Built on a rocky hill on the outskirts of today’s eponymous city on the coastline, Kassiopi Castle secured the narrow sea passage between Corfu and the opposite Albanian coast. It is the oldest castle with its foundation dating back to Byzantine times (12th – 13th century) and one of the three Byzantine castles of Corfu that survive to this day. Its purpose was to protect the area from attacks, which were numerous, due to the strategic point of Kassiopi. The castle bravely defended Kassiopi for years.
Kassiopi Castle, back to past
It suffered severe damage over time, even though it was reinforced in 1267 by the Andeans. However, in 1386, when Corfu became part of the Venetian Empire, the castle was destroyed by the Venetians – occupied by the Genoese, who refused to surrender – because they feared that it could be used against them by locals or other enemies.
17th-century travelers have made reference to an abandoned castle full of wadding and comprising only walls and some damaged towers. This is a reasonable description of the castle’s condition, given that it was dismantled, the building materials removed to construct the wall of the old fortress of Corfu during the years 1537-1558. This was followed by the massacre of the inhabitants during the Turkish invasion in 1571, and the remains of the fortress were completely destroyed.
Architecture - Structure
Large towers stand at its four corners. A total of seven rectangles and five semicircles alternate along its four sides, now in ruins. The main gate is on the east side of the fort. A few years ago, efforts were made to rehabilitate the castle and the main gate and its two side towers were restored. However, the rest of the monument has remained at the mercy of time. Today, some parts of the fortress wall, the towers, the gate, the bastions, the water tank and some of the Venetian cannons are preserved.
The most characteristic element of the castle is its restored central gate which is framed by two two-storey towers. The main gate is recessed, in keeping with early fortification architecture. Along the four sides of the castle, rectangular and semicircular towers alternate, in a dilapidated condition today. Most peripheral towers are empty inside, indicating that they originally had two floors. The perimeter of the castle reaches almost 1.1 km. Within the castle there are no buildings.
The Kassiopi Castle continues to dominate the village, hiding 1400 years of history within its stone structure and even if it has been damaged by events in history and the wear and tear of time, it still exists today.
ΠΑΝΤΕΛΙΔΗ, Κέλλυ (2016). “Northeastern Corfu: paradise regained”, Εκδόσεις CorfuPress, Κέρκυρα, σελ. 49-52
ΣΑΡΑΚΗΝΟΥ, Ελένη (2015). “Κασσιόπη: ένα μικρό μέρος με τεράστια ιστορία”, Synthesis, Kέρκυρα
ΔΑΦΝΗ, Νατάσσα (2014). “Τα κάστρα της Κέρκυρας: η μακραίωνη ιστορία κατακτήσεων”, My Kerkyra magazine:the real Corfu, Issue 32|2014, p. 34-38