The Capodistrias Family
The family of Vittori – Capodistrias is one of the oldest families in Corfu, being registered members of the city’s Grand Assembly since 1477. In fact, in 1689, the Ruler of Savoy awarded the title of Count to Viaros Capodistrias, son of Victor, and to Viaros’s heirs, and this title was later recognized by Venice and the Ionian State.
It is said that the Capodistrias family arrived in Corfu at the end of the 14th century from the city of Capo d’Istria, situated in today’s Slovenia. Although their family name was Vittori, it didn’t take long before they assumed the name that indicated their place of origin: Capodistrias.
During the long period of Venetian Rule, when Corfu presented many common aspects with other western European cities, the Capodistrias family had a major presence in the island’s political, economic and social affairs – not to mention the island’s military services. Ioannis’s father, Antonios Maria Capodistrias (1741 – 1821), a respected lawyer, was actively involved with the political life and events of Corfu. Appointed as Corfu’s representative to the Sublime Porte, he participated in the negotiations for the founding of the Septinsular Republic.
Along with Ioannis, other children of the family who were involved in politics were Viaros and Avgoustinos, who also participated in the administration of the Septinsular Republic, and who later rose to assume positions of critical importance in the administration of the State of Greece. In fact, Avgoustinos was one member – albeit for just a few months – of the three-member committee that handled the governance of the State following the assassination of Ioannis Capodistrias.
In the 20th century, Maria Capodistria – Desylla (1898 – 1980) became yet another member of the family who rose to prominence. She was involved with matters of public interest and was elected Mayor of Corfu (1956 – 1959), the first woman Mayor in Greece. In a gesture of rare generosity, she donated the family country home in Koukouritsa, along with family heirlooms and other items from her family’s long history, in order to create Capodistrias Museum. Descendants of the family of Capodistrias still survive in our times.