus, Michael I Komnenos Doukas, well known as Michael Angelos, when Corfu was united with the Despotates of Epirus (1214 – 1267). The fort was of great strategic importance and was used at different times as a refuge for the local people. It is surrounded by water on three sides and it is accessible only by a narrow land bridge.
Over the years, Genoese pirates, the Turks under the command of Sultan Suleiman and the Saracens tried to conquer it, but not successfully.
Today, a big part of the walling, the gate and the two water tanks built in 1500 and 1546 are still preserved. At the end of the castle, there is a chapel of Aghia Kyriaki. Above the church of Aghia Kyriaki are preserved cloisters. On top there is another church of Archangel Michael.
The Venetians and French retained only guard in the late 18th century, but the British abandoned completely the fort. It was restored to its present condition in 1999.
Corfu Address: Krini Village, Corfu