Religious Tourism on the Island of Corfu
The Island of Corfu is home to some twenty Greek Orthodox Monasteries. Havens for monastic silence and a life dedicated to God. Today it is possible to visit most of these. Many are in the northern part of the island with a few more in central Corfu and some in Corfu Town.
Their beauty and endurance have made Corfu an attractive destination for religious tourism. Whether alone or as part of a group it is possible to visit or even stay at some of these monasteries. Some are rich in history, others rich in beauty and even in ecclesiastical artistic talent that travels far and wide.
Perhaps the most visited due to its prominent position is the Monastery of Yperagia Theotokou in Paleokastritsa. Not only is it one of the first to be built dating back to 1228 but the views of Corfu Island’s west coast are dramatically beautiful making it one of the most famous spots on the island. Edward Leer, Louis Golding and Arthur Foss are amongst the prominent foreigners that have stayed here. A small museum also exists within the monastery walls. Clothing attire is to be respectful as is the monastic condition of silence.
Further north is the women run Monastery in the name of Pandokratorou of Agios Athanasios in the village of Agros on the Corfu Sidari road. The elaborate mural paintings in the main church have been painted by resident nuns. As a result the iconography, colours and lines are slightly more effeminate than the usual austere byzantine style. It is a truly spectacular and at the same time pious sight not to be missed. As well as working the land and accepting resident visitors this monastery houses an icon restoration and production workshop that receives orders from far and wide.
In the same northern area of the island are the three monasteries of Agios Dimitrios in the village of Agii Douli, Agias Triados in Klimatia and Pandokratoros in Kamarella. All three are small in size but their location dwells on the beauty and serenity of their natural surroundings. These religious retreats are typical examples of Corfu’s monastic life soaking in the sun and subdued ambience of an island whose beauty speaks for itself.
On the highest peak of Corfu Island at 917 meters is the small but important Monastery of Ypsilou Pandokratoros. Naturally symbolising a gate to Heaven a pilgrimage is held in its name every year on August 6th with people arriving day and night. The journey used to be completed by donkey or on foot and many rich stories and legends of miracles and sainthood follow.
Another striking residence of Greek orthodox monasticism is the graphic Monastery of Yperagia Theotokou Myrtidiotissis on the central west coast. Set amongst the olive groves just above sea level with striking rock faces hanging above it makes for a memorable journey best completed on foot in order to appreciate the extent of its beauty. The popular beach of Mirtiotissa is nearby.
Just ten kilometers south of Corfu Town in the village of Kinopiastes is the women’s cloister of Agia Paraskevi. The monastery celebrates on July 26th with many also choosing it as an option to celebrate Easter rather than the busy Corfu Town scene. In the same central area of Corfu Island is the male monastery of Agion Thodoron dating back to the 16th century in the small village of Kamara.
The Monastery of Yperagias Theotokou Platiteras is centrally located and is adjacent to the headquarters of the Orthodox Church in Corfu Town. Built as early as 1743 its reconstruction was heavily supported by Ioannis Kapodistrias and his family after the church was destroyed by the French in 1798. The tomb of the first governor of Greece can be visited here too. Due to its central role in Corfu’s religious circles this monastery has shaped much of the religious heritage of the island.
A beautifully kept monastery in the name of Agia Eufymia is two kilometers south of Corfu Town in the area of Anemomylos. It is a particularly pleasant and harmonious cloister run by only a few nuns that take care of the surrounding property. Its beauty in fact attracted the building of Mon Repos Palace nearby in 1832.