Saint Anastasia island is located in the Burgas bay. It is build up from volcanic rocks. It is 12 m high, 17 at some spots, and its surface is approximately 9 decare. Between 1945 and 1990 it bore the name Bolshevik. The island is a mystical place that finds a place in many legends and local stories.
Pirate incursions and treasures
One of the most famous legends reads that pirates raided the island during the times when there was a monastery. The monks locked themselves inside the churched and prayed to Saint Anastasia to help them free from the pirates’ incursions. She heard their prayers and sent a horrific storm to the island. It broke the pirate ship in half. Today the wreckage is said to be still embedded in a rock that can be seen by the visitors of the island. It is believed that the reason for the pirate incursions is a golden treasure, buried on the island and guarded by the ghost of a dead pirate.
According another tale, once upon a time Vikings reached the island. There is no recorded historical evidence, supporting this story, but there are traces of two arsons.
There is another story that tells about the strange forces of the island. According the tale, many years ago a drunken captain of a tugboat miraculously survived falling from a 25-meter tall rock.
Saint Anastasia island has three rock phenomenon formations, called the Mushroom, the Dragon and the Pirate ship.
Some people believe that under the island there exist secret crypts, the entrance to which is so cleverly hidden that no one can unveil their secrets. So far no one has found it.
Saint Anastasia is the only Bulgarian island with a church build on top of it. The Assumption of Mother Mary temple is a part of the monastery complex that once existed there. The earliest recorded information about the church dates back to the 15th century. Over the years the monastery has been set ablaze and raided by pirates several times. It is believed that the church murals date back to the 14th century.
The church sanctuary existed until the 1923 when the monastery was turned into a prison, where 132 communists and agrarians were imprisoned. The island prison is difficult to upkeep, which is why its inhabitants are moved to the Burgas police station, and some of them are set free.
After the attack of the Saint Nedelya church in Sofia in 1925, the island is once again turned into a prison. On july 29th 43 of the prisoners manage to escape using two rowing boats. They reached the Cape Chukalya and hid up in the Strandja mountain. In their memory, one of the monastery wings was turned into a museum. Lately it served as a hotel.
The island lighthouse was built by a French company in 1889. It was mounted on an iron pole and raised to 40 meters above sea level and in fair weather its light was visible at 10 miles. In 1912, in the north part of the island were laid the foundations of the new lighthouse which guides ships until present day. It was first lit on June 13th 1914.
The island after the 1960’s
In the 1960’s and 1980’s, the island becomes the favorite place of the creative bohemians of Burgas. The famous Burgas poet Hristo Fotev was called its “governor” for years, as he spent most of his time there. At the time, there was a restaurant, a small hotel, a church and a pier.
The island is also famous for having hosted Rangel Valchanov’s films “On the Small Island” and “The Island” with Kamen Kalev, also starring Laetitia Casta. Since 2001, St. Anastasia Island has the status of a natural-archaeological reserve.
Saint Anastasia island today
A healer’s shop, offering miraculous herbs and potions, made by following old recipes, medieval monastery cell, where you can stay overnight, restaurant with authentic Burgas meals from old recipes… and all of this is placed at the most romantic spot in the Burgas Bay – Saint Anastasia island. You can reach it by boat, leaving from the Burgas marine passenger terminal
Until recently, this sounded like a fairy tale, but for several years now it is a part of Burgas’ reality, thanks to the project, won by Municipality Burgas – “Cultural-historical heritage on St. Anastasia Island” and “Burgas – an attractive and competitive tourist destination”, financed by the Operative Programme “Regional Development”