Palace of St. Michael and St. George
History and museums
Palace of St. Michael and St. George is a palace in Corfu City on the island of Corfu, Greece. The Greek name is "Palaia Anaktora" (Παλαιά Ανάκτορα: literally "Old Palace").
The palace was built by Sir Thomas Maitland, the British Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands. It served as the High Commissioner's residence, but was also the home of the Ionian Senate and the Order of St Michael and St George. The foundation stone was laid on St. George's day in 1819. The location is between the old town of Corfu and the Venetian citadel.
After the union of Corfu with the Kingdom of Greece in 1864, the palace served as a Royal residence until the Second World War. It miraculously survived the Italian bombardment of Corfu City during the Corfu Incident. It suffered greater damage from its use as a temporary housing for the refugees from Epirus during the Greek Civil War. The Greek state was only able to restore the palace interiors in 1954 with the help of a private trust organised by Sir Charles Peake, the then British Ambassador to Greece. Up to 1967, the Greek king occasionally used the palace on state occasions while in residence at his nearby villa, Mon Repos.
Today the palace houses the Museum of Asian art of Corfu. The collection of the museum started in 1927 and consists mostly of donations, the largest being from Gregorios Manos with 10,500 pieces.
The palace is designed in the Regency style by the British architect George Whitmore, who was a Colonel and later a Major-General in the Royal Engineers. It primarily consists of white Maltese stone. The two gateways which flank the palace are the gate of St. Michael and the gate of St. George. The state rooms consist of a grand staircase, a rotunda in the centre leading to two large rooms, the Throne Room and the state dining room. The Palace was renovated for the European Union Summit meeting in 1994.
The palace gardens, complete with old Venetian stone aquariums, exotic trees and flowers, overlook the bay through old Venetian fortifications and turrets. The local sea baths are at the foot of the fortifications surrounding the gardens. A café on the grounds includes its own art gallery, with exhibitions of both local and international artists. It is locally known as the Art Café. From the same spot, the viewer can observe ships passing through the narrow channel of the historic Vido island (Βίδο Κέρκυρας) to the north, on their way to Corfu harbour (Νέο Λιμάνι), with high speed retractable aerofoil ferries from Igoumenitsa cutting across the panorama. A wrought-iron aerial staircase is also to be found, closed to garden visitors, descending to the sea from the gardens, and formerly used by the Greek Royal Family as a shortcut to the baths. Rewriting history, locals now refer to the old Royal Gardens as the "Garden of the People" (Ο Κήπος του Λαού).