The Achillion is undoubtedly one of the most famous and important attractions on Corfu and is located in the village of Gastouri, 9 km outside Corfu Town. The Achillion was built in the 19th century at the request of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, better known as Sissy.
History of Achillion
Sissy visited Corfu in 1861 and was hosted by the English High Commissioner Henry Stoks at Mon Repos. She stayed on the island for a long time and loved it very much, while her acquaintance with Greece made her appreciate Greek culture and study Greek mythology.
When her young son died, the Empress decided to leave Austria for some time and returned to Corfu in 1889.
She found Villa Vraila in Gastouri and had the house demolished and a new one built. The Italian architect Raffaele Caritto was commissioned to design the new house, which Sissy named Achilleio in honour of the hero Achilles, whom she greatly admired.
The Decoration in Achillion
Achillion is a neoclassical style building built in a lush green area with a beautiful garden with many archaic statues.
The most famous statue is the Dying Achilles by Herter, which shows the slaughtered Achilles trying to remove the arrow after being hit on the heel. The statue dates from 1884.
Next to the Dying Achilles, the 11-metre-high brass statue of Achilles, which stands in the garden, is particularly magnificent and imposing.
In the peristyle of the Achilleion, before descending the stairs to the courtyard, are statues of the 9 Muses of Greek Mythology. The statues are made in the sculptural tradition of the Ancient Greeks.
The grounds of the Achilleion are truly unique in design and well- maintained, with palm trees, exotic flowers and perennial trees.
Inside the Achilleion, visitors can admire the magnificent frescoes and paintings that adorn the reception area.
On the ceiling of the main reception hall is a fresco painting depicting the four seasons, and at the top of the main staircase to the first floor is a huge oil painting depicting Achilles pulling the body of Hector in his chariot. The painting is an attraction in Achilleion and is truly impressive. It was painted by the Austrian painter Franz Matsch in 1892.
Inside the Achilleion there is also a chapel that Sissy built to pray in, which is also decorated with ecclesiastical works of art.
The Achilleion after Empress Sissy
After the assassination of Sissy in 1898, the Achillion was closed for years. In 1907 it was bought by Wilhelm II Kaiser, who made unsuccessful additions and decorative interventions to the palace.
During the First and Second World Wars, the Achilleion was used as a military hospital and suffered extensive damage.
In 1962, Greece leased it to a German company, which renovated it, brought back many of Sissy’s heirlooms and set up a casino in the premises.