At the southern end of the island, above the cape of Asprokavos, about a two kilometre walk along a rural, gravel road and hidden in a lush forest is the hill of Panagia Arkoudila.
Wild forest, dense vegetation, tall trees and large bushes embrace the half-ruined and fortified monastery.
Semi derelict walls and buildings, old fortifications, apertures, a vaulted defensive building, a bell tower, gates and stairs that lead nowhere stand there inviting the visitor to use their imagination and time travel back to the 17th century.
Panagia Arkoudila monastery, History
According to tradition, the monastery was built by the sister of a noblewoman who also built the monastery of Kyra in Agios Theodoros, Lefkimmi. It was home to several monks until the end of the 19th century. The church and the buildings were in good condition until 1920. The faithful climbed the hill on the day of the feast accompanied by decorated horses and, in the afternoon, a large folk festival followed.
The forest of Arkoudilas was given to the Quartanos family, by the Venetian Senate as a “timari”. In the bell tower, at the entrance of the monastery, there is a relief of the coat of arms of the Timari family, one of the most distinguished families of Corfu – recorded in the “Libro d ‘Oro” dating back to 1710. This book is unique to all the Ionian Islands, a manuscript in which all the names of nobles and lords of that time were noted. The coat of arms depicts a hand holding a pomegranate, an ear of wheat and a grape; the products of three seasons, spring, summer and autumn respectively.
The characteristic of the lack of “winter” lies in the fact that during this season poverty is prevalent , with bad weather conditions and decline in general, hence the origin of the name of the Family from the Italian “quarta no“, as the element of the fourth season is essentially missing.
According to sources, on the east side of the tower, on the ground floor, next to the fireplace, there was a secret tunnel that descended to the beach below the hill, apparently an escape route for those who lived in the monastery, should they be in danger.
Panagia Arkoudila, Name
The unusual name of the Arkoudilas area, according to historians, came from a tree, the “bear tree” which was supposedly abundant in the area. According to old contracts it does not refer to “bears”, as it is unlikely that these animals existed in the area. There is also the possibility that it came from the corruption of the word Acrodilon. This is what the cape of Asprokavos was called in antiquity, on which the forest and Panagia Arkoudila, which is referred to as “Panagia the High” is located.
ΣΟΥΡΤΖΙΝΟΣ, Γεώργιος Χ. (2006), “Κέρκυρα: Ταξίδι στο χρόνο”, Ιστορική – Λαογραφική Εταιρεία Κέρκυρας, Θεσσαλονίκη, γ’ έκδοση, σελ. 114 – 115