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Arts et culture - L'architecture

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Corsican heritage is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Europe. Corsican Roman art can be divided into two periods:

The pre-Roman period
It began in the IX century with the building of around ten rural chapels. Most of these are today in ruins. One of the best examples is unquestionably St Jean-Baptiste de Corte whose baptistry is still in condition.

The Pisan period
At the end of the XI century, the Republic of Pisa sent for architects to build some small cathedrals particularly in the Nebbio, Castagniccia and Balagne with the aim of repopulating the coastal areas which had been abandoned. They were used for a place of prayer, for the community and for courts. The best known are San Michele de Murato and the Mariana cathedral (south of Bastia) which are recognisable by their polychrome walls.

Baroque, the artistic expression of the religious revival which arrived in Corsica under the influence of Genoa in the XVII and XVIII centuries.
Many churches in Balagne and Castagniccia adopted this style which was very fashionable in the north of Italy. The front walls had the triangular or curvilinear pediment whilst the interiors were sumptuously decorated with gold, marble, with trompe œil paintings, carved furniture and gold stucco. The church of Saint Jean-Baptiste at La Porta in Castagniccia, the religious buildings in Bastia and the cathedrals in Ajaccio and Cervione are some examples of this visible trend in architecture of the 150 churches built up to the XIX century.

Other architectural constructions, were the military buildings with in particular the Genoese towers, the citadels and forts.

The citadels
They are all situated in the towns with commercial relations with the Mediterranean ports : Bastia, St-Florent, Calvi, Algajola, Bonifacio, Porto-Vecchio and Ajaccio. These houses perched high up protected by ramparts had statues, paintings, carved furniture, religious silverware and gold or silver liturgical ornaments.

The towers
These were built to defend against barbaric invasions, they warned the people in the villages as soon as they saw boats on the horizon. Today out of the 85 towers at the beginning of the XVIII century, 67 are still standing along the coast , especially on the Cap Corse and on the west coast.

The forts
All that remains of the medieval castles of the lords of the island are ruins, mainly in the Cap Corse. Some military constructions which were built to defend a strategic point can still be seen; as is the case of the fort defending the narrows of Tizzano.

Traditional architecture accounts for the Genoese bridges, the typical villages, the houses, sheep barns and fountains.

The Genoese bridges
Built as of the end of the XIII century, some of which were credited to the Genoese were in fact built by the Pisans. The main characteristics of the bridges are their narrowness, humpbacked with one arch, two strong piers on each side and slabs made out of granite. The height of the arch and their position at a wide part of the river were calculated for the sudden rise in water level as often happens in a Mediterranean climate.The oldest is the Spin a Cavallu, on the Rizzanese, between Propriano and Sartene.

The traditional village
In the old Corsican villages, the houses are grouped together in an apparent disorder hiding at first sight their organization in family groups. They are sometimes linked by covered passages and separated by alleys lined with stones in steps, this is the case of San’Antonino in Balagne or Vescovato in Casinca.
The rare villages in the south still have a main household, an old noble dwelling which was also a form of defence for the community. As in Ste-Lucie-de-Tallano and Bicchisano.

The Corsican house
In the centre and the south of the island these were built in granite and in schist in the north, it formerly housed the entire family. They were composed of several floors (more often 4 to 5), the stairs were often in the inside or there were simply ladders so as not to take up too much space. The little openings on the walls helped protect them from the cold in winter and the heat and light in summer .
The rooves were covered with large thin sheets of schist called « teghje » whose colour depended on its origin, blue-grey in Corte, green in Bastia and silver grey in Castagniccia.

The shepherd barns
Dotted over the mountains shepherd barns are now more or less abandoned due to the decline in transhumance.
They were generally made out of large blocks of stone without any mortar, flat stones kept them in place. The shepherd barns in the north had two sloping tiled rooves. In the south the shelters were in the rocks in the region of Sotta. In the limestone region of Bonifacio there are still some baracconi, little round buildings made out of stone topped with vaults of dried ‘lauses’, the use of which dates back to the Bronze age. It was the last slab which made it so solid.

The fountains
These are often situated at the entrance to the village, the charming little fountains made out of stones add to the picturesque scenery, and prove the abundance of water in Corsica in comparison to the other Mediterranean islands.