Gardiki Castle, Corfu
Gardiki Castle (Greek: Κάστρο Γαρδικίου) is a 13th-century Byzantine castle on the southwestern coast of Corfu and the only surviving medieval fortress on the southern part of the island. It was built by a ruler of the Despotate of Epirus, and was one of three castles which defended the island before the Venetian era (1401–1797). The three castles formed a defensive triangle, with Gardiki guarding the island's south, Kassiopi Castle the northeast and Angelokastro the northwest
Origins and location
The castle dates from the thirteenth century and is located on a low hill near the village of Agios Matthaios which is situated at a higher elevation. The ruler responsible for the construction of the castle is not known, but it is assumed that it was built either by Michael I Komnenos or his son Michael II Komnenos, rulers of the Despotate of Epirus. Immediately to the south of the castle lies Korissia Lake which is separated from the sea by a narrow strip of land.
Remains from the upper Paleolithic era, dating from 20,000 B.C., when Corfu was still united to the mainland region of Epirus, were found on the site of the castle at the rock shelter of Grava Gardikiou, including hunter-gatherer stone tools and animal bones, which have since been removed and are exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Corfu.
The location of Gardiki at the narrow southwest flank of Corfu provided protection to the fields and the southern lowlands of Corfu and in combination with Kassiopi Castle on the northeastern coast of the island and Byzantine Angelokastro protecting the northwestern shore of Corfu, formed a triangular line of defence which protected Corfu during the pre-Venetian era.
The walls of Gardiki Castle form an octagon and the structure features eight strong towers decorated by rows of tiles. There are elements from an ancient structure which have been incorporated into the construction of the castle. The ancient structure was probably a fountain-house.
The eight towers are square in shape and the outline of the octagonal structure is almost elliptical. At the top of the southern tower there are traces of a chapel with remnants of religious frescoes of portraits of saints. Although in a state of disrepair, the towers still retain their full height. The castle entrance is preserved but the interior is in a state of ruin.
Gardiki Castle is considered one of the most imposing architectural remains in the Ionian Islands, along with Angelokastro, Kassiopi Castle and the two Venetian Fortresses of Corfu City, the Citadel and the New Fort.
Corfiote noble Andrea Marmora, the earliest historian of Corfu in medieval times, in his 1672 book Della Historia di Corfù mentions that the despots of Epirus adorned the city of Corfu with "most noble buildings" and built defences in other places on the island, including the fortresses of Gardiki and Angelokastro amongst other important sites.
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- Stamatopoulos, Nondas (1993). Old Corfu: history and culture (3 ed.). N. Stamatopoulos. p. 166.
The Byzantine Fortress at Gardiki The only remaining ancient fortification in the southern part of the island is the ruined fortress of Gardiki on the lower...
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On the other side of Mount Ayios Matheos. 2 km by road, is Gardiki Pirgos, the ruins of a thirteenth century castle built in this unlikely lowland setting by the despots of Epirus.
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One thing is certain, however. The area under plough outside the walls increased, since the village communities multiplied across the entire island (if we are to judge from the Byzantine castles that have survived) in order to protect the fields. They are castles such as Kassiopi, Angelokastro and Gardiki and, of course, the Old Fortress which was the medieval town itself.
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Andrea Marmora, a member of a noble family still extant in Corfu, published in Italian ...
- Andrea Marmora, Della Historia di Corfù, 1672, Libro 4, p. 210 "Adorno egli di nobilissimi edificii la Città; fabbricò in posto, molto atto alla difesa, il castel S. Angelo; fortificò Gardichio e altri luoghi importanti sù l'Isola..."
- Miller, William (1908). The Latins in the Levant: A History of Frankish Greece (1204–1566). E. P. Dutton. p. 514. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
The oldest historian of Corfu may be exaggerating when he says that the Despots of Epiros adorned the city with most noble buildings
- William Miller. "The Latins in the Levant". Web archive.