After the acceptance of Christianity as the official religion, Christian communities grew along the coast. Oludeniz and the surrounding bays offered ships enroute to Jerusalem good anchorage and became an ideal place to settle. There are the remains of six churches in Oludeniz and Gidrak, and a number of others on nearby islands, leading historians to believe that the entire region was most likely a place of teaching and pilgrimage.
When the Gurkan family first bought the land in 1970 little was known of the history of the church. It was only after lengthy research that the true historical significance and magic of the building came to light. The knowledge we have today is largely thanks to the work of Professor Shigebumi Tsuji who carried out work in St. Nicholas Island area, Fethiye Museum, who has patiently supervised excavations and research on the church since 2000.
St. Demetrius was the largest church in the area. Its barrel vault construction was most likely built using spoilage left over from the Roman period.
The Church Interior
The construction would have started from the apse and worked West. The Basilica consists of a wide apse with a chapel to its right, a central nave, and two side naves, the North being the wider. The floor of the narthex bears a mosaic dedication to two donors, Stephanus and Euchutios. Additional mosaics have been discovered, including a rare, vibrantly coloured pomegranate. Behind stood a rectangular, open-air atrium allowing views of the church through its columns and juniper or cedar beams. This area may also have housed a reflective pool, as no cistern has been found.
During the 7th Century the area was pillaged by pirates from the North African coast and the church was burnt down. As a result, the majority of the mosaics were damaged by falling debris. Thankfully the mosaics in the Northern nave still remain in excellent condition despite 1300 years of abandonment, and are a highlight of the church.
Today St. Demetrius is covered by protective roofing and restoration on the mosaic floor has been completed in hopes to protect it from the harsh elements and erosion.