THE MUSEUMS OF THE OLD TOWN
In the old town besides the numerous churches and the historical buildings there are also some interesting museums to visit.
This museum is dedicated to the Greek poet Dionisios Solomos, famous all over the Greece because he wrote the Greek National hymn.
The museum is set in Arseniou street in the building where the poet lived for many years between 1798 and 1857 and where at last he died. Inside there are personal objects, manuscripts, furniture, photographs and historical material regarding the life and the works of D. Solomos.
Moreover there are the writing desk of the poet and a library with several books owned by Solomos and the old editions of the Hymn to the Freedom.
Today this building is the site of the museum and the Solomos Study Center but in the past has been destroyed by bombardment of the second world war and then restored.
Only afterwards it was selected from the Studies Society of Corfu to be the site of the museum.
The Byzantine Museum is placed inside the Church of Panaghia Antivouniotissa that is situated in Campiello quarter. To be more precise from Arseniou road starts the staircase to reach the flank of the church where there is the entrance.
The church date back to the XV century and has become a museum in 1979 when the families of Mylonopoulos, Rizikakis, Alamanos and Scarpas donated it to the State.
Five years later when the renovation was finished it was opened to the public.
It’s one of the oldest churches of the island and is constituted by only one nave with a painted ceiling and the nartece on three sides.
In the Byzantine Museum there is a rich set of approximately 100 icons that cover an historical period of three centuries from the XVI to the XVIII and represent Saints and Biblical scenes.
These icons, created by various artists like Damaskinos, Avramis, Lombardos and Tzanes, with others memorabilia have been collected from the different churches of the island and put together in this museum.
Among the most important icons there are: the icon of Saint Demetrios who is figured horseback in front of the city of Salonica; the icon of Saint Cyril of Alexandria dressed with valuable clothes; the icon of Saint Sergio, Bacchus and Justina that commemorate the victory of the Europeans on the Turks in 1571; the icon of the Holy Mary “Odigitria” in which there is the Virgin and the Infant Jesus and the icon “Noli me Tangere” that means “don’t touch me” realized by Tzanes. Besides the icons, in the museum there are architectonic sculptures, parts of the paving of Saint Kerkyra church whose ruins are situated in the Paleopoli and fragments of Byzantine fresco of Saint Nicholas church.
MUSEUM OF ASIAN ART
The Museum of Asian Art is inside the beautiful Palace of Saint Michael and Saint George that is placed in the northern extremity of the Spianada.
Corfu boasts the only museum in Greece that features Asian Art.
This museum was created in 1927 when the Corfiot diplomat Gregorio Manos donated over 10.000 pieces of Japanese and Chinese handicraft to the prefecture.
After the ’70s other works were gained coming from the private collections of Chatzivasiliou, Siniosoglou and Almanachos (precisely art objects from India, Pachistan, Indochina, Thailand, Nepal, Tibet and Korea).
The art works of this museum are very different for features and origin; reported below there are some of these divided for Country.
From Japan: arms, parts of Samurai armors, wooden statues, theatrical masks of the Muramasi period, silks and other kind of objects.
From China: small sepulchral statues, statue of Buddha, bronze jars of Siang age, earthenware jars of Ceu age, vases, coins and others objects of the Ming dynasty and stone objects and fibers of the Cing dynasty.
From India there are erotic sculptures in wood and bronze; from Korea painted screens; from Tibet small bronze statue and religious paintings and from Pachistan statues (from first to fifth century B.C.) with Buddhist elements combined with Greeks ones, the latter due to the influence of Alexander Magno in those lands.
The best place to set this kind of Museum is of course a bank and to be more precise is on the first floor of the Ionic Bank in Iroon Agonic Kypriakou square. Founded by the Ionic Bank in 1981 is an unique museum of its kind and comprises bank notes, coins, stamps, printed matter, bank documents and other objects.
It’s very interesting the reproduction of the method used to make the bank notes from the engraving of the design to the insertion of the watermark, to the printing and handling of the resulting currency.
In order to spend a morning in a different way pass to visit this museum that will make you curious.
READING SOCIETY OF CORFU
The Reading Society of Corfu is the most ancient cultural institution of the modern Greece and is located in Kapodistriou road (number 120).
