You can easily understand how much is important the religion for Corfiots, as for all the Greeks, looking the numbers of churches that are everywhere.
Only in the old city there are about twenty churches.
Hereinafter we illustrate only the most characteristic ones that you can visit having a beautiful walk in the heart of the city.
Entering in the old city from the port side, before the Spianada and in the middle of the old buildings, there is the most famous religious monument of the island: the church of Saint Spyridonas.
This church was constructed in 1590 and it is a typical example of ecclesiastical architecture of the Ionian islands in Greece.
It has a single nave, a coffered ceiling bordered in gold with icons depicting scenes from the Saint’s life; it also has an impressive bell tower, the highest in the city, which can be seen even from the Liston.
The outside is unpretentious but inside you can admire various paintings originally realized by P. Doxaras and, after their destruction, faithfully reproduced by N. Aspiotis.
The church along the sides has two different entrances, one on Saint Spyridonas street and the other in front of a small square, in this way the pipe organ can be listened in all the roads around.
In this church there is next to the altar a silver urn of the 19th Century with inside the relics of Saint Spyridonas who is considered the protecting saint of Corfu.
Saint Spyridonas was born, lived and died in Cyprus where after the passing of his wife he devoted his life to the church and made numerous miracles.
When Cyprus was invaded by Saracen his mortal remains were brought to Costantinopoli (when they opened his tomb they found his undamaged body emanating basil scent) and then when Costantinopoli fell against the Turks they were transferred to Corfu where they are even now.
Spyridonas became the patron saint of the island because he protected Corfu two times from the plague in 1554 and in 1630, once from the famine and in 1716 he chased the Turks away.
These four great miracles are commemorated with as many processions.
The official date of the celebration of Saint Spyridonas is on 12th of December, but exactly four times per year (11 August, first Sunday of November, Palm Sunday and Holy Saturday) his relics are carried around the streets of the city, in memory of the miraculous actions that saved Corfu and its inhabitants.
If you are on the island in one of these dates go to the old town to see the procession and after to listen the most important musical bands of the island, so you will enjoy yourselves as anywhere there is a frisky atmosphere.
The church of Saint James is the catholic cathedral of Corfu.
It’s located next to the town hall, in one of the
most beautiful squares of the old town:
It was built in 16th Century, was destroyed during
the second world war and rebuilt in 1970.
It is an elegant church with three naves and a gothic tower.
The church of Saint Spiliotissa is situated in front of the old port and it is named also Mitropolis after the public square in which it is.
Rising over the square with its flight of steps, the church stands out for its bright color and the decoration that looks like a sunsurrounding the rose window.
The Spiliotissa name derives from “spilià” that means cave and it is the name of this area so called for the presence of a cave at the feet of the New Fortress.
This orthodox basilica dates back to 1577 and houses the mortal remains of Saint Teodora of Augusta. She was a Byzantine empress canonized in the 9th Century and her relics arrived to Corfu from Costantinopoli together with the patron Saint Spiridonas ones.
Inside the church there are Byzantine icons like the Madonna Dimosiana, painted on both sides, and others of the Ionic School made by Damaskino, Tzane and Paramithioti.
ST. JOHN CHURCH
The Saint John Church is another example of the architectonic style of the Ionian islands. From Theotoki street it is possible to see only the lateral part of the church, where there is the entrance, and the typical bell tower that stands out between the buildings.
The church inside presents one nave, a wooden roof and a perimeter corridor
called “nartece” that contains interesting works to admire.
The icons housed in this church were created by Tzane and Chrisolora while the vault belongs to Hope (1773).
OUR LADY OF STRANGERS CHURCH
The Church of Our Lady of Strangers date back to XVIII century and it is situated in front of St. John Church.
It is possible to admire also the pediment of this church that is very unpretentious and it differs from the previous for the bell tower and for the three naves instead of one.
This church was constructed by the monk Nikodemo and it is considered the parish of the foreigners and particularly of the Epiro inhabitants.
The vault was realized by N. Kutuzi while the wooden iconostasis constructed by Tzanes in 1875.
ST. NIKOLAOS CHURCH
This church was constructed at the beginning of XVI century and today is considered one of the richest of the old city.
There are two different entrances: one in
Dousmani street where there is a portrayal of Saint Nicholas next to the entry,while from the other entrance you accede to the aisle of the church passing through a courtyard full of trees.
Inside there is a rare example of pulpit with access from nartece and a splendid iconostasis.
The Church of Pantokratoras date back to the beginning of the XVI century and is situated in anarea of the old city less tourist and calmer.
The main feature of this church is the statue of an angel, carved by Torretti in the XVIII century, that is at the top of the facade.
THE MOST INTERESTING CHURCHES AND MONASTERIES OF CORFU
Religion is an important part of Greek life and culture, as can easily be seen from the hundreds of churches and monasteries on the island and in the city.
The majority of churches dates back to XVII and XVIII centuries and is constituted by a single nave, an imposing facade, a bell tower and ceilings decorated with frescoes.
There are a lot of small and big churches in the old town and you can see the most characteristic ones in a proper section.
Here below there are the churches and the monasteries of Corfu island with an interesting history or peculiar features.
CHURCH OF SAINTS IASSON AND SOSSIPATROS
This church is placed in the south of old town, exactly in Paleopoli area where there are many buildings of historical interest.
