|At the end of the Angevin domination the Genoese occupied the island for a
short period of time but were expelled by the Venetian admiral Giovanni Miani. The
Corfiots accepted the rule of Venice. The lion banner of St. Mark was hoisted over the
city in May 1386. It should be noted that Venice during the previous years had tried to
acquire the island by peaceful means. The Venetians ruled the island for more than four
centuries until 1797. Thus Corfu was saved from the fate of mainland Greece by remaining
free from Turkish enslavement.
At the beginning of Venetian domination the island was administered by a governor having
the title of Bailo. He had both administrative and judicial authority and was elected by
the Great Council of Venice for two years. From 1420 the Bailo was assisted by two
Counsellors and later by a third official the Provveditore e Capitano who was appointed as
Commander of the garrison and also had certain judicial powers. In the early 16th century
a Governor General of the Levant was appointed by the Great Council of Venice for a three
year term. The administration of the island under the Venetians was fairly liberal for its
A General Assembly of the Greek and Venetian nobility elected annually one hundred and
fifty from among their members to constitute the Council of the Community which appointed
the three annual judges. The names of the nobility were registered in the 'Golden Book'
(Libro d'Oro). The feudal system was maintained but the number of fiefs was reduced from
24 to 12. The Venetians showed a special interest in agriculture especially in the
cultivation of olive-trees. To this policy Corfu owes its countless olive trees which
still constitute its main agricultural product. All the commerce was concentrated in
Venice so the island's trade was strangled.
On account of its great strategic importance Corfu was subjected to attacks by the Turks
who had established in the mainland opposite the island. During the wars between Venice
and Turkey the Corfiots fought by the side of the Venetians at Parga and at Butrinto in
1454 and at the Isthmus of Corinth and at Patras in 1462. On two different occasions the
city of Corfu was besieged by the Turks.
After the disastrous siege of 1537 the Venetian authorities decided to fortify the city.
Works on the fortress lasted almost a century and ended in 1645, making Corfu one of the
most heavily fortified places in Europe. Four gates gave access through the walls.
One was the Sea Gate opening to the harbour, which still exists intact. Another gate
giving access to the countryside was called Porta Reale (Royal Gate) and stood just off
the end of the present Evgeniou Voulgareos street. It was pulled down in 1893 to give
access to the new suburbs being built outside the old town. Another still extant gate
opened on the small bay opposite the north-western corner of the Old Fortress and was
called St. Nicholas Gate, after the church which stood and still stands outside the gate.
A fourth gate called Porta Raimonda, which was pulled down by the British in 1837, led
from the southern bastions through a gallery to the outer fortifications on the Bay of
Corfiots took part in the famous naval battle at Lepanto (1571) to which Corfu sent 4
galleys and 1,500 men. The battle ended in one of the most significant victories of
Christendom against the Infidel.
The second great siege of Corfu took place in 1716. That year Sultan Achmet II appeared in
Butrinto opposite Corfu. The Venetian authorities in Corfu enrolled about 3,000 Greeks and
5,000 men of other nationalities who were placed under command of Johann Matthias Von der
Schulenburg. On the 8th of July a Turkish fleet carrying 3,000 men sailed across to Corfu
from Butrinto. These troops began landing at Govino and Ipsos. On the same day the
Venetian fleet encountered the enemy fleet off the Channel of Corfu and inflicted a severe
defeat upon it in the naval battle which ensued. On the 19th of July the Turkish
advance-posts reached the hills of the city. After repeated attempts and heavy fighting,
Turks were compelled to raise the siege which had lasted 22 days. A violent storm broke
out on the 9th of August which completed the debacle of the enemy, who had remained in the
island for 42 days. This victory over the Turks was attributed not only to the leadership
of Schulenburg but also to the miraculous intervention of St. Spyridon. Schulenburg
himself accompanied by his staff and a crowd of faithful, walked to the church of St.
Spyridon and attended on his knees, a thanksgiving service.
The victory at the second siege of Corfu was the final check (after Lepanto and Vienna) to
Ottoman attempts at breaking through to Western Europe, and may be considered an important
landmark in the history of Europe.
The long Venetian domination had a very strong influence on local Greek language which now
absorbed a wide range of Italian words.