A majestic building with rich history is to be found in the heart of the Old Town, in the Town Hall Square, opposite the Town Hall (San Giacomo). Today it hosts the Bank of Greece. It stands out immediately as it is located at the highest point of the square and its wide stairs beacon one to journey back in time.
This architectural treasure, that today houses the Bank of Greece, was built in 1630 to be used as the residence of the Latin Archbishop.
The palace of the Archbishop of Corfu was built for one of the two Venetian Councilors, and was given to the Latin Archbishop for residence in 1632, when the church adjacent to the building of St. James was designated as a metropolitan church.
When the Latin Bishop Carlo (Carolus) Labia (1659 – 1678) settled in Corfu, he took care of maintenance of the building. In 1742 the Latin Archbishop Antonius Nani (1742 – 1761) settled in Corfu. In 1743 an earthquake caused damage to the palace and in 1745 a stronger earthquake causes its destruction, as well as destruction of other buildings.
The Latin Bishop Nani, ten years later, undertook reconstruction and in 1754, the new building of the Archbishop was completed, as the plaque with the inscription on the west outer wall informs us: “A FUNDAMENTIS ERC S.A. MDCCLIIII ”. The architecture is typical Venetian in the windows and balconies, in the entrance and in the central element of the facade with Doric columns. This new building was preserved in approximately the same form, until 1943, when it suffered severe damage from the bombings that hit the city of Corfu.
The last Latin Bishop of Corfu, during the Venetian period, was Franciscus Maria Fenzi (1780 – 1798). In 1797 the French Democrats came to the Ionian Islands. The Latin Bishop, Francis Maria Fentzis, was expelled from the Archdiocese, the palace was confiscated by the French and used as a Government where the City Hall met – “Democratic City Hall” -.
With the occupation of Corfu by the Russo-Turks in 1799, the palace functioned as a Government and became the seat of the central government, which was called Ionian Senate.
On June 7, 1799, all the clergy of the island and the representatives of the city gathered there, and in the presence of Uzakov, the first election of the Orthodox Metropolitan of Corfu took place, after the restoration of the throne.
During the period of British protection (1814 – 1864) the building functioned as a court. After the unification of the Ionian Islands with Greece, in 1864, the building continued to be utilized as a courthouse until 1943, when it was destroyed by the bombings that struck Corfu. After the war, the ruined building was declared a historic monument.
The Bank of Greece bought the building and restored it, internally and externally, in its current form.
ΣΟΥΡΤΖΙΝΟΣ, Γιώργος Χ. (2006). “Κέρκυρα: ταξίδι στο χρόνο“, Ιστορική – Λαογραφική Εταιρεία Κέρκυρας, γ’ έκδοση, Κέρκυρα, σελ. 66