Tuesday, April 27, 2010


EurasiaNet Eurasia Insight - Turkey: Thousands Make Pilgrimage to Christian Site on St. George's Day
Turkey is a secular Islamic country. But the Christian feast day of St. George is observed by thousands of Turkish women in a way that is completely unexpected.

Starting in the early morning on April 23, St. George’s Day, the dock area of the Kabatas section of Istanbul is packed for the 6:50 am ferry running to the island of Büyükada, lying about 30 kilometers from Istanbul. The island is home to the 12th century Greek monastery of St. George, which sits perched hundreds of meters above sea level on top of one of the islands hills.

No one can provide a clear explanation of how the tradition began. What is known is that thousands now make the pilgrimage every year to offer up prayers for health and material success.

Those who made the pilgrimage this St. George’s day were a mix of Turkish women, dressed in a wide array of secular and Islamic attire. On the island, a mixture of good luck charms, multi-coloured candles and cotton threads stretched from the bottom of the hill to the top; the colours signified the nature of the requests regarding, jobs, marriage or children; green for peace and money, red for love, and so on. It took pilgrims about 45 minutes to make the 1.5-kilometer uphill trek to the monastery.

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