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Destination Guides Fethiye

St. Nicholas Island

The island is approximately 9 km. to the south of Fethiye. It can be reached by boat from the Bay of Gemile through Kayakoy. Gemile, or Saint Nicholas Island, situated at the Oludeniz Lagoon Area, known as Sybola in the Middle Ages, was a prominent religious centre, especially in the 5th century B.C. It was a port of call for commercial and cruising vessels from Europe and Eastern Mediterranean, as well as a centre of pilgrimage. In addition to numerous churches and chapels, there were ecclesiastical schools.

There are various narratives in connection with the name of the island. For example, in a medieval Portulan, there is mention of the dedication of a church on the mountain top to Saint Nicholas.

However, it is not yet certified whether this Nicholas is the same as Saint Nicholas of Demre (Myra), more popularly known as Santa Claus.

A certain Nicholas lived on this island, but his identity is not very clear as yet. The significance of this island will, therefore, be open for discussion in future years.

Since 1990, a surface survey has been carried out by a Japanese team which unearthed 11 churches on and around the island. Four are on the Gemile Island, one on Karacaoren and the rest at Oludeniz and around the Bay of Karaoren. The Island of Gemile and its vicinity are doubtless a significant centre for Christianity. Besides religious buildings, there are houses for people working or living on the island. Since it is a rocky terrain, the foundations of the churches and the houses are carved into the rocks. The ruins continue within the sea along the shore. The island is declared as a protected area and there is a watchman to meet and guide the numerous visitors.

In 1995 a salvage excavation was instigated in collaboration with the Fethiye Museum and a Japanese team, which is still under way, presided by the Director of the Museum.

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