The oldest human presence in the Bastia region dates back to the Neolithic period, with traces of a hare named Lagomys corsicanus and some human fragments discovered in the Toga neighborhood. The city of Mantinon, mentioned by the Greek geographer Ptolemy, remains mysterious, without any vestiges or information reaching us.
In the early 14th century, the region of Bastia only had a modest Pisan chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas. At that time, Genoa and the Kingdom of Aragon were fighting over Corsica. Founded in 1383 by Leonello Lomellini, one of the governors sent by the Republic of Genoa, the city of Bastia was built in response to the Aragonese takeover of the northern part of the island. The development of Bastia intensified when Genoa entrusted the management of Corsican affairs to a private Genoese bank, the Office of Saint George. In 1453, the governor of the island moved his residence from Biguglia to Bastia.
Despite an unfavorable geographical location, particularly for navigation, the Office of Saint George encouraged the settlement of Genoese families near the fortress by offering tax exemptions. In 1605, Pope Clement VII granted the city the title of Civitas, and Genoa transformed it into a garrison town in 1613. However, its development remained limited and its main vocation was military.
Genoese citadel of Bastia
Coat of arms of Aragon and Moors head
In the 17th century, Bastia experienced modest growth, marked by the integration of the native populations into the original Ligurian settlement. Genoa imposed a ten-year waiting period for citizenship for a long time. By the end of the century, Bastia had between 8,000 and 10,000 inhabitants and represented the economic center of the island, although subject to the taxes imposed by Genoa.
The contemporary era begins with the Revolution and the Empire. Bastia maintains its position as the capital of the island after the organization of the French departments. It is then the prefecture of the island, which constitutes a single department. However, this situation does not last. In 1792, Pascal Paoli, president of the General Council, decides to transfer the local executive to Corte.
The city experienced economic and demographic growth during the July Monarchy and the Second Empire. Work on the new port began in 1862, but it was not completed until almost half a century later. It was during this time that the port could serve the whole island. In 1869, Empress Eugénie de Montijo laid the foundation stone for the future hospital.
During World War II, Corsica was invaded by the Italian Royal Army in November 1942, and Bastia was occupied by nearly 80,000 soldiers. The resistance quickly organized, and the commando of the secret mission "Pearl Harbour" was dropped in the bay of Topiti in December 1942. The city was bombed during the German retreat, a direct consequence of the liberation operation of the island that began as soon as the Cassibile armistice was announced. Bastia was liberated on October 4, 1943, by the Corsican rebels with the help of the Army of Africa, and Corsica then served as a base for the Allies.
After the war, Bastia gradually regained its economic and demographic prosperity. The city continues to evolve and adapt to the challenges of the 20th and 21st centuries. While preserving its rich historical heritage, Bastia remains an important economic and cultural center for Corsica and the Mediterranean.