Büyükada (Turkish, meaning "Big Island") is the largest island among the Princes' Islands in the Marmara Sea. It covers an area of 5.4 km², and the distance of the island to the nearest Maltepe shore is 2.3 km. As of 2000, it has a population of approximately 7,335 including Sedef Island.
Büyükada was used as an exile destination and as a monastery region during the Byzantine Christian period. The island was also used to exile the close relatives of kings and statesmen who might have threatened their political power. Furthermore, the island was also used as a prision for those who opposed the ones in power. One of the oldest structures on the island was a convent used for the exile of the Byzantine empress and for clergymen who lived in seclusion; however, this structure has not made it to the present day.. Undoubtedly, one of the most interesting exiles to the convent, named Kadınlar Manastırı, was the Byzantine empresses, Irene, who had the monastery built.
The Büyükada is divided into two districts: the Nizam district and the Maden district. The island consists of two peaks with many steeps. The peak located on the southern section of the island is called “Yorgi Peak” and the other is called“Hristos Peak,” which is located on the northern section of the island. Dil Burnu (the cape) extends for an a distance of 500 m across on the western part of the island. Nizam köyü is located on the northern part of Dil Burnu and Yörükali Plaj (beach) is located on the southern section.
There were 3,000 people living on the island in the 19th century. However, with the start of boat services in the second half of the 19th century, the population of the island, which has gradually increased over the course of time. This is especially the case for Ottoman intellectuals, authors, and for the Greek community, who made up the majority of the population on the island. During this time, it was an attractive living settlement.In addition, the Büyükada is a popular summer house vacation and hosts daily visitors from Istanbul, especially during summer time.
The Büyükada was conquered by Admiral Baltaoğlu Süleyman Beg. The island’s conquest did take a long time as compared to the conquest of the other Princes’ Island. After the conquest, the demographic structure of the island dramatically changed, and it has become over time a symbol of diversity in Istanbul. Undoubtedly, three different places of worship - a mosque, a church, and asinagogue - are the best examples of a diverse community living in peace and harmony on the the same land.
After the declaration of the constitutional monarchy in 1908, Sultan Abdulhamid II (1842-1918) had of his ministers and generals live on the island where they built villas and waterside residences which have left a rich and glossy view. In addition, Leon Trotsky - a prominent politician during the time of Lenin (1870-1924), was exiled from Russsia during the Stalin period (1879-1953) and stayed four years on Büyükada. In the 1920s, a number of Belarussians coming to Istanbul in order to escape the Russian civil war setteled on this island. This has added to the cultural diversity and harmony of the island, and one can experience a diverse taste of many different cultures.
One of the most important places of worship of the Büyükada is the Hristos Monastery located at the top of the Jesus peak. Also found on the island are the Ayios Dimitrios Church, located in Kumsal district, where Orthodox Christian islanders hold their grand religious ceremony, a Jewish Synagogoue, located in the Kumsal district, and the Hamidiye Mosque built by Sultan Abdulhamid II (1842-1918) in 1895. Moreover, there are many churches on the island. Two of the churches belong to the Armenians and Latins, and most of the others were built by Orthadox Christians. After Muslims began to settle on the island, mosques were built, adding to the number of places of worship worship drawing the attention of visitors. In adition to these places of prayer, there are several historical holy water springs called “ayazma.” Other eye-catching places on the island are Ayios Konstantinos, Ayia Fotini, Ayia Paraskevi, and Ayios Yeorios that
In 1930, the Treasure of Büyükada, which consisted of 207 coins belonging to King Phillip II, the father of Alexander the Great was found around the Greek Cemetery of the island. It was added to the collection of the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. This treasure has a special meaning in terms of revealing new historical facts of the island.
Translated by Mr. Irfan KOKSAL