Culture in Corfu
Due to its geographical position, the island of Corfu became a powerful fortress and transit port during the ancient years, adapting itself every time to the predominant conditions. This adaptation constitutes a continuous dialogue between East and West, presenting at the same time a diachronic cultural value for the history of architecture and town-planning.
The adaptation of Western architectural styles in Corfu bears the stamp of an aspiration to simplification and a sense of measured proportion: the stamp of what is at first sight clumsiness which, in the case of the West, is in fact an expression of a smooth transition to vernacular architecture, while in Greece it marks a step upwards to the architecture of the west.
Homer tells us about the great Corfiot musician, the blind citharoedus Demodokos, who made Odysseus weep with his song in the court of king Alcinous. Since the time of the bards however, that sung the deeds of the mythical heroes in the palaces of the kings, until the 19th century Corfu had traveled a long way for the biggest part of which very little is known. During the 6th century B.C. Corfu experienced a high economic growth and as a consequence a favorable climate was created for the cultivation of the arts and the cultural events. Professor Theodore Pappas informs us that even during the 2nd century B.C., with the aid of sponsors, theatrical and musical performances were held preserving a longstanding tradition. Later, during the Byzantine era, that ancient musical tradition is interrupted.
Corfu and the rest of the Seven Islands did not only offer the first Greek composers but also the first music teachers and the first professional musicians. During that period the Corfiots became opera and lyric scene-lovers and obtained a high standard artistic criterion. New buildings were constructed (Municipal Theatre) to house the constantly increasing audience. Today the Philharmonics of Corfu, which were established from 1840 onwards, are worthy holders of the local musical tradition. The numerous musical bodies that exist today on the island: Philharmonics, Choirs, Odeums, Municipal Symphonic Orchestra, and Chamber Music keep unbroken the ties with the musical tradition of the past. The creation in the last decade of the Musical High School and Lyceum, and the Musical Department in the Ionian University came as an aid to the preservation of the Corfiot musical tradition, which constantly gives artists and performers to the rest of Greece. The creation of several Cultural Bodies and Unions, of private initiative in their majority, offer a constructive support for the present and prepare an optimistic future for the Corfiot musical tradition.
There is a special interest in the Corfiot typography and its related activities, considering the time and the way of their introduction to the Ionian Islands. Although the European typography, since its firsts steps, produced many Greek books for the European humanists of the time, and in Venice, the sovereign of the Ionian Sea, the art of typography was greatly developed and produced many Greek books for the Greek audience of the time, yet there was no printing press established in the Ionian Islands during the Venetian rule. In 1797 General Bonaparte abolished the Venetian Republic and his soldiers occupied Corfu and the rest of the Ionian Islands. From the first day of their arrival, the high cultural level of the local population expressed the demand for the establishment of a printing press in Corfu. And the French, who knew the power of typography as a mean for spreading the revolutionary ideas, the development of education and the proper functioning of the public services, satisfied the demand of the Corfiots, so that in the spring 1798, under the supervision of the scholar Pari, the first printing press on Greek soil was set up in the confiscated catholic convent of St. Francisco and was named "Ethikon Typographion" or "Tou Genous Typographio".
Traditions, Social Mores and Customs
The individuality of the Corfiot cultural heritage, the social mores, customs and traditions, are due to the influence of the elements of the Western Civilization on the local Hellenic cultural tradition. The Corfiot, a devoted tradition-adorer up to the point of exaggeration, who emigrates with great reluctance because s/he loves deeply her/his homeland, participates actively in the preservation and the perpetuation of the Corfiot customs, which reach our times unalterable, proving this way the multicultural character of Corfu.
Buildings of Interest