Culture in Corfu
Due to its geographic location Corfu was, from as early as the antiquity, a strong fort and a transit trade port, adapting itself according to the conditions of each conjecture. This adaptation is actually a constant dialogue between the East and the West, bringing out a timeless cultural value in the island’s history of architecture and urban planning.
The implementation of Western architectural styles and rhythms in Corfu, bears the mark of a tendency for simplification, the sense of measure and the sign of an apparent ineptness, which in essence represents on the one hand for the West, a smooth transition towards a more popular architecture and on the other hand for Greece, a stepping stone to western architecture.
Homer wrote about the great Corfiot musician, the blind citharoedus Demodocus who, in the court of king Alcinous, made Ulysses weep with his singing. However, from the ancient times of bards who used to sing in praise of the worthy deeds of mythical heroes in the palaces of kings, until the 19th century, Corfu ran quite a long way, about the greatest part of which we know very little. The particular economic bloom that was experienced by Corfu in the 6th century BC, favoured the development of arts and cultural events. According to Professor Th. Pappas, in the 2nd century BC, Corfu held (with the financial assistance of sponsors) drama and music competitions, maintaining a very long tradition. During the Byzantine times, however, this music tradition is interrupted.
Corfu, just like the rest of the Ionian Islands, didn’t just grace Greece with the country’s first composers, but also the first music educators and the first professional music performers. It is a time during which the Corfiots become lovers of opera and lyrical drama, and also acquire a high-level artistic spirit. New spaces (the Municipal Theatre) are created so as to accommodate the increasingly populous playgoer audience. The Corfu Philharmonic Bands that started being founded in 1840 onwards are still worthy torch-bearers of the local music tradition. The numerous music associations currently in existence on the island - Philharmonics, Choirs, Conservatories, the Municipality of Corfu Symphonic Orchestra and the Chamber Music Band - still maintain the music tradition of Corfu. This preservation effort of the Corfiot music tradition, which has steadily been feeding the Greek music scene with high-quality creators, is being complemented over the past years by the establishment and operation of the Musical High School and Junior High School, as well as the establishment of the Ionian university Department of Music Studies. The creation of numerous Art Associations and Unions (of private initiative in their vast majority) enhances the present and paves the way for an auspicious future for the Corfiot music tradition.
Of particular interest is typography and all related activities in Corfu, given the timeframe and manner in which they were introduced in the Ionian Islands. European typography and printing, from its very early onset, included books in Greek for the European humanists of the time and the ruler of the Ionian Islands, Venice, developed from a very early stage typography and production of Greek books for the Greek readership of time; however, there was no printing press in the Ionian Islands throughout the Venetian rule period. In 1797, Napoleon Bonaparte’s French abolish the Venetian Republic and occupy Corfu and the other islands. From as early as the first days of their arrival, the Ionian Islanders’ advanced level caused them to grant their request for the establishment of a printing press in Corfu. And the French, who had already realised the power of typography in the spreading of revolutionary ideas, the development of education and the facilitation it offered to the operation of administrative services, satisfied their demand and in spring of 1798, at the initiative of the scholar Pari, the expropriated monastery of St. Francis in Corfu hosted the first printing house to operate on Greek soil; it was known as the “National Printing House” or the “Printing House of the Nation".
Traditions, mores and customs
The uniqueness of Corfiot Culture, the mores, the customs and their traditions were forged as a result of the impact western-European civilisation on the local Greek cultural tradition. Corfiots adore traditions to the point of exaggeration and hardly ever migrate, since they love their homeland beyond measure, and take an active part in observing and perpetuating Corfiot customs, which have been preserved unchanged for centuries, proving the island’s multicultural nature.