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Ousters’ island

16 September 2015 / 15:09:21  

St. Anastasia is the only inhabited island along the Bulgarian coast. Born from a volcano, its origin seemed to mark its fate of a monastery, the subject of raids and naval battles, a prison for unwanted and an asylum for those who seek seclusion, salvation for some, convict prison for others. Named after a saint that protects the poor and prisoners, its fate was to be separated from the world not only geographically but also spiritually.

St. Anastasia Farmakolitria (Healer), whose name the island bears, is among the few female martyrs that both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church worship very earnestly and with love. The monastery is the only island Bulgarian monastery that has survived to the present day. The earliest information on it dates back to the 15th century.

In the 19th century, the island became the scene of sea battles between Russia and the Ottoman Empire.

In 1923, the monastery was turned into a prison. Due to the location of the prison on the island, nowadays it is called the Bulgarian "Alcatraz". On 29 July 1925, 43 detainees managed to escape by two rowing boats to Cape Chukalya where they hid in Strandzha Mountain. One of the monastery wings was later converted into a museum in their memory.

The island has a lighthouse built by a French company in 1889. The foundations of the new lighthouse that guides ships even today were laid in the northern part of the island in 1912. The lighthouse uses the original lenses that were made in the 19th century.

Between the 1960s and 1980s, the island became a favourite place of Burgas bohemian society. Great poet from Burgas Hristo Fotev spent much of his time on the island where there was a restaurant, small hotel, church and a pier at that time.

Since May 2014, the island of St. Anastasia has been renovated under a European project and opened for tourists and guests of Burgas. Visitors are now welcomed by the Lekarna offering miraculous herbs and potions, a medieval monastic cell where they can spend the night, a restaurant offering authentic dishes prepared from old recipes from Burgas. A small amphitheatre on the island hosts various cultural events and concerts whereas an interactive museum reveals the history of the island.

Photos: Diana Yosifova

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