The New Fortress or Fortress of Agios Markos is today considered the most well-preserved fortress complex in Greece. It was built on a low hill, that of St. Mark, with earthworks that were piled up from nearby areas, and lined with carved stones that were collected mainly from the material of the ancient city of Corfu (Paleopolis).
It is a solid, rigid building, standing majestically above the Old Port, from where it is accessible, and offers a unique panoramic view of the city and the open sea.
Its Gate is decorated with a magnificent relief of the Lion of St. Mark, the emblem of Venice. The English also left their mark: two English barracks, one next to the Gate and the other on the second level, while there is also a temple, probably of the 17th century, Panagia Spilaiotissa.
In the New Fortress there are now naval facilities. From time to time it has hosted photographic and art exhibitions, while its premises have occasionally been utilized for concerts as well as other artistic activities and cultural events.
The entrance and ticket office for the tour of the New Fortress is located in the Old Town of Corfu, at the point where the “staircase” of Solomou Street connects with the gallery from the People’s Market and Scholembourgou Street. Around this area there are also many food and beverages options to suit all tastes.
After the second Turkish siege in 1571, and the destruction caused by the Ottomans in the still untouched “Xopoli“, the need for protection of this part of the city became imperative. As early as 1558, the foundation stone of the city’s outer wall was laid, but work has not progressed. Work finally began in 1576, under the supervision of architect Ferrante Vitelli, who took very seriously the new discoveries of artillery and ensured that all modern methods of fortification were applied in Corfu.
This new fortification provided for the construction of another fortress, on the northwest side of the city, which was named Neo (New) to distinguish it from Paleo (Old), the old town and citadel of Corfu. The New Fortress was therefore part of the defensive planning (bastion front) to defend the city and its suburbs and was used as the main defensive stronghold by all the conquerors of the island.
In order to find the building materials needed, the Venetian architect had to demolish more than 2,000 buildings, most of them houses and churches. A disaster was that, one of the most beautiful gates in the city, the Porta Reale, was demolished.
The Fortress suffered many blows over the centuries. The people of Corfu themselves were forced to destroy a large part of it, like most of the walls that connected it to the Old Fortress, and which surrounded the city, at the request of the Great Powers, on the eve of the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece in 1864. However, the tunnels that connected it to the Old Fortress are preserved to this day, but are not accessible to the public. The New Fortress also came under heavy attack during World War II bombing, causing severe damage.
The New Fortress was connected to the Old Fortress on one side through a coastal wall and on the other through the bastions of Sarantari, Ag. Athanasios and Raymond. The embellishment included many decorative elements that are still visible today such as ornate watchtowers, carved inscriptions, winged lions of Venice and two monumental gates designed by Ferrante Vitelli.
Inside the Fortress was the Commander’s residence inhabited by a few nobles, there were barracks, gunpowder depots, artillery, vaulted crypts, storage and other auxiliary spaces, as well as many underground galleries for internal communication and communication with other forces. Also, in front of the fortress a”cornea” fortress, “Scarponas”, was built, (a second fortress), as it was considered that the defense of the fortress was inadequate and required an extra ‘layer’ of protection.
Special care was taken for ventilation and lighting of the galleries, adequacy of drinking water with water tank constructions, as well as easy access to heavy armament (cannons, missiles, gunpowder).
ΚΑΣΤΡΟΛΟΓΟΣ: Κάστρα της Ελλάδας. “Νέο Φρούριο Κέρκυρας“, https://www.kastra.eu/castlegr.php?kastro=kerkyrnew
CORFU HISTORY. “Το παλιό και το νέο φρούριο της Κέρκυρας“, https://www.corfuhistory.eu/?p=401