A very nice spot to drop anchor after Karacaören Adasi is Gemiler Adasi (Ship’s Island). The N shore of the historical island which faces land is an ideal location to cast your anchor. Vessels can drop anchor in a draft of eight m. at this spot and tie a mooring line up to the shore. The shoreline facing Gemiler Adasi and especially the bay are suitable for dropping anchor. One can find a restaurant here. It is also possible to reach Fethiye from this area overland. Because of a large and high piece of mainland which is situated behind this island, it is not easy to discern from a distance.
After we have found a nice anchorage point to the other yachts which have tied up along the N coast of Gemiler Adasi, let’s disembark to explore this mysterious island.
Gemiler Adasi was a town of the Middle Ages. The island, which measures 1,000 x 400 in., is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel in the position of an exquisite harbor. Although the S part of the island is very steep, the N side is very convenient for yachts and because it has a slight grade, it is also possible to get onto the island from here. The N shore was once the island’s harbor, but due to earthquakes which struck the region throughout history, the pier which served the harbor hundreds of years ago remains submerged. We can encounter many ruins on the island. Now, let’s check out the island’s historical edifices starting from the W side. Even as we approach the island, one can see these in all of their magnificence. In addition, there are ruins of a fortification wall on the island. There is a cemetary found on the F side. A number of churches that were constructed on the island were destroyed in the Arab raids of the 7th century. However, the Byzantines regained control of these shores in the ‘12th century and rebuilt these churches, which were located along the route the pilgrims once frequented.
Today, Japanese archaeologists are excavating the historical churches on Gemiler Adasi. Church I is situated on the W point and on the seashore. With the exception of the apse and the baptism altar, the other sections of the church’ were destroyed by the waves. As for Church II, it is found on the W slope. The apse and half dome are still intact and can be seen in all its splendor. The apse has three windows with round edges whereas there are frescoes found around the N gate of the church.
Church IV, which is located in the E part of the island, is in a completely ruinous state. However, there are some remains of a mosaic in the floor of the pavilion. There is a necropolis in the E portion of this church.
There is a enclosed corridor between this church and Church III at the top, which connects these two churches. Church III as well as all the other churches were constructed during the late 5th-early 6th century. During the early Byzantine Period, there was a huge number of pilgrims who journeyed to the Holy Land. On their way to these sites in Palestine and Jerusalem, pilgrims who traveled from European countries or from Istanbul passed by the sanctuaries of their saints. Gemiler Adasi was one of those holy sanctuaries. For this reason, pilgrims would most definitely call on Gemiler Adasi. This is also why four churches were constructed on such a small island.
Church II as well as Church III were both named after St. Nicholas. Some documents written towards the end of the Middle Ages name Gemiler Adasi as ‘St. Nicholas Island.’ Even today, there are some places where the island is referred to as St. Nicholas Island. Though this might be the case, St. Nicholas was born in Patara during the 4th century A.D. and was the archbishop of Myra, so we know he didn’t live on the island. However, there were more than ‘1,000 churches built in Anatolia and beyond that were named after this saint otherwise known as Santa Claus.
The most magnificent church on Gemiler Adasi is Church No.111, which is located at the highest point on the island, 99 m. above sea level. Books written during the Middle Ages mention this church in the following way, “St. Nicholas Church is located at the top of the island.” This church is a basilica measuring 30 m. long with three passageways. The W portion of the church was made by cutting through the slope of a rock. It is presumed to have had a wooden roof covered with adobe tiles. Access to the entrance is through the mouth of the tunnel which connects this church to Church No.IV.
The two entries in the S wall of the church open out to terraces that overlook the Mediterranean. The steps at the W edge of the terrace will take you up to the highest spot on the island. The layout of this church was planned in a manner to facilitate large numbers of pilgrims at once. In the course of the ongoing excavations at the site of the church, a seating arrangement for the priests in a semi-circle fashion has been uncovered as well as an cracked alterstone in the center of the niche which measures 190 x ‘100 cm. Carved into the base of the alterstone is a monogram of Jesus’s name in Greek letters - X.C., as well as decorative motives. There are four marble columns seen in the vicinity of the alterstone. The mosaics decorating the floor of the church display geometric designs, a palm tree and other decorative motives depicting heaven. The discovery next to these graves of three Byzantine coins which were minted in the 11th and 12th centuries indicates that the graves belong to this period.
After Gemiler Adasi, we can drop anchor in the inlets next to Bektas Limani and Yogan Burnu to take in the pleasures of these beautiful bays.