Ioannis Kapodistrias was born in Corfu to a distinguished Corfiote family. Kapodistrias’ father was the nobleman, artist and politician Antonios Maria Kapodistrias (Αντώνιος Μαρία Καποδίστριας). An ancestor of Kapodistrias’ had been created a conte (count) by Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy, and the title was later (1679) inscribed in the Libro d’Oro of the Corfu nobility; the title originates from Capodistria, a city on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Venice, now Koper in Slovenia and the place of origin of Kapodistrias’ paternal family before they moved to Corfu in the 13th century where they changed their religion from Catholic to Orthodox and became hellenized. His family’s name in Capodistria was Vitori or Vittori.
His mother was Adamantine Gonemis (Αδαμαντία (Διαμαντίνα) Γονέμη), a countess, and daughter of the noble Christodoulos Gonemis (Χριστόδουλος Γονέμης). The Gonemis were a Greek family originally from the island of Cyprus, they had migrated to Crete when Cyprus fell to the Ottomans in the 16th century. They then migrated to Epirus when Crete fell in the 17th century, finally settling on the Ionian island of Corfu.
Kapodistrias’ home in Corfu. The plaque between the two windows to the left of the entrance mentions he was born there.
The Gonemis family, like the Kapodistrias, had been listed in the Libro d’Oro (Golden Book) of Corfu. Kapodistrias, though born and raised as a nobleman, was throughout his life a liberal thinker and had democratic ideals. His ancestors fought along with the Venetians during the Turkish sieges of Corfu and had received a title of nobility from them.
Kapodistrias studied medicine, philosophy and law at Padua, in Italy. When he was 21 years old, in 1797, he started his medical practice as a doctor in his native island of Corfu. In 1799, when Corfu was briefly occupied by the forces of Russia and Turkey, Kapodistrias was appointed chief medical director of the military hospital. In 1802 he founded an important scientific and social progress organisation in Corfu, the “National Medical Association”, of which he was an energetic member….
….In 1831, Kapodistrias ordered the imprisonment of Petrobey Mavromichalis, the Bey of the Mani Peninsula, one of the wildest and most rebellious parts of Greece. This was a mortal offence to the Mavromichalis family, and on October 9, 1831 (September 27 in the Julian Calendar) Kapodistrias was assassinated by Petrobey’s brother Konstantis and son Georgios on the steps of the church of Saint Spyridon in Nafplion.
Kapodistrias woke up early in the morning and decided to go to church although his servants and bodyguards urged him to stay at home. When he reached the church he saw his assassins waiting for him. When he reached the church steps, Konstantis and Georgios came close as if to greet him. Suddenly Konstantis drew his pistol and fired, missing, the bullet sticking in the church wall where it is still visible today. He then drew his dagger and stabbed Kapodistrias in the stomach while Georgios shot Kapodistrias in the head. Konstantis was shot by General Fotomaras, who watched the murder scene from his own window. Georgios managed to escape and hide in the French Embassy; after a few days he surrendered to the Greek authorities. He was sentenced to death by a court-martial and was executed by firing squad. His last wish was that the firing squad not shoot his face, and his last words were “Peace Brothers!”
Ioannis Kapodistrias was succeeded as Governor by his younger brother, Augustinos Kapodistrias. Augustinos ruled only for six months, during which the country was very much plunged into chaos. Subsequently King Otto was given the throne of the newly founded Kingdom of Greece.