Emerging out of the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean is an alluring expanse of rocky cliffs and rugged mountains descending into the smooth coastline of the Island of Corsica. Being inhabited since the Mesolithic era, Corsica has then been ruled by the Greeks, Romans, Pisans and finally the French; which also characterizes the vibrant architecture of the place. Justly named as the ‘Isle of Beauty’, Corsica is full of historic places relishing the views of sea and land simultaneously.
1. Church Sainte-Marie-Majeure
This 12th Century cathedral marks the confluence of Romanesque and Gothic styles for the first time in Corsican history. While the Rose Window is a Gothic addition, the semi-circular vaults and plain façade are of the Romanesque style. The Campanile further adds to the charm of this ancient cathedral.
2. Saint-Dominique Cathedral/ Ajaccio Cathedral
Another example of the Romanesque-Gothic mix is the Church of St. Dominique of the 13th century. The unique Bell Tower here is octagonal in shape, topped with battlements. This six-bay nave chapel housing Italian paintings and sculptures were declared a Historic Monument in 1862.
3. Citadel of Bonifacio
This well-preserved and massive fortifying wall of the Citadel runs along the cliff and is one of the initial constructions in the city. The city engulfed within is defined by its cobbled streets and medieval churches and houses. Even after several restorations, the fortress walls still function as the military defense for the city.
4. Maison Bonaparte
A lesser-known fact about Corsica is that it is the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. Built-in 1629, Maison Bonaparte in Ajaccio is the ancestral house of the French Leader. This old-town dwelling is currently a museum, displaying artifacts and valuables of Bonaparte family.
5. Musée Fesch Museum
Established and named after Napoleon I’s uncle, the Palais Fesch-musée des beaux-arts are the museum of fine arts in the capital of Corsica. The 4- storeyed structure boasts the largest collection of Italian, Baroque, and Renaissance Paintings, housed outside the Louvre.
6. Church of St. John The Baptist
The church built in 1666 enjoys the views of the land as well as the water owning to its beautiful placement. The serenely decorated interiors treat the viewer with numerous artworks and a marbled statue of St. John. The Bell Tower was a later addition in the 19th century. Located in Batista, the church was recognized as a Historic Monument in 2000.
7. Notre Dame De L’assomption In Ajaccio
Also known as the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Ajaccio, the current Church was rebuilt in 1593, after the original structure was destroyed in 1553. The counter-Reformation Baroque styled façade transforms into an extravagantly decorated interior having a central nave, transept covered by a dome, barrel-vaulted roofs, and aisles flanked by rows of columns on either side, and a marbled high altar. This Roman Catholic Church was designed by Italian Architect Giacomo Della Porta.
8. Governors’ Palace In Bastia
The sole Genoese- Palestine Fortress in the region, this Palace relishes the complete views of gardens and sea around it. The massive stone wall with its grey roofs glinting in the sun is punctured by horizontal series of windows on every level. Classified as a historic monument in 1977, The Governor’s Palace was primarily a watchtower and a defense organ.
Renovations are currently underway to make this former Genoa Governors’ Palace an art and history museum.
9. The King of Aragon’s Staircase In Bonifacio
The Cliffs of Bonifacio descend into the waters via the famous stairway of King of Aragon. This 187 stepped stair-trail, carved along the limestone cliff is set at steep 45°- making it tedious to climb back up. Local legend states that the staircase was constructed in one night by the King’s Troops, though it’s most likely to have been constructed by residents to collect fresh water.
10. The Tower of Porto
This huge, imposing square tower forms the 16th century and was restored in 1993. The Torra de Portu, accessed by a fleet of stone steps offers exceptionally stunning views of the hill-side, gulf, and the sea beyond. This 45m tall structure was built was one of the defense towers built along the coastline. Today it is a World Heritage Monument.
11. Corbara, A Village On The Hillside
Located on the hill-side, the village of Corbara is the traditional Corsican village unveiling houses grouped together, linked by covered passages and separated by alleys lined with stoned steps. An example of the vernacular style, houses at Corbara is built using granite and composed of 4-5 floors, accessed by internal staircases (or ladders, to save up space) and have little openings on the side that let in the light and heat.
The village of Corbara has houses spread around an amphitheater and numerous religious buildings.
12. Citadel of Corte
A unique Corsican fortification, far away from the sea, sits grandly over the hill, dominating the village skyline. Also referred to as The Eagle’s Nest, the citadel was a military barrack during the Second World War.
13. Chapel of De L’immaculée Conception
The modest exterior of the Chapel hides its handsomely adorned interior. Walls covered with woodwork and scarlet velvet damask adorning the nave, with Baroque vaults supported over tall, carved, monolithic columns and the main marbled Altar surrounded by 17th-century paintings are a treat to the eyes of the visitor.
14. Chapel of Saint-Roch
This Neo-Classical chapel was built by architect Jean-Louis Bastia Guasco. With Tuscan columns supporting the entablature under the triangular pediment, the façade and Bell Tower portray a Roman sense, while the interior is styled in marble speaks out Baroque.
15. Church of Santa-Maria-Assunta
This 13th century Church (restored in 1982) has an unembellished façade and a Latin cross plan. The notable Bell tower here is the focal point with its three massive bells that were primitively used to call for meetings.