What is it?
The Museum of Palaiopolis – Mon Repos in Corfu City is a former palace that now functions as museum detailing and ancient history. It is located at the start of the Kanoni Peninsula. The palace and its ground are built on the ruins of the ancient city of Korkyra which was also known as Palaiopolis.
Today visitors can explore the extensive gardens and the surrounding park for free. Due to its location, the palace and its grounds afford spectacular views, especially at sunrise.
Mon Repo’s History
Built in 1828, the residence was originally conceived as the summer residence for the British Lord High Commissioner of the United States of the Ionian Islands at the time. It only served this purpose for 5 years and 1833 it became a school for the fine arts. This villa’s extensive grounds were opened to the public one year later in 1834.
Mon Repos would once again become a residence in 1864 when the estate was gifted to King George I of the Hellenes upon the union of the United States of the Ionian Islands with the rest of Greece. It was King George I who gave the estate the name Mon Repos, which translates to “My Rest.”
Mon Repos would remain a royal residence until the Greek Royal Family fled the country in 1967. The building would fall into disrepair until the 1990’s when restoration works began on the site.
The residence would see three royal births during its tenure as the summer residence of the Greek Royal Family. The most notable of which was the late Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, husband to the late Queen Elizabeth II. He is supposedly to have been born on the dinning room table at Mon Repos on the 10th of June 1921.
Architecture of Mon Repos
The building is a prime example of the Neoclassical Architecture which was popular at the time. The building is symmetrical. The entrance is framed by six Doric columns. On either end of the building are matching rotunda with a further six Doric columns apiece. The entablature above all columns of the building is simple, featuring no frieze decoration
Mon Repos typifies the Neoclassical ideals as characterised by the grand use of columns, blanks walls, and simple geometric shape.
Should you visit Mon Repos Corfu?
So, should you visit? The short answer is that it depends. If you are a fan of architecture or you would like to learn more about the history of the building and its ancient surroundings, then yes you should visit. However, you do no need to visit to see the ancient ruins scattered around the estate. So, if you are pressed for time, it shouldn’t be on the must-see list of sites in Corfu. If you do choose to visit ticket prices for the interior of Mon Repos range from 2 to 4 Euro. Mon Repos is open all year round.
More than just an Palace
Mon Repos is now so much more than just a Palace. The main attraction are the expansive grounds surrounding the palace. While the maintained flower gardens are beautiful, the star of the whole estates is the trove of ancient Greek temples and sites within several minutes walk from the palace.
Temple of Hera
Otherwise known as the Heraion, this large site is the first you will come across when exploring the ground of Mon Repos. As the name suggest, the temple
Built in 610 BC, the Heraion was a major temple and is one of the earliest examples of archaic Greek architecture. Built on the top of a hill, during its heyday, the Heraion would have been very visible to passing ships passing the ancient Corfu.
The Temple is believed to have been destroyed by fire in the 5th century BC. After its initial destruction, the site was expanded, and a new temple constructed.
Unfortunately, most of the temple and its artifacts are believed to have been looted by the Byzantines and Venetians. Many of the stone blocks that made up the temple and its grounds were removed and incorporated into other buildings in Corfu.
Fortunately, there were many artifacts that were recovered during excavations including over 550 that have been digitized by the University of Nebraska. From these fragments it has been possible to determine the vibrant colors the figures on the roof tiles were painted. These roof figures included lions, Gorgonia, and Daedalic maidens.
The researched were also able to create a digital reconstruction of the roof itself which revealed it was perhaps one of the most ambitious construction projects of its time. A completed digital reconstruction of the temple is currently being created.
There are also two active archaeological digs under way at the Heraion at “Building A” and “Building B.”
Just south of the Heraion, you will stumble across the ruins of Kardaki Temple. Set into a hill, protected by a retaining wall is a site that feels as though it has not been touched in thousands of years.
Go to the site early in the morning or late in the evening and you will likely have the temple all to yourself. You can wander the site to your hearts content, imagining what it would have been like 2500 years ago. You can almost smell torches that would have illuminated the temple interior.
Built in approximately 500BC, the Temple is somewhat of an enigma to modern archelogy. It is the only known Greek Doric temple without a frieze on its entablature. It has been theorized that this omission is evidence of Sicilian influence on the temple. Conversely, the lack of a porch or adyton (an inner sanctuary) may also point to Ionian influences.
It is also unclear to which deity the temple was dedicated, although Apollo and Poseidon have been postulated.
Hopefully you will be spending a long time in Corfu and won’t be rushed for time when you visit Mon Repos. Being so close to the a secluded beach ( a secret for another time), ancient and Neoclassical architecture and some truly spectacular trees make the Mon Repos estate an excellent addition to any Corfu itinerary.
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