Holy Trinity Corfu
In 1814 Corfu, along with the Ionian Islands became a British Protectorate. The High Commissioner of the day along with the soldiers required a place of worship. A chapel was erected in the Old Fortress by the soldiers at the foot and to the south of the eastern peak: it was built in the Doric style and was named St George. St George being the patron saint of England (garrison church). It was the garrison church until 1864. With the unification of Corfu (and the other six Ionian Islands) with Greece, the parliament in Athens wanted the old fortress to become a military base; they also realized that they had to find an alternative place of worship for the British community in exchange for St George’s which became an Orthodox Church. The Greek government offered the former Ionian Parliament building. This conditional gift was ratified by Greek law in an Act of Parliament in 1869 when the building was bequeathed to the ‘British community of Kerkyra of the Anglican faith so long as it might serve as a house of worship of the said persuasion”. The deed of consecration was signed in 1870. The Ionian Parliament became the Anglican Church and the premises to the rear was the parsonage (chaplain’s residence).
Holy Trinity Church is in a unique position whereby it does not belong to the British Government nor does it belong to any ecclesiastical body, but solely and entirely to the Anglican community in Corfu.
A Corfiot architect John Chronis built the Ionian Parliament building in 1855 in a neo-classical style with a Doric portico, this building was to replace an older building, used as the Ionian Assembly, which was destroyed by fire in 1852. The church flourished from 1869 having a chaplain permanently installed until 1940. For 71 years the Church served the numerous British residents. At the outbreak of the Second World War when most of the British populace departed, the Commonwealth & Continental Church Society (now ICS), was appointed trustee of the Church. During the war the church was bombed and gutted, leaving only parts of the outside walls. Although the parsonage to the rear suffered considerable exterior damage from the bombs, it was able to provide shelter for the Maltese community who occupied the building, preventing pilfering for the duration of the war and they carried out emergency repairs. They also salvaged whatever they could from the derelict church. Some of the Maltese were members of the Britannia Association who held their meetings regularly here until the 1980s. We, the present congregation of Holy Trinity wish to convey our thanks and heartfelt gratitude for those Maltese who saved this building for our use today.
By 1950 the British community had still not returned to the island and the mayor of Corfu taking advantage of this, requested the derelict church to be handed over to the Municipality of Corfu in order to restore it. Although this was not legal the then Bishop of Gibraltar and the Embassy in Athens consented. The restoration was completed in 1962.
Later, through various negotiations, the residence part of the building was retained, repaired and served multi-uses as Vice Consulate, community centre for the Catholic Maltese, a place of worship for Anglicans and storage rooms for numerous packing cases belonging to the British Council. Major John Forte, who was Vice Consul, set about putting some order into this situation.
His first action, after getting rid of the packing cases, was to nail up a notice announcing that Holy Trinity was open daily during the week for public worship from 9 until 1. At that time chaplain’s visits were very infrequent, but by the end of 1970, ICS decided to provide ministry on a more permanent basis. The consulate had to move and the living quarters were required to house a permanent chaplain. An ingenious engineer who suggested lowering the ceilings in the downstairs rooms skilfully turned the servant’s quarters into suitable living accommodation in preparation for seasonal chaplains. On Easter Day 1971, Holy Trinity Corfu was reopened on a permanent basis for the first time in 31 years. Major Forte became churchwarden and he retained this position until 1975.
Major Forte was appointed Honorary Life Governor by the Commonwealth & Continental Church Society in June 1971. He became famous for reviving the game of cricket in Corfu after the Second World War and helping to prevent L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, from setting up a university on the island in 1968. (Read John’s book ‘The Commodore and the Colonels’). Major Forte died August 2012
Many people have been wonderfully used to ensure that the gospel message is faithfully proclaimed. Among those are Margaret Woodley who took over from Major Forte as churchwarden in 1975 and was awarded the MBE by Her Majesty the Queen in February 1999, ‘for services to Holy Trinity Corfu’. Margaret Woodley died in London, June 2013.
Lady Majorie Holmes was also honoured in April 2011 when she was presented with the Royal Maundy Money by Her Majesty the Queen at Westminster Abbey. Her citation for that award said “Lady Marjorie was deeply involved with re-establishing regular worship at Holy Trinity Corfu. Vocal on behalf of the church in gaining financial support, her own generosity has been unparalleled. She has served for many years on church council, as churchwarden and Archdeaconry Synod representation. She is a renowned artist, writer on Mediterranean flora. She has hosted public concerts for fund raising in her home and offered hospitality to a wide range of visitors to the chaplaincy.” Lady Majorie died January 2012.