The once Grandiose Mimbelli Mansion - 'Castello Bibelli'

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The extraordinary beauty of the elegant Castello Bibelli mansion is instantly captivating. One immediately wants to discover her, walk around her vast grounds and explore her extensive interior.

  

This majestic old lady, abandoned and neglected, is to be found on the periphery of the village of Kato Korikiana opposite the school. Older than the Achillieon Palace, she has been graced with eminent visitors like Kaiser Wilhelm 2 and Princess Elizabeth (Sissy) of Austria who stayed as guests of King George 1 of Greece. Other emissaries were the King of Italy Victor Emmanuel, Austrian Emperor Franciscus Joseph and King George 2 who resided in the tower for a period of 4 years.

 

Dating back to 1905, Castello Bibelli built by the Italian baron and admiral, Luca Mimbelli, is now a state owned property which has been on the market for a number of years. It is rumoured that this dilapidated but still stately lady has been sold to an investor, her fate to be determined.

 

 

 

She is an unusual mix of architecture with her Polylades tower with a peak capped roof which is similar to that found in St Mark’s square and her second tower being square and squat almost resembling part of a narrow fortress. The grandeur of the baroque architecture and the intricacy and detail in the stone work is a joy to behold. Her arches are Gothic in design looking almost like a lemon squeezer and then, of course, you have the upper floor’s pointed arch vertical windows with the decorative, embellished stone surrounds and beautiful tight barley twists down their centre in Neo-Gothic style. Who would have thought that such a mixture of varying art forms would culminate in such an exquisite, enthralling construction?

 

 

What I find dumb-founding is that such an aesthetically pleasing Italianate, architectural masterpiece has been uninhabited for so much of its existence. This is possibly due to the sheer magnitude of this structure; a mind-boggling 2000 square metres of building.

 

By World War II Castello Bibelli had been deserted by the last remaining Mimbelli family member, Luca's son, Alessandro, who left in 1940 to serve in the Italian Navy resulting in Castello being seized as enemy property. During the war it was utilized as a military hospital and residence of a German commander sadly being looted by many. Once again she was desolate after the war ended.

 

 Newspaper photo of the villa in the 1940's

 

She then served the purpose of a hotel in the 60’s when the Bouas family took a 25 year lease on the building. From 1958 to the early 1980’s Stavros and Madame Bouas ran the hotel as a 5 star establishment which was comparable to any worldwide. When the lease expired the estate was allowed to go to rack and ruin and has remained uninhabited and forgotten becoming a shadow of her former glory. It is hard to believe that the once glorious, exotic gardens with the rarest of trees on this 77 000 square metre estate have become totally overgrown; that the ‘face’ that once graced postcards has plaster flaking from the once pristine walls.

 

 Postcard of Castello Bibelli 

 

The description by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund’s advertisement reads that she is “a stone building with tiled roof of outstanding architectural merit in the Neo-Gothic style, whose special features are the two towers and the atrium), as well as four other ancillary buildings.”  

 

What it doesn’t tell is the sadness experienced by those who look at the photos of her splendid arches, intricate capping, beautiful window facades and the two imposing towers one Gothic (Italian) and one Florentine (French) in style. It doesn’t tell of the character of this baroque villa, or that, like a work of art, a magnificent sculpture she differs from every angle and has so many facets. It doesn’t tell of the dignitaries; barons, kings, princes, emperors and Prime Ministers who walked her halls, sat on her lawns or visited her long gone zoo.

 

 

She is a listed monument and a tribute to the artistry and masonry of a by-gone era. What remains of her exquisite period furniture, décor and heirlooms, the most expensive of the time?  What will be the toll of neglect, the decay of abandonment? What will Castello Bibelli become?  I, and the inhabitants of Ano and Kato Korikiana whose predecessor’s craftsmanship was commissioned on her build, await her destiny with bated breath.

 

Footnote: - Corfu National Gallery branch in Kato Korakiana, was launched in 1993 and is housed in two renovated historic buildings, Castellina and Castelletto (which are part of the estate). The permanent exhibition displays Greek works of art from the early post-Byzantine period until the modern creations of the last decades. Source  http://iivw.di.ionio.gr/korakiana-national-gallery/

 

Source – “Kato Korikiana from the distant yesterday…to today” by Spiros N. Kaloudis published by the community of Korikiana in 1994

 

Text by Adelia Cook for MyKerkyra.com

 

Photography – Iefimerida & Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund

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