Paleopolis comprises a multitude of monuments of the past that demonstrate the evolution and prosperity of the city. The area is one of the most beautiful and famous places of Corfu, with many attractions and a holiday tradition long before the era of mass tourism. From here begins the peninsula of Kanoni which hosts the most famous and busiest places of the island: Mon Repo, Kanoni, Vlacherna and Pontikonisi.
Opposite the entrance of Mon Repo, in the heart of Paleopolis, the ancient city of Corfu, to this day, is dominated by the early Christian basilica, one of the most important monuments in the history of the island. Paleopolis was built in 734 BC. from Corinth Hersikratis in the centre of the east coast of the island. It is located on the peninsula of Analipsi in the area of Mon Repo and surrounding areas. It was abandoned in the medieval years due to its destruction by barbaric invasions, resulting in residents moving and establishing the modern city of Corfu.
The early Christian basilica of Paleopolis is built on the remains of the ancient city of Corfu.
Paleopolis, back in time
Specifically, it was built on the centre of the ancient Roman market that was surrounded by two ports, northeast was the Port of Alkinou (Gulf of Garitsa – Windmill) and west of the Port of Ylaikos (Halikiopoulos Lagoon). The naval base was in the northeastern port; it shape being completely different from that shown by the configuration of the area today.
Above the slopes of the hill of Mon Repo stretched the aristocratic district while above the lagoon was the district of the Democrats. The hill of Analipsi is the area where the acropolis of ancient Corfu was located. Of the city walls, only a portion, behind the cemetery of Garitsa, survives today and is known as the Tower of Nerantziha. The cemetery was outside the north wall, in the current area of Garitsa. The market, which was quite large, was located opposite the entrance of Mon Repo and extended to Dairpfelth Street and the Windmill and was the centre of social, commercial and religious life of the city. Thucydides in his description of the dramatic episodes of the civil war of Corfu (427 – 425 BC) mentions the market, the ports and the temples of the city. Its majesty, its imposing mansions, its unimaginable luxury, its wealth, its temples, its theatres, its galleries, its public buildings, its workshops, its mint, its aqueducts, its statues, its great naval and commercial power, caused the surprise and admiration and made Xenophon describe it with such enthusiasm that it seems like something completely different from the other Greek cities.
This famous city described by ancient writers was destroyed and looted by the Goths under the leadership of Totila in 550 AD. As was the Byzantine castle of Kassiopi. This event forced the inhabitants to leave the ancient city and build a new one in a more fortified position, on the steep rock of today’s Old Fortress, which was later named Koryfo. After the transfer of the inhabitants and the creation of the new city, the place where ancient Corfu was located was named Paleopolis by the locals, to keep alive the memory of the historical past to the people.
The archeological site is bordered by the visible part of the fortification of the ancient city, known as the wall of Nerantziha, which is preserved on a low hill south of Corfu airport. To the east of the wall, a large part of the paving of the market of the ancient city and the remains of various buildings have been discovered. At the eastern end of the ancient market the visitor comes across part of the ancient port facilities, while further south is a Roman bath complex (the best preserved building of the time in the area).
In the area of Paleopolis, of course, you will encounter a multitude of monuments of the past and you are given the opportunity to get an idea of the evolution and prosperity of the city.
Although only ruins of the Early Christian are preserved, it is quite an impressive monument. According to historical data, it is said to have been built in the first half of the 5th century AD, on an older Roman public building.
Its "trunk" reveals a wooden-roofed five-aisled early Christian basilica, probably one of the largest in Greece, richly and ornately decorated with mosaics and statues.
During its long course, the church received blows that changed its form, but without changing its history. In the 6th century the basilica of Paleopolis suffered a great blow from the invasions of the Goths, in the 11th century probably from the Saracens and the Normans. It was rebuilt in the 11th century as a tricycle (two aisled) church. In 1537 it suffered great destruction by the Turks. It was rebuilt on a smaller scale, maintaining only its middle aisle, while the last restoration was done in 1680 by the Cretan monk Arsenios Kaloudis.