It was founded in 1836 in order to collect the best philosophers, poets and artists of that period like Solomos, Kalvos, Kapodistrias, Theotokis and many others all natives of the Ionian Islands.
Today this association boasts a library of remarkable dimensions (10,000 books regarding the Ionian Islands), prints, maps, newspapers, photos, engraving and painting.
The Reading Society of Corfu look after different kind of activities like the organization of seminaries, meeting, scientific conferences, musical performances and exhibitions of painting, photography and art.
The most important museums of the island are placed in the old town (there is a proper section dedicated to the museums of this area), in the new part of Corfu city or in villages not far from the chief town that is the cultural center of the island.
To reach the Archaeological Museum, that is in city, you must go to the area of Garitsa to south of the historical center and to be precise in Vraila street.
This museum was built between 1962 and 1965 and it is completely dedicated to the island of Corfù and to the finds made at the first site of the island’s chief town which is modern-day Paleopoli.
Thanks to numerous archaelogical excavations there appeared finds of remarkable largeness that show to the visitor parts of old architectures, fragments of buildings, sculptures, vases, coins, ceramics and grave steles.
In the Paleopoli there was a Doric temple dedicated to Artemis built in 590 B.C and its remains today are safeguarded just here in this museum.
The biggest remain is the stone pediment of the temple, wide 17 meters and high approximately 3 meters, which represents to the centre the Gorgona monster (the Medusa with snakes instead of hairs), to the sides the sons Pegaso and Chrisaoro and the two lion-panthers, to the extremities the battle of Titani.
In the museum there are also: the clay sculptures of Artemis temple, pieces of other buildings as parts of the roof of Roda temple, the terrae cottae with the shape of a lion head that were part of the cornice of Era temple and fragments of a post-archaic pediment, found in Figareto area, which represent the banquet of Dionisio.
Other important works present in the museum are: an archaic lion of the VII century found near the grave of Menecrate, an Attic wash-basin, vases of different ages from the first neolithic, to the bronze age and to the Corinthian, different kinds of pressworks, tools in copper and ivory, epigraph, small statues in marble and sculptures of roman age.
It’s particoular also the collection of coins among which there is a silver drachma, representing a cow, that was coined in Corfù when the island gained independence from Corinto.
Inside the Paleopoli, in the middle of the gardens, there is the Mon Repos palace which was built in 1924 by High Commissioner Frederick Adam and became later property of the Greek royal family.
Today it is a Museum that collects the various archaeological finds of this area, Byzantine relics, furnishings and garments of the British hegemony age.
The finds date back to the period between 1936 and 1955 when also a Christian basilica and some sections of the ancient Agora have been discovered.
The Achilleion palace is famous mainly because it was the dwelling of the Princess Sissi and is situated ten kilometers to south of the city, in a village called Gastouri. The history of this palace is mostly tied to three important persons: Elizabeth (Sissi) the Queen of Austrian-Hungarian empire, Guglielmo II Emperor of Germany and the Baron Von Richthofen.
Elizabeth, during one of her trips, stopped over in Corfu and fell in love with the island so much that in 1889 she decided to buy a villa with a incredible view all over the city and part of the island.
The villa was demolished and the current building was built by the Italian architect Raffaele Carito in two years and then was furnished personally by the Queen.
For her love of Greek culture, Sissi wanted to pay homage to it dedicating the palace to Achilles and for this reason called it “Achilleion”.
In honour of Achilles she had a statue, sculpted by E. Gustav Herter in 1884, placed in the middle of the garden, representing the dying Achilles at the moment of removing the arrow from his heel.
After the murder of Sissi the villa remained uninhabited until 1907, when it was bought by Guglielmo II.
He changed many things in the garden and in the structure and he moved the statue of the dying Achilles in order to put a more victorious version of Achilles, a statue in bronze created by J. Gotz that well represents the spirit of Germany in that age.
After death of Guglielmo the palace was abandoned and during the two world wars it was used like hospital and headquarters, while after the wars it was used like seat of schools and asylums.
Left in a state of neglect, it got ruined and lost its characteristic splendor, for this reason the Greek government in 1962 decided to rent it for twenty years to a German company owned by the baron Von Richthofen.
