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OLUDENIZ…
Our Islands…..St Nicholas and Karacaoren

There are two islands  which lie  in  close proximity to the mainland on the western side of the  Oludeniz Bay.

They are large grey  limestone elevations  rising out of the sea.

Through the centuries wild garlic, thyme, grasses and  bushes have rooted themselves into their rocky crevices. Probably used as  an anchorage in earlier times,  it was Christianity that brought a permanent settlement,  quarrying the islands’ puckered  dark limestone to  build walls, dwellings, churches and tombs. 

The University of Osaka carried out surveys of the two islands  between 1980 and 1999. Apart from the University findings there is no written evidence on the islands either before or after the North African invasions of  the 680’s. Christians moved inland to Anatolia specifically Cappadocia until the arrival of the Selcuks who  built a formidable  navy  able to   protect the Anatolian coasts from marauders.  After this  time St. Nicholas Island is mentioned in the portolans of Portugueses sailers (14th C) under the name of ‘Isola di Perdikai (Island of Partridges) and it may well be surmised that they started then to call the main Island 'St Nicholas'.after the  church. 

From the geographical location of the islands we can surmise that:

1.         They  provided stable anchorages for those travelling  between Kalkan and Fethiye.

2.         Their situation  close to the mainland shore allowed easy access for transport of foodstuffs etc.

3.         Island  fishermen  provided fish  for  the mainland.

4.         The Islands would have been ideal as a centre  for Christian communal living and prayer.

 

Today one can reach St Nicholas Island on one of the daily  boat trips.. Boats  anchor for lunch off the main island, but do not stay long enough for exploration. Alternatively one  can drive via Kaya  village to the Gemiler beach  and hire a boat to cross to the island …500 metres.

The island rears up 200 metres with  steep inclines. Footwear is necessary as the limestone is rough. There is an entrance fee once one steps ashore.

A path winds up the  S.W. end of the island passing rows of dwellings whıch run along the shore-line half way up the island, where a wall separates off the upper religious section. Some of the upper dwellings still have  two storeys, while buildings   near the quays alternated with water cisterns  which collected  the rain water   which flowed  down  channels between the dwellings.

Below, the quays now submerged in water extend  4-5 meters into the sea. Above the separating wall is la arger basilica  partly built into  the rock  with 3 fine apse windows and an ambulatory. On the right one can make out the  fresco of an angel, and   Christ figure?  when entering  from  the north.  Continuing up  the path are various  types of graves, flat  single burials, tunnel tombs with niches and rounded beehive tombs. The latter may have been stations of prayer.As one reaches the ridge one comes to  a wide-stepped covered walkway which runs NW to SE  400 metres from Soguk Su up the ridge of the island   terminating in the domed entrance to a small chapel originally dating to the 5th? century with a blind wall added later.

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The  covered way still almost complete, was a processional route used by  pilgrims ? who crossed the sound immediately below. Levissi (now known as Soguk Su due to a fresh water channel running into the sea here).   A few steps above the covered way one reaches the main church partly hewn out of the rock-bed. With  marble screen and  mosaic flooring, now open to the elements  it must have been a fine small basilica.  Since excavation was carried out  it is no longer possible to enter the church.  Above are the remains of a clerical? building.The views from here are even more extraordinary.Oludeniz is hidden, but Kidrak beach and the Capes are in view.

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A path winds up the  S.W. end of the island passing rows of  dwellings  running along the shore line half way up the island, where a wall separates off the upper religious section. Some of the upper dwellings still have  two storeys, while buildings   near the quays alternated with water cisterns  which collected  the rain water   which flowed  down  channels between the dwellings.

 One concludes that the whole Oludeniz area up till the end  of 7th  C was a centre of  Christian learning plus a stop-off for those on pilgrimages to the Holy Land…. which terminated  with invasions from the north Africa in the 680’s AD. The island lay in ruins for over 400 years until visited by trading sailors who re-instated at least the higher church. There is no  history that inhabitants of Levissi later used the island except for fishing.  Their business was out of the major port of Megri (formerly Telmessos and now Fethiye)

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