Last updated on August 3rd, 2023 at 12:34 pm
Corfu Old Fortress position
Corfu Old Fortress is on the small rocky peninsula, a natural fortress on the eastern edge of the medieval citadel of Coryfo.
It was originally a natural promontory offering in its rocks protection for the residents of the 5th century AD when the city of Corfu was moved here after the destruction of the ancient city of Corfu by the Visigoths. Here the people built the first medieval city, the Citadel.
Without a doubt, it is the most important monument and the first that you must visit in Corfu town.
The small medieval city inside the fortress was separated from the mainland, since the Venetian era, by a narrow moat, but today this doesn’t stop visitors from venturing out to see it through the bridge built by the Venetians.
The Byzantines have used the promontory already since the 5th century CE as a natural fortification for the first small medieval town. Then and between 1300 and 1700 its fortifications were strengthened by the Venetians to protect the island from invaders.
Its strategic position on the shore, and its high tops, made it easier for soldiers to spot unknown boats on the horizon, giving them time to alert everyone on the island of potential danger. When you visit you’ll get to see some of the original weapons they used to protect themselves, as well as make the most of a stunning sea view.
You’ll be amazed at how close the Old Fortress is to the city, which means it’s really easy to get to, no matter how you plan on traveling. You can even walk in if you’ve got the whole day free!
Corfu Old Fortress has two tops (koryfes, or korfes), one in the East, where the Tower of the sea was first built by the Byzantines around the 7th century AD, and the West top which is called the tower of the land.
It was fully converted into a fortress by the Byzantines in the 8th century AD and contained all of the small medieval town, as well as military barracks.
The rock was always further reinforced either by the Angevins or later by the Venetians, to protect the city from the numerous invasions of the Middle Ages, and gradually the town grew around it.
Later the Venetians, because of the Turkish threat, strengthened their fortifications, extended the bastions, and dug the moat known as the kontra fossa which separated the fortress from the land and made it an island.
During the last period of Venetian rule, the area in front of the Fortress was leveled by destroying almost 3000 houses, this was made for defensive reasons and that is how Corfu got its very large Esplanade square today.
This way the Venetians created an impenetrable triple line of defense both by land and from the sea.
Buildings inside the Old fortress
Inside the old fortress in 1840, the Doric church of St. George was built by the British as a garrison church.
There were many buildings constructed by the Venetians as it was a small town, but most buildings didn’t survive and have now been demolished, and some that survived are mostly those constructed by the British.
Deserving attention though is the central gate, the bastions of Savornian, Martinengo, and Mandraki, the tower of the land at the West, and the tower of the sea at the East.
Also the English hospital, the English barracks, the clock tower, and the lighthouse.
There is still a prison in place, built by the Venetians in 1786, and later expanded by the British, The military chapel, and the two English barracks of 1850.
The lower building of the British military hospital now houses the Music Department of Ionian University.
The fortress also contains the historical records of more than six centuries of history, the Byzantine collection of sculptures and images of the Byzantine era, and the public library.
At the entrance of the old fortress on the upper Esplanade is the statue of Prussian Marshal Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg, made by the Venetians in his honor after he successfully repelled the Turkish invasion of 1716.
Today the Corfu old fortress is a masterpiece of architecture and fortification art while offering visitors the best panoramic views of the city, its harbor, and over the sea to the mountains of Epirus.
The British Hospital
One of the important buildings that still exist inside Corfu Old Fortress is the British hospital.
In fact, There were two buildings, the larger at the top and between the Tower of the sea and the tower of the land, and the smaller at a lower level. Here we deal with the large building.
This old fortress hospital was then able to treat up to 120 patients.
It was used as a hospital most of the time, first during the British domination of the island, later during the 19th century, and later during the first and second world wars.
There was a dark period for the building and the city too during the occupation by the axis forces, the Italians first and the Germans later used it as their headquarters.
Executions and tortures in its chambers turned this life-savior building into a place of death and anguish.
There was a hole in its floor called “kokkaliera” (bone hole) in which the occupiers threw the bodies of the executed or of those who died after tortures.
After the Germans, the Greek army took over the building, the bone hole was sealed and bureaucratic services of the army were housed there.
Unfortunately, the building today is abandoned, and there are legends surrounding the building; it is one of the most haunted buildings in Greece.
Many people say that there is paranormal activity there, sightings of executions, dark figures at the windows, screaming, voices asking for help, or shootings have been reported.
Also a document in a local newspaper in 1982 talks about similar rumors.
We believe that all of these legends stem from the fear caused by the atmosphere inside an abandoned building.
The large empty rooms, broken doors, and glazed windows from where the wind can be heard as screaming and the creakiness of the almost fallen roof can make anybody very very nervous!!!
Corfu Old Fortress Opening Hours
8:00 AM to 8:00 PM
But first, let’s make clear some things.
The Corfu old fortress today is like a small island with old buildings, churches, old prisons, barracks, museums, and public services. Here are the main offices of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Corfu, departments of the Ionian University, military services, even a cafe bar, etc.
Therefore, it is not easy to mention precise opening hours as they differ, and also it is not possible to visit some government buildings.
But the Old fortress area is always open to the public cause the main entrance never closes and anybody can walk in and see the monuments.
Most museums inside the fortress, are open to the public from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
The music department of Ionian University is not open to the public but to the students.