Corfu, Crucible of Change: A Multicultural Island of Masonic Revolutionary Secrets

Sasha Chaitow
BA Comm., MA Eng. Lit., MA Western Esotericism

C7th BC: Gorgon pediment Oldest stone pediment in Greece

Views of the Citadel (Old Fortress C12th-14th) Abraham Ortelius, Teatro del Mondo, 1595 

Strada reale, 1839 (central street of the old town) 

Names of Corfu since antiquity
Corcyra: A nymph, daughter of the river Asopos Faiakia (Lat. Phaecia): “Faiax”,son of Corcyra Scheria: In the Odyssey, home of Nausikaa Koryfo: Meaning “peak” for the jutting peninsula

where the Citadel now stands: “Corfu” derives from “Koryfo.”

“For the fast ships of the Phaecians have neither rudder nor captain, rather they follow the thought of man of their own accord...”
Homer, Odyssey, rhaps. 7, verses 579-585

Bronze Age coins found in Corfu. The two faced head is not the Roman Janus, but probably an aspect of the Corfiot Mother-goddess Dionysia, facing both East and West.

Emperor of Byzantium Manuel Komnenus I

•Used Corfu as an army/naval base •Built fortifications •Established “Sacred order” of 33 + 33 provincial and city priests (Lefteriotes), who governed religious affairs and influenced politics until Iasonas and Sosipatros •Church dedicated to the (built c. 1000 AD) 19th Contemporaries of St Paul who Christianised Cor • century (c. 40AD) •This is the oldest church in Corfu (still in use) an the only one displaying Byzantine architecture

Philip Cluver, Introduction In Universam Geographiam, London 1704

Clockwise from top:

•Corfu 18th century depiction of the West coast • Zakynthos (Zante) of mainland Greece, Corfu, and the Ionian • Ithaca archipelago •Cephallonia •Lefkas (Santa Maura •Paxos Emblems of the seven islands  •Kythera

 ‘Scuola Greca’ synagogue (c. 17th) Interior of  ‘Pantokrator’ church (17th century) Catholic ‘Duomo’ of St. James & St. Jacob (1632) Orthodox priests conducting procession of St. Spiridion, Corfu’s patron saint

Aspects of the Venetian lion, or Lion of St. Mark

Views of the citadel (fortress) in 1486 and 1573

Early “Eptanisiaki” (Septinsular) School of Art

Michael Damaskinos (1590)

Nikolaos Doxaras (17th century)

The shift away from the traditional austere Byzantine style is evident in the use

Theatre of San Giacomo
(1661-93) •First used as the ‘Loggia dei Nobili’ for ‘private’ cultural and political discussions among the nobility •(1720) The first operas of the Mediterranean were performed here and it became the centre of Corfu’s musical tradition

Corfu Town Hall since 1903 

The Greek Enlightenment (Diafotismos) was more of a Renaissance of ideas, philosophy and philology: European Enlightenment principles merged with cultural patriotism. Adamantios Korais 1748-1833

Scholar and writer, protagonist of Revival and ‘purification of the Greek Language. Almost single-handedly inspired the Greek Enlightenment

Scholar, poet, key figure of the Greek Enlightenment and Revolutionary movement. Wrote in the vernacular to get his message across to the working classes.

Rigas Ferraios-Velestinlis 1757-1798

Hermes the Scholar Vienna, 1817 

 NEWSPAPER, being an ACCURATE ANTHOLOGY of the current, most worthy and most accurate worldwide events, which with great effort and care, and right judgement, have been gathered from diverse sources, for the benefit of the curiosity of the many [readers] for whom we gladly publish.

Main European channels of influence
•Literary and Art Salons (Italy, France, Austria) •Masonic Lodges (esp. North-eastern Italy, Marseilles, and Russia) •Quasi-Masonic patriotic organisations, including: Name Good Cousins Hotel Hellenophon e Philomuse Society Date City Founder(s) Character LiteraryScholarly (Masonic) ScholarlyPatriotic LiteraryArtistic-Patriotic Revolutionary Masonic

1790 Vienna Rigas Feraios 1809 Paris Gregorios Salykas

1813 Vienna Ioannis Kapodistrias
Odessa Athanasios Tsakalof Emmanuel Xanthos

Philiki Etaireia 1814 (Society of Friends)

United States of the Septinsular Republic (1801-1807)

Emblem and Flag Ionian Academy Ionian Bank

Ionian Parliament Building 

Charter acknowledging the united lodge Beneficenza & Filogenia, 1815

The first Corfu Lodges*
Beneficenza Philogenie St. Napoleon La Paix
(Italian) (French) (French) 1741, 1782, 1806 1807 1809 (1807-1818) (1813) 1815 1815 (1811) 1815 (1812) 1815 1818 1843


Bienfaisance et Philogenie Reunies (Greek) Pythagoras (English) Most Serene Grand Orient of Greece, Orient of Corfu National Grand Lodge of Greece

John and the Phoenix Phoenix (Greek)
Emblem of Phoenix Lodge (1818)

* Multiple dates indicate regularity issues

Ledger of members and initiation certificates from Bienfaisance/Philogenie United lodge & La Paix lodge. Members include prominent and influential figures of the Corfiot sociopolitical scene

Emblems and buildings of the Reading Room* (Library, est. 1834) & Philharmonic Society,* (est. 1840)  Organisations established, financed, supported and run by Corfiot Freemasons in an attempt to educate and cultivate the population:

