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Museums on Corfu - In Corfu Town there are a number of interesting museums. The Antivouniotissa Museum or Byzantine Museum, situated in the 15th century Panagia Antivouniotissa Church, is standing at the stairs that leads from the Arsenioustreet. There is a small but varried collection of icons and wallpaintings that date from the 15th to the 19th century. There are many portraits of saints and a number of biblical scenes. Many of these icons originate from Crete. During the Venetian rule Crete was the most important art center of Greece and many artists from Crete that were en route to Venice made a stop at the island of Corfu. Some of the works that were left by these artists are exhibited here.
The Museum of Asian Art can be found in the Palace of St Michael and St Joris and the exhibition consists of buddhas, bronze statues, stone sculptures, silk, porcelain, weapons and erotic Indian woodcarvings. It is concidered one of the best collections in the world and the largest part of the more than 10.000 objects come from China, Japan, Tibet and Nepal. It was donated to the Greek state by a diplomate from Corfu with the name Gregorios Manos and later donations from other people added to the collection.
The Museum for Banknotes south of the St Spiridion Church is placed inside the Ionian Bank. It is opened from mondays till sundays (sundays it is closed) between 9.00 and 13.00 o'clock and the entrance is free. In the different halls all the banknotes are displayed that were used in Greece and also the story of the making of a banknote is explained.
The Archeological Museum is situated a couple of minutes walk south of the center and contains gravestones, sculptures and statues, theater masks, coins and other things from antiquity that have been dug up. There are many statues of the goddess Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, and it is thought that they were made by followers of the religion and sold in the first souvenir shops of Corfu. As you climb the stairs to the first floor you will see a gravestone that dates from the end of the 3d beginning of the 2nd century BC. It is the gravestone of a 23 year old man that left behind his mother, his wife and his children. It is believed to be the stone of somebody who commited suicide. It is inscribed with the words that the person who died "choose for himself and his own last sleep". Note: the museum is closed for renovation between May 2012 and the summer 0f 2015.
Another important piece in the collection is the statue of a crouching lion, which stands in the back of the main hall. This work of art was found in 1843 at the tomb of Menecrates (a famous Greek sculptor) and it dates from the 7th century BC. It is assumed that it graced the grave of an important warrior that died during the struggle for independance of Corfu from Corinth. Behind the statue of the lion is the passage into the next room where the showpiece of the museum is exhibited. Here you will find the 17 meters long and three meters high Gorgon pediment (crowning of the facade) of the Artemis Temple of Corfu. It is the oldest stone pediment in Greece and is dated to 590-580 BC. On the pediment is the figure of the mythical Medusa, the woman with snakes as hair. According to legend Medusa turned anyone who looked at her into stone.
According to myth, Medusa was originally a beautiful priestess who worked in the temple of Athena. There she was raped by the god Poseidon. Instead of punishing Poseidon (which would be logical) Athena changed Medusa into a gorgon (monster) with the face of a dead person with a swollen tongue and bulging eyes. The hair of Medusa was changed into a forest of winding snakes and she was banished to a desert island. Anyone who would look at her would turn to stone so Medusa would never have anyone to talk to anymore. Thus the head of Medusa had become a deadly weapon and many "heroes" therefore tried to kill her. Eventually it was Perseus who succeeded in cutting off Medusa's head.
Perseus was the grandson of the king of the city state of Argos. This king had his daughter DanaŽ locked up in a tower because he was foretold that he would be killed by his grandson. In solitary confinement she would never get pregnant, but the God Zeus came down through the bars of her prison like a shower of stars, and had made love to her. Because the king didn't want the god to get angry he did not kill his grandson. He put them in a boat without water and food with the intention that they would die at the sea. Instead, they were washed ashore on the island of Serifos, where the king of the island fell in love with the princess. DanaŽ was not pleased with the advances of the king and Perseus defended his mother. He promised the king a gift and he asked for the head of Medusa. With the help of Zeus and Athena and at the end in possession of a pair of winged sandals and a helmet that made him invisible, Perseus finally managed to kill Medusa.
The Shell Museum in Benitses has one of the largest collections of shells, corals, fossils, stuffed fishes, sponges, and other sea creatures of Europe. The museum is located on the north side of Benitses at about 2.5 km from the center, upon entering the village from the north on your right hand side. The museum also sells shells and souvenirs. Open March 1st - October 31st from 10.00 a.m. to 18.00 p.m. and June 1st - September 30th from 9.00 a.m. to 20.00 p.m.