The greatest destruction of the basilica of Paleopolis occurred during World War II as a result of bombing. The surviving parts of the temple testify to successive construction phases, of different historical periods. It is a five-aisled wooden-roofed basilica with a transverse aisle, a double narthex, a patio, extensions, which contained a rich sculpture and mosaic decoration. To the west, where its entrance opens, marble elements belonging to the ancient city are revealed. There are two ribbed columns of Corinthian style. On the lintel there is an inscription that states that the church was built by Iovianos, bishop of Corfu, where it was named “five-aisled basilica of Iovianos or Agia Corfu”.
The popular Corfiot tradition, which is not confirmed historically, suggests that the church was built on the tomb of Agia Corfu, who during the 1st century AD was assassinated by her father, the Roman ruler Kerkilinos, when she converted to Christianity. The excavations in the early Christian basilica of Paleopolis were started in 1936 by the Archaeological Society, under the direction of Andreas Xyggopoulos and Ioannou Papadimitriou, while they were continued in 1939 by the curator of Antiquities Ioannis Papadimitriou.
After the Second World War, during the period 1955-1959, the curator of Antiquities, Vassilios Kallipolitis, carried out systematic excavations, which, in addition to the Christian monument, focused on the ancient layers. The shells of the Late Geometric and Early Corinthian eras, studied independently by Gallipoli, come mainly from small vessels (acorns, glass double handled vases , goblets, compasses, etc.), but also from larger ones, such as craters. As it was revealed, some vessels come from local workshops, which imitate the early Corinthian pottery, others were imported from Corinth, while there are some individual Evian shells. Most of them date back to the turn of the 8th to the 7th century BC. and are related to Corinthian colonization.
It is worth noting that these findings were the first to provide information about the older phase of the ancient city of Corfu. Later research was carried out by the Archaeological Service of Corfu. The early Christian basilica of Paleopolis highlights the high religious and secular significance of its geographical location in antiquity. The area of the early Christian basilica of Paleopolis is protected by a special railing, while the visitor can admire its historical remains from the main road of Kanoni. Be that as it may, either up close or from a distance, the emblematic early Christian basilica of Paleopolis Corfu radiates through the centuries, stimulating the interest of every passer-by.
Mon Repo hosts the Archaeological Museum of Paleopolis, the purpose of which is to preserve and promote the cultural and natural heritage of Paleopolis.
It houses the exhibition of archeological objects from the excavations of Paleopolis, which cover the period from the archaic to the Roman times. The mansion, in which it is housed, was built during the British occupation by the High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, Sir Frederick Adam, and is a typical example of neoclassical architecture (1828-1831). The permanent exhibition, based on two thematic sections, is developed in fourteen rooms.
ΣΟΥΡΤΖΙΝΟΣ, Γεώργιος Χ. (2008), “Τοπωνύμια: γλωσσικές μαρτυρίες στην ιστορική διαδρομή της Κέρκυρας”, Ιστορική – Λαογραφική Εταιρεία Κέρκυρας, Θεσσαλονίκη, β’ έκδοση, σελ. 158
YΠΟΥΡΓΕΙΟ ΠΟΛΙΤΙΣΜΟΥ & ΑΘΛΗΤΙΣΜΟΥ | ΑΡΧΑΙΟΛΟΓΙΚΟΙ ΧΩΡΟΙ. http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/3/gh351.jsp?obj_id=11383
ΤΟΥΡΙΣΤΙΚΗ ΑΓΟΡΑ ΕΠΙΜΕΛΗΤΗΡΙΟΥ ΚΕΡΚΥΡΑΣ. «Η Παλαιόπολη και το Μον Ρεπό», http://www.corfucci.gr/kerkyra/tourism/articles/article.jsp?context=1504&categoryid=339&articleid=9218
in.gr. «Κέρκυρα : Η παλαιοχριστιανική βασιλική της Παλαιόπολης», https://www.in.gr/2020/06/21/culture/kerkyra-palaioxristianiki-vasiliki-tis-palaiopolis/