Public Academy of Fine Arts (Public Art School) Ionian Academy (University) Society for the promotion and cultivation of the Greek Language Biblical Society Friends of Learning (Scientific) Panhellenic Society (Literary) Theosophical Society in Greece Ionian Society (Arts, Letters & Sciences) Night school for illiterate children Astronomical Society of Corfu Society for Corfu Studies

1805 1881* 1807* 1816 1819 1845 1849 1877 1859 1881* 1927* 1952*
*still active

“I considered that the liberation of a Classical Nation, once the cradle of light and brightest civilisation, from the shame of such a long and humiliating enslavement, would be the work of a brave soul, and a true Mason.”
Retrospective report to the GOdF, Zante, 1843

Count Dionysios Romas
1771-1857 First Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Greece (Orient of Corfu)

“Le Senateur Deputé des îles ioniennes, membre de la Legion d’honneur – et. ex Venerable, et envoyé extraordinaire de la Res:. L:. La Bienfaisance” From a letter to the GOdF. 1811

Assassinated: Navplion 1831 

Signature in letter to a fellow-Mason

1776-1831 Minister of the Septinsular Republic (1802-1807) Foreign Minister of Russia(1813-1822) First Governor of Greece (1828)

Count Ioannis Capodistrias

His home in Corfu 

Vienna Congress of members of the “Concert of Europe,” 1814
Positions on the “Ionian question:” France Austria Give the islands to the Order of the Knights of Malta Give the islands to Great Britain, or to Austria as part of previously Venetian territories

Great Britain Give the islands to the Kingdom of Sicily– they saw the islands as a major diplomatic and administrative problem Italy Turkey Saw possession of the islands as a major diplomatic problem Agreed to islands remaining a protectorate under Turkish suzerainty; but considered giving them independence a casus belli Trying to maintain balance, quietly supportive of giving the islands to Great Britain


“Greece” Pressed for independence and eventually agreed to British (Capodistrias) rule on condition of Russian support The Vienna Congress ended in a stalemate. A reluctant Great Britain was convinced to take on the islands as a protectorate in 1815

(clockwise) •Code used by members •Banner and oath (Freedom or Death) •Secret passwords Nikolaos Skoufas Emmanuel Xanthos Athanasios Tsakalof Founders of “Society of Friends” Odessa 1814 Passwords and oath remarkably similar to Masonic 1st Degree

The ‘Sacred Band’
Battle of Dragasani, 1821 (led by Ypsilantis)

(Prince) Alexandros Ypsilantis 1792-1828

“In this sign shall we prevail”

“From our ashes shall we rise” White= Innocence (righteous cause) & Brotherhood Black= Self-Sacrifice/Patriotic death Red= Independence and joy in battle for the resurrection of the nation Shown here in Sacred Band uniform •Elected head of Filiki Etaireia (Society of Friends) •Leader of Sacred Band •Coordinated early war effort

Images of the Revolution Corfu ,1860s (Late Septinsular School)

Georgios Miniatis “Souliotisses” (Women of Souli) Spiridon Prosalendis “Warrior of 1821”

Europe in 1600 Ottoman Empire (mauve) at its greatest expanse, bordering with Austria

Europe in 1914, showing borders of 1912 and Balkan ‘aspirations’

Corfu town Square, 1821

 Corfu traditional bridal dress

Corfu townspeople, 1870 

Corfu Esplanade, 1935

Corfu, Crucible of Changes: A Multicultural Island of Masonic Revolutionary Secrets Sasha Chaitow
Selected Bibliography:

•Anto nio s Ag io us, The U nification o f the Se ven I sl and s with BA Comm., MA Eng.,Lit., Gree ce (Co rfu: S tamouli s, 20 06) •Co nstantin id i- Bib ico u H., 195 3. « Les Orig ines d u MA Western Esotericism phil hell éni sme fra nça is », L’Hel lé nisme Co nt empora in, VII/3 •John Fo rte, The Pala ce o f St. Mi chael and St . Ge org e: An Anthol ogy (Co rf u: 1 994 ) •Mathie u G re net , “La l oge e t l’é trang er : le s Gre cs dans la Fr anc-maço nneri e mar se ill ais e au d éb ut du X IX e s.,” Cahi ers d e la Med iteran nee , vol. 7 2 | 2 006 •Odysse us-Ch arl es Kl imis , The Hi sto ry o f Cor fu (Co rf u: Typ othito , 2 002 ) •Dino s K on omo s, Dio nys ios R omas and the Hell eni c Up risi ng , (Athens: 1 972) •El eni Koukkou , Histo ry of the S even I sland s fro m 17 97 until Briti sh R ul e: F ir st Dip lomatic achie vemen ts o f Io an nis Kap odistr ias (Athen s, P apa dimas: 2001) •Kourkou melis N iko s: Educatio n i n Co rf u d uri ng Bri tish rul e , (Athens: P ap ad imas, 20 02) •Pana gio tis Kr itiko s, On Fre emaso ns, Fre emaso nr y, and thei r Ser vice to the Strug gle s of the Natio n (Athens : 1 971) •Evstathi os Liako pou lo s, Fre emaso nry i n G re ece: A cri si s o f Identity (Ar etha: 19 89; Co rfu: Io ni an P ub lishi ng , 2 009) •Chri sto s & Antre as Ri zo pou lo s, Philh ell ene and He lle ne Maso ns •Unp ub lish ed l etters , in 18 21 , (Tetr ak tys 1 993; Athen s, Tetra ktys 20 08) documents and p ho to grap hs •Tzia tzio s E.St., 1 939. Le Macédonien Gr ég oir e Zali kis e t la fro m p ri vate /f amil y archive s so cié té r évol utio nnai re “Hô tel Hell éno pho ne”

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