Pelekas Local History

A brief history of Pelekas

(With thanks to local historian and social anthropologist Spiros Bizis who wrote the original study on which these notes are based.)

It is still unknown where the name Pelekas comes from, although one suggestion is that it derives from the word "pelekis" which was a type of ancient axe, used by the villagers for cutting wood or carving stone. Nor is it known when the village was founded, although the name Pelekas can be found in the historical archives of Corfu as far back as the 16th century and in church records dating from the 17th century.

At this time two forces dominated the region; The Ottoman Turks and the Republic of Venice. Despite brief periods of occupation by the Turks, Corfu was under the control of Venice until its defeat by Napoleon in 1797. There was then a short period of French occupation but in 1798, a joint Russian Turkish protectorate was established. This lasted until the island was ceded to the French in 1807. The British occupied Corfu in 1809 and, following the Congress of Vienna in 1815, set up the Union of the Ionian Islands under their protection. Following the outbreak of the Greek war of Independence in 1821, which received strong support from Corfiots, the Turks were gradually driven northward. Britain returned Corfu to the new Greek State in 1864.

Population growth can be measured by looking at censuses conducted in the 18th and 19th centuries.

  • In 1759, Pelekas had: 51 families, 283 residents, 4748 olive trees, 38 guns, 5 pistols, 8 swords, 4 olive oil factories and 1 cotton/linen loom.
  • In 1770 Pelekas had 51 families, 290 residents, 9647 olive trees, 38 guns, 8 pistols, 8 swords, 4 olive oil factories and 1 cotton/linen loom.
  • In 1803 Pelekas had 370 residents.
  • In 1879 Pelekas had 685 residents, plus 40 who lived in the region of the Monastery of Myrtiotisa.

Therefore, from the census of 1759 until the census of 1879 there was a 156% increase in population.

The prosperity and devoutness of the residents of Pelekas encouraged them to build several churches. In 1755 the following churches existed in Pelekas;

  • Theotokos Odigitria
  • Saint Nikolaos
  • Thetokos Evangelistria
  • Thetokos Platytera
  • Saint Anargyri
  • Saint Onoufrios

(These churches still exist today. To see pictures of them click here.)

Between 1908 and the First World War the German Kaiser, Wilhelm, spent his summers at Achilleion Palace on the east coast of Corfu. His favourite trip was to Pelekas to watch the sunset. A lookout point on the rock summit above the village is still known today as "Kaisers Throne" from where you can enjoy the breathtaking view of the island spread out below. The best place to watch the magnificent sunset is from the terrace of the nearby Levant Hotel.

In 1866, after the Ionian Islands had been given back to Greece by the British Protectorate, twelve municipalities were established within the Prefecture of Corfu. Pelekas, and its 796 residents, initially belonged to the Municipality of Parelion. In 1912 Pelekas became an independent municipality with its own mayor.

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