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Old Town of Corfu – UNESCO World Heritage Centre

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Old Town of Corfu

The Old Town of Corfu, on the Island of Corfu off the western coast of  Greece, is located in a strategic position at the entrance of the Adriatic Sea, and has its roots in the 8th century BC. The three forts of the town, designed by renowned Venetian engineers, were used for four centuries to defend the maritime trading interests of the Republic of Venice against the Ottoman Empire. In the course of time, the forts were repaired and partly rebuilt several times, more recently under British rule in the 19th century. The mainly neoclassical housing stock of the Old Town is partly from the Venetian period, partly of later construction, notably the 19th century. As a fortified Mediterranean port, Corfu’s urban and port ensemble is notable for its high level of integrity and authenticity.

Outstanding Universal Value

The ensemble of the fortifications and the Old Town of Corfu is located in a strategic location at the entrance to the Adriatic Sea. Historically, its roots go back to the 8th century BC and to the Byzantine period. It has thus been subject to various influences and a mix of different peoples. From the 15th century, Corfu was under Venetian rule for some four centuries, then passing to French, British and Greek governments. At various occasions, it had to defend the Venetian maritime empire against the Ottoman army. Corfu was a well thought of example of fortification engineering, designed by the architect Sanmicheli, and it proved its worth through practical warfare. Corfu has its specific identity, which is reflected in the design of its system of fortification and in its neo-classical building stock. As such, it can be placed alongside other major Mediterranean fortified port cities.

Criterion (iv): The urban and port ensemble of Corfu, dominated by its fortresses of Venetian origin, constitutes an architectural example of outstanding universal value in both its authenticity and its integrity.

The overall form of the fortifications has been retained and displays traces of Venetian occupation, including the Old Citadel and the New Fort, but primarily interventions from the British period. The present form of the ensemble results from the works in the 19th and 20th centuries. The authenticity and integrity of the urban fabric are primarily those of a neo-classical town.

The responsibility for protection is shared by several institutions and relevant decrees. These include the Hellenic Ministry of Culture (ministerial decision of 1980), the Ministry of the Environment, Spatial Planning and Public Works (Presidential decree of 1980) and the Municipality of Corfu (Presidential decree of 1981). Also relevant are: the Greek law on the shoreline of towns and of islands in general; the law on the protection of antiquities and cultural heritage in general (n° 3028/2002) and the establishment of a new independent Superintendence for Byzantine and post-Byzantine antiquities, in 2006. A buffer zone has been established. The proactive policies of restoration and enhancement of the fortifications and of the citadel have resulted in a generally acceptable state of conservation. Many works however have still to be completed or started. A management plan has been prepared. An urban action plan, which is in line with the management plan of the nominated property, has just been adopted (2005) for the period 2006-2012.

Source: UNESCO TV / © NHK Nippon Hoso Kyokai
URL: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/978/

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