Aegina: the First Capital of Modern Greece
January 1828 - October 1829
The arrival of Ioannis Kapodistrias in Aegina as newly elected Governor of independent Greece marked the beginning of the country's function as an official state along European standards. It was the first in what had until then been the Ottoman-ruled Balkans. As a shelter for refugees from many of the rebelling Aegean islands, the port of Aegina was briefly the setting for the Governor's flurry of activities for 22 months.
While the fighting had just ceased in mainland Greece, Ibrahim's armies were still wreaking havoc in the Peloponnese, so Kapodistrias came to the island for safety reasons. According to local history, the allied ships that brought him to Aegina, where he landed in the Agios Vasilis area and spent the first few days in a nearby manor belonging to Bey Voulgaris. Kapodistrias himself described his arrival with intense emotion. A few days later, the Governor settled in the Moiras house which was renovated and became the well-known Kyverneio, or Government House - the first public building in modern Greece.
Nearby Mitropoli Church, which also functioned as a council chamber, is where Kapodistrias was sworn in, ready to assume his duties. He was introduced by Theofilos Kairis, a leading educator and politician. The church pew he used has remained closed off since.
A well-rounded politician with geopolitical insights, the Governor had also served as an administrator of the highest calibre as former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Russia. He faced the major diplomatic issues of the new state, trying to find a balance between the politics of local leaders and the central state. He immediately began to promote political and constitutional initiatives, and to forge economic and military policy; in particular, he placed great emphasis on educational policy, which was to be an essential element of his vision for the nation. Thus, within a short time, Aegina acquired a model Orphanage with vocational schools for 500 children orphaned by the war for independence, a School funded by his close friend and colleague, Swiss banker Jean-Gabriel Eynard, and the Central School, where about 700 teachers were trained.
Aegina honours its Kapodistrian heritage and the Municipality has asked for financial support from the ministries of Culture and Education, as well as from the Hellenic Parliament, to help preserve it.