NEWS

Long history of Corfu isle honored with a museum

A museum of medical history and national reconciliation is to be built on the historic islet of Lazaretto, Corfu. The old leprosy hospital, which has been listed for preservation, is set for restoration and the surrounding area will be refurbished and made fully accessible to the public, according to a Corfu Municipality architectural study that has the approval of Deputy Environment Minister Stavros Kaloyiannis. The 7-hectare islet, formerly known as Aghios Dimitrios, sits off the northeast coast of Corfu, about 2 nautical miles from the town. In the early 16th century, when Corfu was under Venetian rule, a monastery was established on the islet. Later that century, the island was renamed Lazaretto, after the leprosarium that was set up there. Similar establishments survive on Ithaca and Zakynthos, In 1798, when the French ruled Corfu, the Russo-Turkish fleet took over the islet and ran it as a military hospital. In 1814, during the British occupation, the leprosarium was renovated and went into operation again. After the Ionian Islands were united with Greece (1864), the leprosarium only operated when needed. During the Greek civil war (1946-49), it became a concentration camp for political prisoners, a large number of whom were executed (112 executions have been confirmed). In 1992, the islet was declared a historic site, and in 2003 Greek Tourism Properties SA announced a tender for the revamping of the islet, but there was no result. The islet belongs to the state and has been handed over to the Municipality of Corfu for 20 years to promote it culturally. The remains of the leprosarium include a two-story travelers’ lodge, the Church of Aghios Dimitrios and scattered remnants of buildings, little towers, cisterns and the old cemetery. A relic of the more recent past is the wall against which prisoners were executed during the civil war. According to the study, «the main building of the leprosarium will be used as an exhibition and public reception area, while the rest of the museum’s operations will be concentrate in an annex to be built at the rear of the listed building.»