Von Richthofen decided to renovate the palace in order to open inside it a casino and a museum to collect the art works that had been sold or lost over the years.
When in 1982 the palace came back in the hands of the government the casino was moved inside an hotel in the center of the city and the museum, today still opened, remained in the palace.
In 1994 the Achilleion was seat of the Summit Conference of the members of European Union.
Visiting the grounds today, you are struck by the garden and the inner rooms as well as by the overall elegance of the palace.
The facade of the palace is rich of
bas-reliefs and balconies with statues representing the Greek mythology. Entering in the hall you will see immediately the great perron, with the banister in bronze, that brings to the upper floors, but closed to the visitors.
At the end of the perron there is a big oil painting, created by F. Matsch, dedicated to Achilles dragging the body of Hector after his death.
You can visit the rooms, still furnished with the old furnitures chosen by Sissi and Guglielmo II, where there are documents regarding these two important figures and objects belonged to them like photographies, pictures, jewels, the saddle used by the emperor of Germany and the miniature of his yacht.
A catholic chapel sought by Elizabeth is included in the building and inside it there are a picture of the Madonna painted by Matsch with to sides a statue of Christ and one of the Madonna and the original altar with the prayer book and the vestments that Pope Pio IX gave to Elizabeth.
The garden full of plants and flowers is fantastic and there is also a portico with many statues in marble and bronze, copies of the original ancient statues and of modern creations.
The statues represent divinity, muses and philosophers.
From the garden, the view over the surrounding area and the city is wonderful so that it’s easy to understand the choice of this vantage place.
This small museum is situated in Sinarades, more or less 10 km to the south-west of the city of Corfu, and has been opened in 1982.
Its site is inside a typical construction of the village and it was born thanks to the collaboration of the Historical Society of Corfù which contributed to the reconstruction of a peasant house of the XIX century.
On the first floor of the building there is this reconstruction with a living room, a kitchen and a bedroom furnished with tools and furniture of that time.
Another part of the museum, on the second floor, is dedicated to the objects of daily life like tools, musical instruments, pieces of pottery, garments and tools for farming and fishing.
Always on this floor there is an office with various books and a collection of old documents that were donated to the museum.
It is opened every day from 9:00 to 14:00.
FOLKLORE MUSEUM OF ACHARAVI
During its long history, Corfu has been inhabited by people of various civilizations.
The lasting remains of all these different cultures have blended beautifully in the long run and have shaped over the centuries the famous Corfiot tradition and the special identity of our local civilization.
The Italian temperament, our folk music, the uses and customs, the feasts and local costumes are all part of this unique cultural heritage and it is the aim of this newly founded institution to preserve and promote it.
Historical mementos, photographs, drawings and historical texts have been meticulously collected and are now exhibited with much love and care in the Folklore Museum of Acharavi, opening a whole universe of personal stories and collective experience to enable us the better to link the past to the present time.
These objects reflect the civilization of which they are the fruit and lead us to a trip in time with the scent of the last three centuries of Corfiot history.
The Folklore Museum of Acharavi was inaugurated in October 2008 in a building of more than 1,000 square metres.
The owner and visionary creator, Mr Spyros Vlachos, has been collecting, maintaining and promoting with endless care, joy and attention local folk objects of particular historical interest for the last 25 years.
The permanent exhibition of the museum is located in two rooms.
The objects, which have been mainly donated, are organized in zones concerning the main local activities.
The museum has a rich collection comprising of:
– Photographic material, books and documents dating back to 1862 and a specialized numismatic collection from the period of the Ionian Islands independent state (19th century)
– Local costumes dating back to 1800, folk house furniture, a cart, a harrow, aplow and other agricultural objects
– Traditional olive press, shoe-maker’s and carpenter’s workshops, wine and distilled alcohol producing devices, a traditional kitchen space, a traditional bedroom, a religious space and much more.
Beyond the permanent exhibition area of the Museum, there is also a Conference room equipped with state-of-the art audiovisual devices especially designed for educational and cultural projects, lectures and temporary exhibitions.
There is also a traditional coffee house as well as a permanent exhibition of traditional products and woven and embroidered handicrafts.