The main gateway into Corfu's
Palaio Frourio (Old Fort)
dates from about 1550, and is contemporary with the western fortifications. Built between the Savorgnan and Martinengo bastions, it replaced the initial Venetian gate, the Porta Soranza,
which still exists on the northern face of the fortress (Mandraki),
although it has been sealed off since 1660.
The 1550 gateway, which is still in use, extends back in twin buildings flanking the central avenue, which in Venetian times were used as guardhouses. In time of war they could also serve as secondary bastions, for their upper storeys had cannon ports facing in the direction of the city. The facade of the gateway was originally surmounted by an inset slab with the lion of St. Mark carved in relief.
The two guardhouses are rectangular structures groin-vaulted measuring
15.66 x 6.67 meters. Arched gates give on to the central avenue. Above the gateway
into the right-hand guardhouse is inscribed the date MDCLXXXI (1691).
The approximately 40 exhibits in the current collection are part of the old Byzantine collection from the Museum
of Asian Art, which was founded in 1959 and enlarged in 1970, including:
- The mosaics from the basilica
of Palaiopolis, discovered during the excavations carried out during the period
1930 - 1959.
- The sculptures from the old collection from Palaiopolis and other Byzantine sites on the island.
- Fragments of frescoes from the Church of St. Nicholas in
Kato Korakiana, dating from three separate periods, which were removed from the wall and restored in 1970.
The portable icons belonging to the old collection have been on display in the
Antivouniotissa Museum since 1984. We hope that this present small collection will one day constitute the nucleus of a major Byzantine Museum in Corfu.
The main gateway and its guardhouses were restored in 1994; the guardhouse on the left (as you come in) is used by the Archaeological Resources Fund for the sale of models, reproductions and other items, while the right-hand building now houses Byzantine Collection of Corfu.