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The stately mansion has been painstakingly rebuilt and restored to take visitors back to the time when it was inhabited by two famous characters from European history, namely Empress Elisabeth of Austria (known as 'Sissi') and Kaiser William II of Germany, whose only common bond was their adoration for Corfu, Greece and its culture.
Empress Elisabeth built Achilleion and William II purchased it after her untimely death. However, the Kaiser never had a chance to enjoy the palace’s beauty due to the outbreak of the First World War, a conflict in which he played a major role in instigating. The Empress decorated the inner and exterior parts of the palace with pieces of art from Greek mythology and history.
She named the palace Achilleion because of her unique passion towards the hero Achilles in the mythological story, The Iliad and the account of the Trojan War. (to edit)*
Occupying a superb position high on a tree-clad hillside near the village of Gastouri, Achillion (also Achilleion) Palace is one of Corfu's most popular tourist attractions. The Palace was built in the 1890s by the Empress Elisabeth of Austria (24 December 1837 -10 September 1898) as a retreat and in tribute to her hero Achilles. Although the statues at the Achillion are modern reproductions they succeed in creating an impression of an opulent classical mansion.
Classical sculpture in Greece began to gather pace in the 6th century BC with subjects rendered in marble. Most were created in honour of a particular god or goddess with many portrayed wearing fine robes. During the 5th Century BC, the craft became even more sophisticated as sculptors were taught to replicate faces in minute detail as marble busts and, as temples demanded increasingly elaborate pictorial carvings, sculptors were called upon to create large reliefs.
This huge statue of Achilles dominates the terrace.* // `The Wrestlers` are shown above.
The Empress Elizabeth, also known as Sisi, whose statue is pictured below, was the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I, and also Queen of Hungary. While travelling along the shores of Lake Geneva in 1898, she was stabbed to death by an Italian anarchist who had missed his chance to assassinate Prince Philippe, Duke of Orleans, and wanted to kill the next member of royalty that he saw.
Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) bought the palace in 1907 and added the towering statue of Achilles Triumphant which now gazes out over the island's east coast, across the sea to the mountains of mainland Greece. The Kaiser was the last German Emperor and King of Prussia, ruling the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia from 15 June 1888 to 9 November 1918, just two days before the Great War Armistice came into effect. He was closely related to the British Royal Family and was particularly fond of his grandmother, Queen Victoria, however, his policy of aggressive colonial expansion and a rapid build up of Germany's naval forces during the early 20th century alienated Britain.
In 1914, following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, Wilhelm encouraged the Austrians to adopt an uncompromising stance against Serbia, offering them unequivocal German support in the event of war. The situation quickly escalated due to the pacts and alliances that the major European powers had formed and the `War to end all Wars` began. While theoretically supreme commander, Wilhelm soon found himself excluded from military decisions.
In 1918, following the failure of initially successful Kaiser`s Offensive, and the United States' full-scale entry into the war, combined with severe German shortages of men and materiel following years of attrition in the trenches, Germany's military had no option but to sue for peace. Wilhelm was forced to abdicate and went into exile in the Netherlands. Following Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1930s, Wilhelm's initial hopes of being restored as an effective monarch came to nothing and he died on 4 June 1941.
Inside the Palace, German influence is unsurprisingly very much to the fore with decoration such as the eagle lamp holder pictured below.** The palace's gardens, sculptures of classic Greek figures, other artwork, ornaments, along with fixtures and fittings make this an ideal destination for photographers but, even if you arrive fairly soon after opening time, it's difficult to avoid the crowds.
Please bear in mind that all images on this website and my blog are Copyright. They are not free to use and have been embedded with a digital watermark.
This panoramic fresco is `The Triumph of Achilles` by Franz von Matsch. Achilles is seen dragging Hector's decapitated body in front of the Gates of Troy while holding his foe`s severed head aloft.