As promised, we are touring the inside of the Achilleion Palace today, located in Gastouri, on the island of Corfu, Greece. This palace was built for the Empress of Austria, Elisabeth of Bavaria, known as Sisi. If you would like to follow along with the background of Sisi’s life, start HERE. It makes for a very interesting read and gives you a glimpse of what was going on in Sisi’s life at the time. The architectural style of the palace was intended to represent an ancient palace of mythical Phaeacia. The palace was designed with the hero Achilles of Greek mythology as its central theme. Corfu was Sisi’s favorite vacation spot and she wanted a palace to acknowledge her admiration for Greece, its language and its culture. She also wanted a place to get away from it all! Achilles could be found throughout the palace and the gardens surrounding it. The paintings and statues of Achilles depicted contrasting heroic and tragic scenes of the Trojan War.
The ceiling painting by Vincenzo Galloppi at the main entrance was outstanding. It was all pinks, lavenders and Greek everything, including more gods and goddesses!!
The chapel was beautiful……..
and so intricate……….lots of muted color here………….
Now we’re headed upstairs…….more statues to admire. These two guard the staircase………
and what a staircase it is! It goes up and up and up…….. How about the gods and goddesses holding up the ceiling?
And another one up there…………
Up close and personal we go………one has a big smile on his face………
Then there was the green room………..more gods and goddesses to be found on the fireplace mantlepiece…………and in the paintings.
And the cherubs are frolicking……….
You must look at the ceiling rail……….
with the bunnies……..and other creatures……………..
one must also have a piece along the wall too……..
in another beautiful room of peach…..
Finally a good look at Sisi. She refused to sit for any more portraits after the age of 30……..because she thought she was losing her youthful looks……………Notice her itsy bitsy waist of 18 inches after the birth of four children….. She worked out feverishly daily and had steaks put on her face for moisturizers and it took her maids three hours a day to coif her long, long hair………
While we were there a real life goddess was being photographed. There was nothing under that skimpy white cloth that was slit up both sides. Needless to say, she was as fascinating as the tour!
As with most old properties Achilleion has seen its fair share of modifications over the years.
After Sisi’s death the palace was inherited by her daughter, Gisela, but was not used often. German Kaiser Wilhelm II purchased Achilleion in 1907 and used it as a summer residence. He also hired Carl Ludwig Sprenger, a renowned botanist, to come and live in the palace for three months of the year starting at the Easter season, so he could enjoy the local festivities and cultural events. And probably get that garden tidied up!
I hope you looked at the gardens of Archelleion because Wilhelm expanded on the main theme of the grounds and commissioned his own Achilles statue by the sculptor Johannes Götz. This huge bronze sculpture stands as the guardian of the garden and faces north towards the city. At the base of the statue the dedication read: To the Greatest Greek from the Greatest German. After the war the inscription was removed.
During WWI, the palace was used as a military hospital by French and Serbian troops. From 1921 to 1924, it housed Armenian orphans from Constantinople and all the remaining artifacts were auctioned off. Then in WWII the axis powers used the palace as a military headquarters.
In 1962 the Achilleion was leased to a private company that converted the upper level into a casino and the lower rooms into a museum. In 1983 the lease was terminated and the Palace was returned to the Hellenic Tourism Development Company under the Greek National Tourism Organization. Thank goodness because they have quite a treasure here!
See you tomorrow in the Historic district of Corfu! Won’t you join me?