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Burgazada Island Istanbul

Burgazada Island Istanbul
Burgazada Island is the second stop on the ferry route, it was originally known as Antigoni and Panormos (“Safe Harbour” in Greek) and is the third largest of the Princes’ Islands .  

The once Greek population of fishermen were replaced in the 1950s by wealthy Jews, who in turn have been replaced by Turkish people buying their summer homes here.  Unfortunately due to a fire in 2003 much of the islands’ beauty was destroyed, wiping out almost all of the pine trees, but it is still a delightful place to spend a few hours.  

The island has an area of 1.5 square metres (5 square miles) is small enough not to need motorised vehicles and has phaeton’s (open, four-wheeled, door-less carriages) that are used as taxis and only needed to reach the more remote restaurants.  

Burgazada’s name is a corruption of the Greek word “pyrgos” which means a tower, referring to a watchtower that once stood on top of the island’s sole hill, Bayraktepe (Flag Hill) 170m (558ft), which was written about in the 17th century by Evilya Celebi the travel writer, and drawn by the Italian traveller, Cosimo Comidas. This hill is also known as Hristos Tepesi (Hill of Christ).  

Many of the best houses are to be seen on the streets of Gezinti,  Gönüllü and Mehtap and when exploring the back streets look out for a 600 year old plane tree that has been hollowed out.  The small island of Kasikadasi ( Spoon Island ) can be seen just offshore from here.

Places to Visit in Burgazada

Sait Faik Museum

This museum is housed in the  charming wooden Spanudis Mansion and was for 20 years the home of the writer Sait Faik Aabasıyanık (1906-1954) who had the nickname “Adalı (the Island Dweller).  He was famous for writing short stories, many of which were set on the island usually about the fishermen and other ordinary people.  There is a small bust of the writer at the ferry terminal.

Churches of Burgazada

Church of Ioannes Prodromos

The most obvious church, although not particularly beautiful, can be seen towering
above as you approach the island and is the Church of Ioannes Prodromos (John the Baptist).  It only dates back to 1899 but is on the site of a much older church that was erected by St. Methodius the Confessor, who in 822, and as a punishment, was banished here by Emperor Michael II (“the Stammerer”) because of his opposition to iconoclasm.  He was really made to suffer by being lashed 700 times, dropped into a pit with two murderers, one of which died and whose body was left so as to make even more horrendous for the other prisoners.  When the emperor died in 829, his son Theophilos released Methodius to the mainland where he became a patriarch and assembled a church council that agreed to restore the icons.  Empress Theodora, the wife of Theophilos, built a church on the site of his incarceration that still exists and is a cellar under the narthex of the modern building.  Methodius died in 846 and was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles that stood where the Fatih Mosque is today.  The church was damaged by earthquake in 1999 and has been completely restored, and on August 29 every year the Greek people gather here to celebrate the feast day of St. John.

Roman Catholic Church of St. George

The Roman Catholic Church of St. George was founded on Burgazada in 1938 by the residents of the Austrian School of Galata so that they could continue with their church services during their summer holidays.

Monasteries of Burgazada

There are two monasteries on the island and these 19th century buildings cover a much longer history.  

Monastery of Hagios Georgios Garipi

The Monastery of Hagios Georgios Garipi is Greek Orthodox and dates back to the Byzantine period, although the first reference to it was in the late 17th century.  It was linked with the monastery of Megalo Spelaoi at Kalavryta in Greece and in 1859 a monk from there added the dormitory that you see today.  It is not known why it is called Garipi and is suggested it comes from an Arabic word meaning “poor” while others say it refers to a well that is in the grounds.  The White Russians used it as a refuge in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and although the building has a Byzantine style it only dates from 1897.  There are frescoes inside the entrance of St. George and the Annunciation, and inside the church has some very beautiful iconostasis.  The building underwent restoration works in 2005 after being damaged by earthquake in 1999 and it opens for visitors from 10:00 to 16:00.

Monastery of the Transfiguration

The Monastery of the Transfiguration is believed to have been established between the 9th and 11th centuries on the site of an ancient Greek temple at the top of the Hill of Christ.  The 19th century church that you see today is surrounded by Byzantine stone that includes some excellent carved capitals and are an indication to its origins.  The Feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated here every year on August 6.  

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