Monasteries of Corfu

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Corfu has approximately 20 Greek Orthodox Monasteries with the majority of them being on the north of the island although there are a few scattered around Corfu Town, the central area and southern part of Kerkyra. Their construction is mostly 17th and 18th Century, their purpose being monastic silence and a life dedicated to God. Many of them are open to the public and a number of tour operators offer excursions to some of the monasteries; alternatively one can visit them on their own. Built on what realtors would define as prime property the visitor will appreciate the amazing views that most have to offer.

 

Vlacherna Monastery 

Photo - Adelia Cook

 

Situated between Kanoni and Perama, adjacent to the airport runway, the 17th Century Vlacherna Monastery has got to be one of the most photographed and recognized attractions on Corfu. Perched on a little island it is joined to the mainland by a wharf. Comprising a bell tower, courtyard, nave and diminutive church with gilt frescoed ceiling it is quite a delight to visit. There is also a gift shop with religious icons, souvenirs, books and curios to browse through.

 

Agia Eufymia (Ekklisia Agia Efthimia)

 

Approximately two kilometers south of Corfu Town in the suburb of Anemomylos, this cloister run by a few nuns is lovingly maintained and has an air of peace and tranquility. It is one of the oldest Catholic monasteries and is believed to have been in existence since 1478. This beautiful monastery was the inspiration for building of the nearby Mon Repos Palace in 1832. From its elevated position on the verdant hill it has endless views of the sea.

 

Platytera Monastery

This monastery is situated in Andreadi Street in the new part of Corfu town in close proximity to the new port.  Built in 1743 it was destroyed during the French-Russian-Turk war in 1798.  It was rebuilt and is one of the most renowned Corfiot monasteries as the tomb of Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first governor of Greece and Kitsos Tzavelas, a hero in the Greek War of Independence and later Prime Minister of Greece, are to be found here.

 

 

Dedicated to the Blessed Virgin this monastery comprises a portico on three sides and a bell tower with a domed top which doubles as the entrance. Its interior is adorned with 17th Century relics, icons and frescoes which are works of some of the most famous iconoclasts and painters of this era. I.e, Klotza, Kantunis, Pulakis, Tzanes and Kutuzis.

 

Paleokastritsa Monastery

The reasons for visiting this monastery are two-fold. Set on the top of the cape the views from the monastery are stunningly dramatic and unspeakably beautiful. Perhaps the most visited due to its amazing ‘eagle’s eyrie’ location the Monastery of Yperagia Theotokou, also known as Paleokastritsa Monastery, is one of the oldest on Corfu dating back to 1225. The main Church, dedicated to the Holy Virgin, and the monk’s cells were added in the 18th Century.

 

 

Photo - Adelia Cook

 

Inside the monastery is a courtyard with a portico and a modern building which houses a small museum of Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons, books and memorabilia. On the lower level are the old olive press and shops with local produce on sale. Dress code is expected to be modest; woman’s shoulders and bare legs to be covered. Skirts and shawls are provided at the entrance to the monastery for those unsuitably attired. Please note that there is the monastic code of silence which is also to be respected.

 

Pantokratoras Monastery  (Monastery of Ypsilou Pandokratoros)

Set on the highest peak of Corfu, at 917 metres above sea level, Pantokratoras monastery has some of the most picturesque views of Corfu, the surrounding islands and the mainland. Built in 1347 and destroyed in 1537, the current building dates back to the late 17th century so has a more modern appearance. Besides the stone church there are porticoes and inner courtyards.

 

 

 

Visited by tourists and pilgrims during the year, it is on the 6th August, with the celebration of Pantokrator, that huge numbers flock to the monastery, both day and night. Carrying lit candles as they walk up the mountain, the light can be seen from afar. It is believed that many miracles have occurred and saints venerated.

 

 Askitario

This monastery, which is 1 km above the village of Nymfes on the north of the island, is one of the oldest Christian buildings of Corfu. Legend has it that the Epirot hermit, Artemios Paisios, lived in seclusion amongst the rocks. 

 

 

Photo - Penny Ringsleben

 

When his parents came to fetch him, he did not wish to give up his life of solitude so dug a shallow grave which he put himself in to pray. A boulder fell and buried him. Despite his parents efforts the rock could not be moved so they built the Monastery of Metamorphoses or Sotira over him to commemorate him.

* The church is often closed but there is an old, abandoned building which is part of the monastery that still houses artifacts.

 

Yperagia Theotokou Myrtidiotissia

 

The 14th Century, Greek orthodox, Mirtidiotissa Monastery on the central west coast is located below Pelekas village near Mirtiotissa beach. Set only metres above sea level on the mountain slope between the olive groves the scenery is positively awesome. There is a small shop within the monastery for those who wish to buy religious icons and relics. The shop has a good variety of local herbs and produce as well.

 

 Monastery of the Holy Trinity

 

This monastery, situated in the village of Klimatia in northern Corfu, dates back to the 1400’s. It is inhabited by three hermetic priests who care for the small, pretty church and their own house. Being rather isolated and only accessible by an unpaved road it is seldom visited by tourists but is noteworthy for its 17th Century frescoes and icons.  Standing on the mountain top, its panoramic views to the mainland, Albania and Diapondia islands of Othoni, Erikoussa and Mathraki are truly breathtaking.

 


Monastery of Pantocrator (Holy Spirit)

Not to be confused with the Monastery of Pantokratoras, this little monastery is perched on Corfu’s second highest mountain above the village of Agii Deka and has one of the most commanding views of the island.

 

 

Photo - Gnosis Active Travel

 

The monastery itself is often locked but it is well worth the walk as one has an amazing bird’s eye view of Corfu Town, the airport, the lagoon, the Achilleion Palace and surrounding quaint villages like Gastouri. There are benches where one can relax and wile away the time while taking in the beautiful woodland surrounds and incomparable vistas. It is recommended that you take binoculars with you.

 

Holy Monastery of Yperagia Theotokos Kassopitra

The Holy Monastery of Yperagia Theotokos Kassopitra is located in Figareto in the Kanoni area. Its architecture is unique in its simplicity and from its position it commands a beautiful view of the island.

 

 

According to Orthodox tradition, in May 1530, a young man named Stephanos became blind after being accused of stealing. He went to the Holy Monastery in Kassiopi where the Holy Virgin miraculously restored his vision. In return many new churches were built in order to worship the Mother of God, one being the Holy Monastery of Kassopitra in Kanoni.  It is considered to be one of the most important pilgrimages of Corfu.

 

Monastery of the Blessed Virgin Mary

 

Photo - Rory Gillies

 

Set above the pristine sandy beach of Asprokavos in the south of the island the Monastery of the Blessed Virgin Mary is little more than ruins. All that remains of this 17th Century structure are the bell tower and a couple of walls. Access to this monastery is by way of an extremely rough gravel road but well worth the effort as the views to Cavos and across the Ionian Sea to Paxos are fabulous.

 

Agios Athanasios Monastery

Run by nuns the Monastery of Agios Athanasios is to be found in the village of Agros in the north of Corfu on the Sidari road. The elaborate mural paintings in the main church have been painted by resident nuns. The iconography differs from the usual Byzantine style as the lines are smoother and colours slightly more effeminate. The nuns also do icon restoration and iconography to order.

 

 

 Photo Courtesy of Orthodox World

 

I have only touched on twelve of the monasteries of Corfu. Should any of my readers have any information about other monasteries on the island I would be most grateful for them to add info as comments.

 

Main Photo by Eddie Kastamonitis for Visit Corfu Tour

Text edited by Adelia Cook for MyKerkyra.com  

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