Angelokastro is one of the most important Byzantine castles in Greece. It is also one of the oldest, as the site has been fortified since, at least, the 7th century. It is located in the northwestern part of Corfu, near Paleokastritsa, and is located on top of a rock formation, on a steep slope, 305 meters above sea level.
The panoramic view it offers is unique and when the weather is good, one can see, not only Paleokastritsa, but also the whole island from the summit.
The road leading to the castle passes through the village of Krini, and is narrow with several sharp turns. Below the fort there is a parking area, a cafeteria and a tourist shop. From there you continue on foot, following the path with stairs that leads to the top of the castle.
The origin of Angelokastro’s name is not entirely clear. Some historians report that in 1214 Michael I, Komnenos, ruler of Epirus – also known as Michael Angelos – captured Corfu. After his death, his son, Michael II Komnenos, fortified the area by building the castle and named it “Angelokastro” to commemorate his father.
In the Andean period, the castle was called Castrum Sancti Angeli, and during the Venetian rule a fortress called Santangelo.
Angelokastro, back in time
Before the conquest of Corfu by the Venetians (1386), there were already three castles on the island: the fortress of Kassiopi in the northwest, the fortress of Gardiki in the south and Angelokastro that protected the west coast.
During excavations in 1999, findings from the 5th-7th centuries came to light, that attest that the site had already been fortified.
After the loss of southern Italy to the Byzantine Empire in 1071, it is speculated that the Byzantines took great care to strengthen the castle, as it was now the most fortified fortress to the West and a strong point of defense against invaders and pirates, especially the Normans.
In 1272 the castle was captured by the Andegans (ie the Sicilian Normans of the D’Anzu dynasty). In August 1386, the Venetians seized it after an attack in which Korfiates (Corfiots) also participated.
The heyday of the castle coincided with the Venetian rule in Corfu (1386-1797).
From 1387 until the end of the 16th century, Angelokastro was the capital of the island and seat of the local governor.
The fortifications of the castle must have been finalized during this period, so it took the form in which it survives to this day.
Angelokastro played an important role in the repulsion of the Turks in the three sieges of Corfu by them, mainly in 1537 but also after, in 1571 and 1716.
Later, its significance was overshadowed by the fortresses of Corfu Town and Angelokastro was gradually abandoned. During the British years, it became obsolete due to changes in martial law. In the 19th century it was already in ruins and was renovated in 1999.
In the fortress a path leads to the foundations of a church of unknown date, namely Agios Ioannis.
The castle consists of a high precinct at the top of the hill, with an entrance on the north side framed by a semicircular plateau. The west side does not have walls, because the rocks are almost vertical.
On the east and south sides there are two other defensive, external enclosures that must have functioned as retaining walls (to hold the ground).
At the highest point is the citadel with the main entrance to the north, which is protected by a circular tower. Opposite the main gate, the ruins of the buildings were the shelters of the guard, while three underground water tanks stored the water supply for the castle. There was also a small gate on the south side. The walls had ramparts that survived only in the northwest corner of the fortification.
On the east side, beneath a large rock, is a small chapel, dedicated to Agia Kiriaki with 18th-century frescoes and an ornate marble shield from another temple, possibly an early Christian Basilica.
At the highest point of the citadel is the temple of Taxiarchis (Archangel Michael), on the lintel of which is inscribed that in 1734, the commander of the guard of Angelokastro was Aloisios Regginis. This small church was built during the late or early post-Byzantine era, on the ruins of an earlier building, probably an early Christian three-aisled church.
ΚΑΣΤΡΟΛΟΓΟΣ: Κάστρα της Ελλάδας. “Αγγελόκαστρο”, https://www.kastra.eu/castlegr.php?kastro=angelokastro