Angelokastro, a Byzantine castle in the middle of Corfu
Angelokastro (Castle of Angelos or Castle of the Angel) is a Byzantine castle on the island of Corfu, Greece. It is located at the top of the highest peak of the island's shoreline in the north-west coast near Paleokastritsa and built on particularly precipitous and rocky terrain. It stands 1,000 ft (305 m) on a steep cliff above the sea and surveys the City of Corfu and the mountains of mainland Greece to the south-east and a wide area of Corfu toward the north-east and north-west.
Angelokastro is one of the most important fortified complexes of Corfu. It was an acropolis which surveyed the region all the way to the southern Adriatic and presented a formidable strategic vantage point to the occupant of the castle. It formed a defensive triangle with the castles of Gardiki and Kassiopi, which covered Corfu's defences to the south, north-west and north-east.
The castle never fell, despite frequent sieges and attempts at conquering it through the centuries, and played a decisive role in defending the island against pirate incursions and during three sieges of Corfu by the Ottomans, significantly contributing to their defeat. During invasions it helped shelter the local peasant population. The villagers also fought against the invaders playing an active role in the defence of the castle.
The exact period of the building of the castle is not known, but it has often been attributed to the reigns of Michael I Komnenos and his son Michael II Komninos. The first documentary evidence for the fortress dates to 1272, when Giordano di San Felice took possession of it for Charles of Anjou, who had seized Corfu from Manfred, King of Sicily in 1267. From 1387 to the end of the 16th century, Angelokastro was the official capital of Corfu and the seat of the Provveditore Generale del Levante, governor of the Ionian islands and commander of the Venetian fleet, which was stationed in Corfu.
The governor of the castle, known as the "Castellan", was normally appointed by the City council of Corfu and was chosen amongst the noblemen of the island. Angelokastro is considered one of the most imposing architectural remains in the Ionian Islands, along with Kassiopi Castle, Gardiki Castle and the two Venetian Fortresses of Corfu City, the Citadel and the New Fort.
Church of the Acropolis
The church of Archangel Michael at Angelokastro with anthropomorphic graves at the foreground The acropolis is located at the highest point with a church at the southern side. The church is dedicated to Archangel Michael and it is built at the site of an Early Christian three-aisled church. The main gate points to the north and is protected by a circular tower. The ruins opposite the main gate formed the garrison's quarters. There were three underground cisterns that supplied water to the castle occupants.
There is a cemetery on the western side with seven graves carved out of the rock in the shape of the human body as in a sarcophagus. The origin of the anthropomorphic graves has not yet been determined.
Chapel in the rock
The exterior of the church of Aghia Kyriaki. The hermit's quarters are on the left of the church entrance At the east side there exists a tiny chapel, dedicated to St. Kyriaki, that also served as a hermitage. The chapel was created by digging into the rock formation and as such it is a cave-like structure. There are paintings inside the chapel that date back to the 18th century. A hermit also resided in the same area.