It is dedicated to the two Saints Iasson and Sosipatros, both Paul’s disciples, who spread the Christianity on
This church was constructed in the XI century on the ruins of a monastery and it is one of the few examples of Byzantine architecture left standing.
Stones collected from abandoned ancient buildings were used in its construction and expert builders were called in from Attica.
Externally it is characterized by the disposition of red bricks around doors and windows in rows that create a decoration.
Inside there are the graves of the two Saints, their icons realized in the XVII century by E. Tsanes of the Cretan School and the fresco of St Arsenio.
From 1960 to 1980 many restoration works of both frescoes and icons were made.
The small monastery of Vlaherna is located to the south of the city and in the more southern part of the Kanoni peninsula.
The monastery is set on a so small island connected to the mainland only with a narrow wharf that seems to be in the middle of the sea.
This all-white architecture, which dates back to the seventeenth century, stands out against the blue background of the sea and creates the perfect setting for a photograph.
Passing through an archway at the base of the bell tower you reach a small courtyard from which you enter the church.
Just in front of Vlaherna Monastery there is an island called Pontikonissi on which there is only one building: the church of Pantocrator.
According to one interpretation of the Odyssey this island would be the ship of Ulysses that was turned into rock by Poseidon while, according to another legend would be the rock on which Ulysses’ ship crashed during a storm.
The church of Pantocrator was built in the XIII century and to visit it you can take a boat from the small port opposite.
The Byzantine chapel that is on the top of the island encloses the memorial tablets of Elizabeth Empress of Austria and Rodolfo archduke.
This monastery is situated in Corfu city not far from the new port.
It is not in the promenade of the old town but in the new part of the city and to be precise in Andreadi street.
Going on along Andreadi street you arrive to St. Rocco square.
It was built in 1743 but had a short life because during the war French-Russian-Turk (1799) it was destroyed.
Then it was reconstructed and became one of the most important monasteries of the island for the mortal remains of Capodistria, president of Greece, and Tsavellas, hero of revolution, which are inside.
This monastery is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and, from the architectonic point of view, is constituted of a portico on three sides and a bell tower, with a domed top, that acts as an entrance.
It is famous especially for the works that are inside: there are icons, frescoes and relics of the XVII century realized by Pulakis, Tzanes, Klotza, Kantunis and Kutuzis, some among the most famous iconoclasts and painters of that age.
As Pantokrator church also the Ipapandi church is situated on a small islet connected to the mainland with a path, but this time we are in the gulf of Gouvia, to north of the city.
The view from this church is wonderful because you can admire all the gulf, the old town and also the Albania.
The building is very simple and without an historical value, but the setting is really fascinating, especially at the sunset.
Paleokastritsa monastery takes its name from the place where is situated and it is set in the top of the cape that characterizes the entire area.
The monastery was built in 1225, then in the XVIII century the main church dedicated to the Holy Virgin and the cells of monks were constructed.
Inside the monastery is constituted of a courtyard with a portico and a modern building where there is a museum of Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons, sacred books, saintly tools and formal dresses.
The view from the monastery is charming and you can admire, besides the sea, the islet opposite to the beach that for the shape looks like a ship.
To reach this monastery you have to go the higher point of the island.
Pantokratoras monastery, standing on the summit of the mountain of the same name, enjoys scenic views of the entire island of Corfu, the surrounding islands and the mainland.
The first construction was built in 1347 and destroyed in 1537, while the building we admire today dates back to the late 17th century.
Besides the stone church there are portico and inner courtyards.
Entering in the monastery you have not a feeling of ancient place but rather of a modern building well constructed.
During the year it is the destination of numerous pilgrims and the first week of August, with Pantokrator celebration, reaches the highest number of visitors.
Along the road that leads up the mountain, you can see the lights of the candles carried by all the area’s villagers as they walk toward the monastery for the celebration.
This monastery, that is placed 1 km from the village of Nymfes in the north of the island, is one of the most ancient Christian buildings of Corfu.
It’s very particular the legend regarding this building: it was constructed from the parents of hermit Artemisio Paissios to commemorate their son who didn’t want to leave the place where he lived in seclusion.
When Paissios saw his parents who had arrived to take him away against his will, he dug a hole and he put himself into it to pray, but a stone fell, covered the hole and buried him.
The parents were not able to dig out him so they decided to leave him in the place that he had loved a lot and they built over him the monastery of Metamorphoses.
The church is often closed but next to it there is an old building that was part of the monastery, today is abandoned, that has still inside tubs in stone, grinders and other objects.
MONASTERY OF HOLY TRINITY
This monastery is a place of cult since 1400 and it’s situated in the small village of Klimatia, on mountains in the north of Corfu island.
It became popular for its frescoes which date back to the XVII century and its icons painted in 1850.
Its panoramic views as well as the town in which it is situated, that has been spared the flux of tourists, are other good reasons to visit this little monastery.
In order to reach it there is only one accessible road that starts from Klimatia; it is unpaved and a pair of kilometres long. Arrived on the top of the mountain you will find a small building that comprises the church and the priest’s house.
Three priests, living like hermits, care for this small monastary far from the nearest town and rarely visited by anyone, not even the faithful.
The panorama is wonderful and you can see also the mainland, Albania and Diapondia islands.