Corfu Town Archaeological Museum

Corfu’s small archaeological museum holds two of the finest treasures of ancient Greece, the Gorgon pediment and the Lion of Menekrates.

Corfu’s archaeological museum may be small but it holds two of the finest treasures of ancient Greece. The Gorgon pediment is thought to be the country’s oldest surviving monumental sculpture, while the lovely Lion of Menekrates is among the earliest stone animal carvings. Although Corfu may have few remaining archaeological sites that can be seen, these relics attest to the richness of its ancient past. 

Most of the exhibits, brightly lit and well-displayed, are in six rooms on the second floor. At the top of the stairs, the vestibule contains grave monuments from an ancient cemetery in Garitsa, including a 6th century BC burial pithos (urn) with the bones of a child. 

Lion of Menekrates

The central room holds the exquisite Lion of Menekrates. The lifelike, crouching stone figure was carved in the late 7th century BC by an unknown Corinthian artist. It was found near the Tomb of Menekrates in 1843, and is thought to have guarded the grave of a warrior. 

The Gorgon Room

Behind a dividing wall, the Gorgon room is dominated by the enormous west pediment from the Doric temple of Artemis (585 BC) at Palaiópolis measuring 17 meters (56 feet) long and 3 meters (10 feet) high. The frightening figure of Medusa with bulging eyes and snakes hissing at her head and waist practically pops out of the frame. Beside her are two fierce panthers and her sons Pegasus and Chrysaor. The gorgon haunts you long after you leave the room. 

Top Tip

Go into the central room of the museum first, and around the wall behind the Lion of Menekrates, to get the best first view of the stunning Gorgon frieze.

The Gorgon

According to Greek mythology, the gorgons were three hideous female creatures with fangs, bronze wings and live snakes instead of hair. Medusa had once been a beautiful maiden, but when she boasted that she was lovelier than Athena, the angry goddess turned her into a gruesome monster. Because of her appearance, she had the power to turn anyone who gazed at her into stone.

Unlike her sisters, Medusa was mortal. She was killed by Perseus, who cut off her head while looking at her reflection in a mirrored shield. Her two sons, the winged horse Pegasus and the hero Chrysaor, sprang from the blood which spurted from her neck.

Mon Repos Room

The adjoining Mon Repos room features objects excavated from the Mon Repos estate on the Kanóni Peninsula. They include some splendid small objects, such as the Little Lion tripod decoration, the bronze statuette known as Lakon Komastis, and a four-horse chariot and charioteer. The remaining rooms contain pottery, statues, artefacts and the museum’s large numismatic, or coin collection.

Hidden Gem

In the Apollo Parnopios room, look for the display of bronze medical instruments in a case along the outside wall – and use your imagination!

Where to Stay on Corfu

Other Corfu Town pages

  • Corfu Town’s Byzantine Museum

    Corfu Town’s Byzantine Museum is a little gem, one of the town’s top museums with an excellent collection of Byzantine art in a 15th-century church.

  • Church of Saint Spyrídon

    The church of Saint Spyrídon (Ayios Spyridon) in Corfu Town is a must-see site and contains the silver casket of the island’s patron saint.

  • A Walk in Old Corfu Town

    This walk in Old Corfu Town, or Campiello, takes you from the Liston through the narrow back streets and alleyways and should take about one to two hours.

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