Corsican heritage and history

Corsican architecture is modelled by its insularity, geography (mountainous island where isolated valleys make inter-regional exchanges difficult) and its history of numerous raids and invasions.

Its first inhabitants built the island's towers, fortified villages (Cucuruzzu, Capula...), dolmens (Sittiva, Fontanaccia...) and statues-menhirs (Filitosa, Pallagiu, Stantari...), giving Corsica the largest number of megalithic statues in the Mediterranean.

The people of the Antiquity period fought over the coastline: Etruscans, Syracusans, Carthaginians and Phocaean Greeks, who founded Aléria at around 565 B.C.

In 259 B.C. they were hunted by the Romans, who set up in Aléria, the Corsican capital, building temples, public baths, villas and forums. Christianity spread fervently over the island from around 60 A.D.

In 774, Corsica officially became attached to the Holy See, which founded bishop's palaces, convents and monasteries. However the Middle Ages were grim for Corsica. The island was ravaged by the Moors and Saracen pirates, forcing its inhabitants to take refuge in the mountains.

Upset by the island's fate, the Pope delegated its occupation and pacification to Pisa. Two centuries of prosperity and relative peace then followed and can be seen in the beautiful Roman chapels, churches and cathedrals (San Michele in Murato, Trinité in Aregno, Canonica in Lucciana, Cathédrale du Nebbio [cathedral] in Saint-Florent...).

The Genoese colonisation (1284 – 1729) faced popular revolts, governing difficulties and invasion attempts on the island. Genoa built citadels and fortresses (Ajaccio, Bastia, Corté, PortoVecchio, Calvi...), small forts (Girolata, Aléria...), bridges (Ponte Novu, Pont d'Altiana, Spin'a cavallu...), roads and its famous Genoese towers (Porto, Campomoro, Girolata, Roccapina...), a watchtower defence system encircling the coastline.

Little by little the economy developed with olive and chestnut groves. Baroque churches were built: columns, arches, eaves, pilasters and coloured hues (Saint-Jean-Baptiste de La Porta, Saint Jean-Baptiste in Bastia, Castagniccia and Balagne churches...).

The villages' physiognomy was born from this history. Often confined to the mountains, Corsicans lived modest lives through crop and livestock farming. The foundation of villages met the island's strategic imperatives. Set high up on summits, rocky peaks or in the hollows of the valleys, they can only be accessed by winding paths. They contain solid, simple houses built using local materials (granite and ridge tiles in southern Corsica, schist and schist stone tiles in upper Corsica). Occasionally a fortified house belonging to an important figure was used as a refuge by the population. Windmills, fountains, chapels and shepherd's cottages tell the tale of this pastoral life. Deeply rooted in Corsican memory, they are now undergoing restoration.