In the heart of the historic centre of Corfu, in one of the main streets, that of Nikiforos Theotokis, and on one of the most characteristic squares of Corfu, the so-called “saint’s plate”, the glorious church of the patron saint of the island, Saint Spyridon dominates. Opposite the statue of Georgios Theotokis, which is located in the center of the square, is the church of the Most Holy Theotokos Faneromeni of Stereotes, known as Panagia ton Xenon (Panagia of Foreigners).
It took this name, because it is not a temple of the Corfiots but of foreigners, of the Stereotes (Epirotes),"The ’foreigners’ in Corfu".
Panagia of Foreigners, back in time
It was built by the monk Kolitzan, of continental origin, for the refugees from Epirus, who were persecuted during the Turkish occupation so ended up on Corfu.
Specifically, since 1689 the record of its construction is kept by Paramythiotes with the help of Epirotes from Delvinaki and Ioannina, due to the fact that they did not have their own church and burial place, since burials were made in churches and most on the island were private.
The church is a typical three-aisled basilica. Its characteristic elements are the gilded wood-carved “sky”, which is the work of N. Koutouzis (18th century), as well as the iconostasis of the church which is considered one of the most impressive gilded decorated iconostasis of the churches of Corfu. The old iconostasis of the church was restored and preserved in 1875, by conservators of Italian origin, specializing in the Rococo style, in order to more authentically maintain the influence of this style.
Many researchers have characterized the Temple Gates as having unique artistic value. According to sources, all the interior decoration and wealth came from donations from Epirotes who lived in Venice, Corfu and Paramythia etc. as mentioned on the wall slab on the facade of the temple. The relationship of the Paramythiotes with Corfu is timeless with big names of the area living and creating on the island such as Markos Botsaris, M. Paramythiotis, the Voulgaris family, before going to Italy, plus many others. Also, Panagia ton Xenon (Panagia of Foreigners) was the only church on the island where Byzantine music was sung in ceremonies and liturgies (ZAFIRIS, Kosmas. Magazine “Infinite Country”).
The contribution of Panagia of Foreigners to the preservation and cultivation of Greek letters is characterized as great
The first Greek and the leading Corfiots of the 17th century, Eugenios Voulgaris and Nikiforos Theotokis, were taught there. It is worth mentioning that other properties belonging to Panagia ton Xenon (Panagia of Foreigners) are the Monastery of Vlacherna and the church of the Transfiguration in Pontikonisi, whose owner was Nikodimos Kolitzas.
“Παναγία των Ξένων – Κυρά Φανερωμένη”, http://www.corfuchurches.com/content/view/59/71/lang,el/
“Οι Παραμυθιώτες και η Παναγία των ξένων στη Κέρκυρα”, https://www.paramythia-online.gr/7766/oi-paramythiotes-kai-i-panagia-ton-xenon-sti-kerkyra/
ΣΟΥΡΤΖΙΝΟΣ, Γιώργος Χ. (2006). “Κέρκυρα: ταξίδι στο χρόνο“, Ιστορική – Λαογραφική Εταιρεία Κέρκυρας, γ’ έκδ., σελ. 45