Burgazada is the third largest of the Princes' Islands in the Marmara Sea near Istanbul. It has a round shape and both the width and length of the island are approximately 2 kilometers. Its distance to the Istanbul port is approximately 9 miles, and the costal band of the Anatolian side of Istanbul is 3 miles.
While the population of the island mostly consisted of Turkish citizens of Greek origins, native Turks with a higher level of income began immigrating to the island during the 20th century. During the 1930s, the island’s population was approximately 1,000 in winter time and 2,000 in summer time. In 1990, its population was 2,311 in the winter time bur fell to 1,578 in 2000. The island’s population is approximately 15,000 during summer time.
In the 1950s, after a number of Jewish merchants settled in Burgazada. This caused a sharp increase in the price of housing. The very wealthy people who settled there built summer villas and houses along the hillsides above Heybeliada. In addition to these villas, waterside houses, kiosks and sanctuaries built at regular intervals add an important aspect the island’s architecture.
The Aya Yani Church, whose history begins well before the conquest of Istanbul, has a special importance in the history of Burgazada. The church, estimated to be built in 876 CE, was overhauled several times and has taken its present shape after restoration in 1896. There is a dungeon located under the church with 11 stairs leading to it. It is rumoured that a priest named Methodius stayed in this dungeon and was later appointed as the church’s priest. Throughout history, it has been known by differenty names, the most known of which are Antigoni, Castrum, Panarmos. The Hristos Monastery and the Saint Georges Hospital are also located on the island. In addition, the famous Ayazma (holy spring of Orthodox Greeks ) called Ayios Loanis, is a place that can be visited on the island. The Burgazda Sanatorium, one of the first sanatoriums of Istanbul, was established on the island in 1928. The only mosque of the island is called the Burgazada Mosque and was built in commemoration of the 500 year anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul in 1453.
The forest which covered the island fell into ruin after the conflagration of 2003. In active collaboration with the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and other organizations, the island has begun replantation efforts in recent years which have gradually begun to work. Because of this, islanders have begun to understand the value of keeping the island green. There is a single mountain on the island called called Hristos peak with a height of 170 meters. “Hristos Peak” is the old name of the mountain, and it is now called “Bayrak Peak,”and it presents the best pictures of the seascape. Mezarlık Cope (Kumbaros Cope) and Kalpazankaya are located in front of the Hristos Monastery and are among the many beauties and natural wonders of the island to be seen by visitors.
Evliya Chelebi (1611-1684), the famous 17th centruy Ottoman traveler and writer, described the island’s castle in his famous book, “Seyahatname,” as being a small castle, foursquared, and located on an escarpment edge on the seaside. The width of the island was described to be 10 miles with very fertile land. He also noted that during this period, there were 300 houses on the island and all of them had gardens and fresh water wells. In addition, the islanders were of Greek of Turkish nationalities. There were also churches and many goats and rabbits on the island. There were innumerable vineyards on the mountains and wealthy mariners inhabited the island.
Sait Faik Abasıyanık is one of the leading Turkish writers of short stories and the most important figures of the island. Today, his residence in the island is maintained as a museum and his name is also given to the island’s square located in front of the port. Another importance of Burgazada for Istanbul is that the first private zoo was established on the island.
Translated by Mr. Irfan KOKSAL