About the Island of Lepers, Sofia's IslandThe Spinalonga Island, means "long thorn" in Greek. It is located in the Mirabello Bay of Crete, which for many years served as a leper colony. Leprosy patients were removed in ancient times from the healthy community, so that other people would not become infected by the terrible disease.
Once a week, the local priest would sail to the leper colony from the village of Elounda on the northeastern tip of the island, to ease the suffering of the sick who longed for their families. It was at this island that they withered until they died of the incurable disease.
The Island, then known as the "Island of the Living Dead," served as a leper colony until 1953. Victoria Hyslop's best-selling novel "The Island" gave the island character and life in face of its difficult history. In so doing, it also turne the island into one of Crete's most famous attractions.
Upon reaching the island, one comes through the "gate of the condemned" - the entrance gate from the sea, through which the new lepers entered the island. Above it is written in Roman an ancient inscription that was so suited to the sad settlement: "May God preserve you."
Many of the tourists who come to see the remnants of the lepers' village also turn their attention to the dead in the cemetery where the lepers of the island were buried. The cemetery is divided by the classes: While the poor were buried under the cobblestone floors, thrown into a pit without so much as a funeral, the high-born lepers were granted their own graves.
What can be seen at Spinalonga?At the center of the small island of Spinalonga stands a hill, atop which stands an ancient fortress. The Venetians built the fortress and its surrounding walls, atop the solid rock of the island in 1579. Later on, the Ottomans came into power and ruled the island, and it was used, among other purposes, for smuggling. When the island became part of Greece in 1903, the Greek government established the leper colony.