Thursday, 29 April 2010

Forgotten Corfu 4: The Annunziata monument - an important but often overlooked site in the heart of the town

  On the Eugeniou Voulgareos street, which happens to be maybe the most central and commercially important of the town, stands a tall old campanile without a church attached to it. Some tourists stop to take a picture of it but few of them know the importance of that monument. Neither the majority of the local people do.
  The campanile was part of the Annunziata catholic church ("Lontsiada" in the local corfiot dialect), which originally was a monastery, was built in 1394 by the napolean house of Capece, which was one of the oldest in Italy. Then the area was known as the "Borgo", which in the italian language means "suburb", as the actual centre of Corfu town, until the end of the 16th century, was the Old Fortress peninsula. The monastic complex was dedicated to the Annunciation of Virgin Mary and to Santa Lucia ("Aghia Loukia" in greek) and was run by the order of Saint Augustine. The inauguration of the monastery was on the 7th of January of 1394 (Saint John's day for the Orthodoxs) and it draw a lot of people from all over Corfu.
  In 1713, the Archibishop Augustus Antonius Zacco abolished the monastery of the "Augustinians of Palestine", as it was then known and only the church remained in use from the complex. The church's architecture wasn't notable. The nave was seperated in three arched parts and the main entrance was reached by a ladder made by red marble. The campanile, which it is left intact, bears the venetian emblem of Corfu on it and there were some corfiots sculptured scenes as well. Inside the church, the remains of the latin soldiers who were killed in the "Battle of Lepanto" ("Battle of Naupaktos")  in 1571 were interred. During that time, the internationally famous spanish writer, Miguel de Cervantes, being traumatized in his left leg, lived for a year in the precincts of the monastery, writing the "Journey in Parnassus" ("Viaje al Parnaso").

- The area around Annunziata monastery from an old Corfu Town map, cerca 1700. Notice how different looks the campanile.

- Eugeniou Voulgareos street (then known as "Cale dell' Acque" in the venetian dialect or Strada Real), the vicinity of "Annunziata", in 1836, watercolour by Samuel Prout. At the far right, the campanile and the steps which led to the entrance of the church.

  In 1891, the 500 years of the monument were celebrated. Unfortunately, the Annunziata church was bombed by the Nazi Germans in the nightmarish 14 September of 1943. In fact, only the roof was completely destroyed. The monument stayed there ruined until 1953 when, without a reason and without taking into account the importance of the monument, the local government demolished it, leaving only the campanile intact.

Annunziata, shortly after the bombing in 1943 - notice the church's almost intact façade:

The monument in 1960s - the church was already demolished:

  In the recent years, the government of Italy volunteered financialy to revive it. But the local government didn't show any interest in this project so nowdays Annunziata's campanile is being left to rot, a victim of bureaucracy and indifference.
  Personally, I would like to see it fully renovated, with efficient lighting during the night. Moreover, the whole church could be rebuild and be appreciated as a monument of great historic importance. Also, the street outside it should be fully pedestrianised because today there is a total useless roundabout with many vehicles parked around it.

- "Save Annunciata": A Facebook group dedicated in the revitalisation of Annunziata:

-A short photographic tour around the monument:

-An old plaque in Latin which commemorates the Annunziata's inauguration ceremony of 1393.

- There is also a marble plaque in greek which say "Former catholic holy church "Annunziata", in here the remains of the dead christian soldiers of the Battle of Naupactus (1571) were interred"

- A beautiful sculpture on the wall in what used to be the façade of the long gone church. 

- Map of the area around the monument

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Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Corfu in detail 5: A bust on an attic window in Kastellanoi Mesis

 Another detail on an old building, this time found in the village of Kastellanoi Mesis, not very far from the town. The villages of Corfu are rich in architectural diamonds, influenced by the Venetians as much as like old Corfu Town was. People of those old days, although many of whom where illiterate, they had a good taste and appreciated even the less important things that in our days are considered as given.
 The bust in the following pictures could be found in the small attic window of an old house on the main road to town. It is quite an unusual place to found a detail like that but, indeed, it is an imagitive addition to the somewhat uninteresting rear side of the building.

 My question is: How old is that bust and who it represents? An ancient greek or roman god or just a piece of art which does not represent somebody?

Friday, 23 April 2010

A vividly painted old house in Garitsa

 I really love how the exterior of this small old house in Garitsa looks. It was painted using bright and warm colours, matching perfectly with the strong Mediterranean sun. I dare say that it looks like those vividly painted houses in Portugal.

 It would be lovely if more old traditional buildings owners decide to paint their properties with warm colours, making the old town with its picturesque neighbourhoods look more attractive and fresh. Fortunately,  I already have noticed that some buildings had been recently painted but in order to make the old town more attractive to tourists and to Unesco, more building should be given a lift!

Below: A building in Eugeniou Voulgareos street which was recently painted using this reddish charming colour.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Corfu Town in the late 1970s: How different it was back then?

It may not look that different at first glimpse but having a more careful look on the images below,   somebody notices that fewer cars existed and the roads were in a better condition. Though more than 30 years had passed since the guidebook that I've scanned these images was published, it seems that Corfu hasn't really changed a lot. In fact, the old venetian town is still attractive and charming as it was in the good old days of tourism (1950-1990).

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Sarocco square: A photographic tour (few days before the renovation works commence)

 Sarocco square could be considered as the very heart of modern Corfu Town. It is a hub for many streets which lead to the villages. It is also a meeting point for people and a place to relax, especially for elder people. The square had to be renovated for 40 years, so it's design already looks outdated and unattractive to many Corfiots, as it is a meeting point for immigrants (looking for work) and a place without greenery and character. Some say it is the Omonoia square of Corfu because of its shape and central location, while others ironically compare it with Skenderbej square in Tirana as, like already said it is a place where Albanian people gather. Apart from that, there are some touristy  and awful restaurants in the square, which in my opinion are completely out of place and lack of character.

Sarocco square, as seen from the satellite- it is the confluence of no less than seven roads!

 Let's have a quick look at its history: The square has been there for many centuries, as the centre of Sarocco suburb (it took its name from  the San Rocco's church which was nearby, now defunct). It used to be a simply empty space where the villagers sold their products (like milk, fruits, oil etc.). 

The square when Sarocco was a poor suburb outside the walls of Corfu Town (cerca 1840)

During Holy week, it was the place where lambs were slaughtered and during Christmas time it was full of turkeys to be sold. During the early 20th century, the square was used as a stop for carts and buses coming from every corner of the island and after the Second World War there was a farmer's market. The Sarocco square is also called as "Gheorghiu Theotoki square" to honour the famous corfiot politician.
 In a few days, the square will be fully renovated and an underground parking with 400 spaces will be created. It will took 22 months to be ready and plans of the renovated square have been already published.

 It's time for our little photographic tour. Soon it will be a huge under construction site and it will be so for a couple of years. 

Looking towards the southwest corner of the square from Methodiou street
Looking north from the blue bus station
A closer look from the south 
The fountain is almost always not working, I wonder why because when it's in use it helps make the square more attractive!
Towards the western side 
Towards the eastern side
Looking towards northeast
Walking towards the north of the square
The public toilets - they have been unreasonably locked for many years...why is that?
Looking towards south from the toilets - notice the awful cafe at the right
The blue bus station at the south side
The northern end of the square

 Keep these images in your memory (or even in your hard disk), because a huge change is about to come. Let's hope than in two years time, we will have a modern and attractive square with its underground parking helping to alleviate the huge parking problem that the town faces every day.