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.

Corfu Town's Byzantine MuseumCorfu Town's Byzantine Museum

Where is Corfu Town’s Byzantine Museum?

Set along the corniche road between the Old Fortress and the Old Port, the Byzantine Museum houses one of Corfu’s greatest artistic legacies. The 15th-century former church is the perfect home for some 90 icons dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries. They represent one of Greece’s most important contributions to medieval art.

The official name of the museum is actually the Museum Antivouniotissa, after the church in which it is housed, but everyone refers to it as the Byzantine Museum so we’ve stuck with that.

Google Map showing Corfu Town's Byzantine MuseumMap (c) Google Maps

Church of the Panagía Antivouniótissa

The Church of the Panagía Antivouniótissa, built at the end of the 15c, is one of the oldest and richest religious monuments on Corfu. Standing atop a steep flight of steps, the single-aisle, timber-roofed basilica with its plain exterior is characteristic of Corfiot churches of the time. The museum preserves the church’s impressive interior features, while using the narthexes which surround it on three sides to display its priceless collection of icons.

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Cretan School of Art

From the fall of Constantinople in 1453 until 1669, Venetian-occupied Crete was the most important artistic centre in Greece. An eclectic style of icon painting flourished, known as the Cretan School of Art, attracting commissions from monasteries and noblemen abroad. Corfu became a major stepping stone for Cretan painters en route to Venice, such as Thomas Bathos who lived here in 1585-87.

Emmanuel Tzanés, whose works can be seen in the museum, is credited with introducing the Cretan style to Corfu in the 17the century. After Crete fell to the Ottomans in 1669, many more artists found refuge on the island and their influence spread. Thus a vital force in Byzantine traditional art was kept alive on Corfu.

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Byzantine Treasures

A museum visit begins upstairs in the former sacristy, where church silver, richly embroidered vestments, jewelled crosses, gold communion vessels and other Byzantine treasures are displayed. The Lamentation, a 19th-century altar cloth, is an incredible work of raised embroidery depicting the laying of Christ’s body in the tomb.

Downstairs, icons are displayed in chronological order around the vestibules, beginning with early pieces of fresco. Most belong to the church, while others come from the old Byzantine collection of the Museum of Asiatic Art. They feature popular Byzantine subjects including the Virgin and Child, Christ Pantokrator, and St George slaying the Dragon.

Tip: Allow at least half an hour to explore Corfu Town’s Byzantine Museum.

More Icons

More icons are displayed in the church, which has been beautifully restored. Above the high wooden pews the painted walls have been stencilling to look like flocked wallpaper. The coffered ceiling is ornamented with gilded woodcarvings. A balcony at the back affords a closer look and a fine view over the nave.

In the rear vestibule on the outside wall of the church, look for the large icon depicting Saints Sergius, Bacchus and Justine by Michael Damaskenos (16th century), one of the greatest masters of the art. Notice that, compared to other icons, there is more detail and shadow in the faces, knees and legs, which gives his work a more realistic human form.

More Information on Corfu Town’s Byzantine Museum

Visit the museum’s official website.

Other Corfu Town Pages

  • Kanoni is one of two tiny islands off Corfu, about an hour’s walk south of Corfu Town, and one of the most photographed spots on Corfu.

    Kanoni

    Kanoni is one of two tiny islands off Corfu, about an hour’s walk south of Corfu Town, and one of the most photographed spots on Corfu.

  • 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.

    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.

  • Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to eat in Corfu Town, including the best restaurants for a treat, traditional tavernas, and cheap and cheerful good eats.

    Where to Eat in Corfu Town

    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to eat in Corfu Town, including the best restaurants for a treat, traditional tavernas, and cheap and cheerful good eats.

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

    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

  • Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Corfu Town including hotels near the port, near the airport and in the town centre, with budget and luxury options.

    Where to Stay in Corfu Town

    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Corfu Town including hotels near the port, near the airport and in the town centre, with budget and luxury options.

  • The main sites to see in Corfu Town are listed on our main Corfu Town page, and some also have their own pages, but here are some of the other things to see.

    Sites to See in Corfu Town

    The main sites to see in Corfu Town are listed on our main Corfu Town page, and some also have their own pages, but here are some of the other things to see.

  • 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.

    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.

  • The Palace of St Michael and St George in Corfu Town contains the Museum of Asiatic Art, the Municipal Art Gallery, and the Modern Art Museum.

    Palace of St Michael and St George

    The Palace of St Michael and St George in Corfu Town contains the Museum of Asiatic Art, the Municipal Art Gallery, and the Modern Art Museum.

  • Rising on a steep hill behind the old harbour, the Campiéllo is the oldest district of Corfu’s Old Town.

    Old Corfu Town

    Rising on a steep hill behind the old harbour, the Campiéllo is the oldest district of Corfu’s Old Town.

  • The villa of Mon Repos to the south of Corfu Town was once the summer home of the Greek royal family but now houses the Museum of Palaiopolis.

    Mon Repos

    The villa of Mon Repos to the south of Corfu Town was once the summer home of the Greek royal family but now houses the Museum of Palaiopolis.

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