Spianada is the main square of Corfu and like any square in the world it is a meeting place for its residents and visitors.
But what most people do not know is that it is considered the largest square not only in Greece but also in the Balkans. It covers an area of 42,000 sq.m. with a perimeter of about 950 meters and it is located in a strategically area between the Old Fortress and the Old Town, with many of the famous cantons leading vertically to it.
A small "avenue", General Viktoros Dousmani’s Avenue, divides Spianada into two sections: the Lower Square or Georgiou I Square and the Upper Square or the Union Square.
It is one of the most famous and popular sights of Corfu that is almost impossible for any visitor to ignore. What makes it so unique is the fact that it is the largest and most impressive square in Greece and has also played an important role in the history of the island, something you can clearly admire by exploring many of the monuments scattered on or around it.
Specifically, to start with, you can admire the great architecture of the Peristyle of Maitland Monument that it is located on the side of the Upper Square,at the southern end of Spianada Square. A simple, circular, Ionic monument erected in honor of Thomas Maitland,, the British Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, despite the fact that his historical presence, came along with one of the hardest and darkest historical periods for the Ionian Islands.
Continuing, in the heart of the square there is an imposing “kiosk”, the so-called “Music Stage”. Every year there is the “Holy Resurrection Sequence”, on Holy Saturday. One of the most important experiences of celebrating Easter in Corfu. Throughout the year, if you are lucky enough, you can attend one of the concerts by the city philharmonic orchestras or interesting events and concerts.
A little further, The Monument of the Union of the Ionian Islands is there as a memorial to the Union of the Ionian Islands with the rest of Greece that happened in 1864. The symbols of all the Ionian Islands are engraved on it.
Apart from the monuments, a large part of Spianada is covered with manicured grass, trees, flowers and an ornate fountain.
The main part of Down Square (Kato Plateia) consists of the huge cricket field, a remnant of the British occupation, and it is surrounded by impressive buildings, such as The Palace of St. Michael and St. George and the famous Liston.
In front of the Palace, the bronze statue belongs to Lord Frederick Adam.
The history of Spianada
The current form of the fortifications of the Old Fortress is mainly due to the defensive works that took place during the Venetian occupation (1386-1797). The Venetians took care to secure the occupation of Corfu, due to its strategic and commercial importance. For this reason they modernized the defensive works of the Fortress, in order to withstand the attacks of the Ottomans.
This form was dictated by the new developments brought about by the introduction of heavy artillery into the art of war. Initially, the peninsula was separated from the mainland by the construction of a sea ditch, the so-called “contrafossa”.
At the same time, for defensive reasons, an unstructured zone was created between the Fortress and the settlement outside the walls (xopoli or borgo), the "spianata" the current Spianada square.
In order to achieve this efficient defensive operation of the Old Fortress, more than 2,500 buildings, that were at that were at a “rifle shot” distance from its loopholes, had to be demolished.
The strange name of the square is of course also Venetian and it comes from the verb "spianare" = level, which became "spianata" and evolved into Spianada.
In conclusion, it is perfectly clear that its creation was not due to aesthetic or urban planning reasons, but defensive and military tactics of the Venetians.
It was designed to provide a wide field of action and visibility for the defenders in the citadel (Old Fortress) and a sufficient distance between the Fortress and the city.
The square began to take its final form at the beginning of the 19th century, and it wasn’t before the beginning of the 20th century, when it was reconstructed at the expenses of the legacy of Napoleon Zampelis and took its final form. That was also the period of time when the Music Hall was built.
newsit (2020). “Η μεγαλύτερη πλατεία των Βαλκανίων είναι σε ελληνικό νησί“, https://www.newsit.gr/ellada/i-megalyteri-plateia-ton-valkanion-einai-se-elliniko-nisi/2645966/
ΣΟΥΡΤΖΙΝΟΣ, Γιώργος Χ. (2008). “Τοπωνύμια: γλωσσικές μαρτυρίες στην ιστορική διαδρομή της Κέρκυρας“, Ιστορική – Λαογραφική Εταιρεία Κέρκυρας, β’ έκδοση, σελ. 198 – 199