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Portrait of Saint Nicholas

True Remains of the Saint Behind the Santa Myth Believed Found in Turkey

Researchers suggest that they have found the almost fully intact temple and burial grounds of Saint Nicholas in Antalya, Turkey. In case the name Saint Nicholas doesn’t ring any bells, keep in mind that we are talking about the original Santa Claus.

Tomb of Santa Claus Discovered?

In case you are still wondering where Santa or Santa Claus is “living,” the answer is: definitely not at the North Pole. According to The Washington Post , the good news is that your parents didn’t lie to you as a kid and Santa Claus did indeed exist; the bad news, however, is that he’s definitely dead.

Archaeologists in Turkey may be on the cusp of correcting a long standing mistaken identification after they detected an intact tomb beneath the ruins of Saint Nicholas Church, in the Demre district of Turkey's south-west province of Antalya.

Tomb in Saint Nicholas Church, Demre, that once housed remains previously believed to be Saint Nicholas

Tomb in Saint Nicholas Church, Demre, that once housed remains previously believed to be Saint Nicholas ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Until now, the bones of Saint Nicholas were believed to be in Bari, Italy, where they were taken by Italian merchants in 1087 when Myra – at the time a Greek town – was invaded by the Seljuk Turks. But who was Saint Nicholas upon which the modern character of varying names is based?

Tomb in Bari, Italy, where the remains previously believed to be Saint Nicholas are currently kept

Tomb in Bari, Italy, where the remains previously believed to be Saint Nicholas are currently kept ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

The Ancient Origins of Santa Claus (AKA Santa, St. Nick, Kris Kringle and Father Christmas)

As previously reported at Ancient Origins , the real story of Santa Claus begins with Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was born in Asia Minor (Greek Anatolia in present-day Turkey) in the Roman Empire, to a Greek family during the third century in the city of Patara, a port on the Mediterranean Sea.  Nicholas used his entire inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering.  One account of Nicholas tells that he presented three impoverished daughters with dowries so that they would not have to become prostitutes. On three different occasions, the bags of gold providing the dowries had appeared in their home.  They had been tossed through an open window and are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas.

A 13th-century depiction of St. Nicholas from Saint Catherine's Monastery, Sinai

A 13th-century depiction of St. Nicholas from Saint Catherine's Monastery , Sinai ( Public Domain )

Nicholas was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man and became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need and his love for children. Thus began the tradition of gift-giving in honor of Saint Nicholas, whose modern name Santa Claus, comes from the Dutch ‘Sinterklaas’.

Saint Nicholas died on 6 th December, 343 AD and so on the eve of his death, children were bestowed gifts in his honor.  December 6 th is still the main day for gift giving in many countries in Europe.  In other countries, the day of gifts was moved in the course of the Reformation and its opposition to the veneration of saints in many countries on the 24 th and 25 th December.

Portrait of Saint Nicholas (BigStockPhoto)

Portrait of Saint Nicholas (BigStockPhoto)

New Insights into the Possible Grave of Saint Nicholas

Fast forward to 2017, a group of Turkish archaeologists believe that they found new insights into the possible grave of the real man who inspired the Christmas icon. The church of Saint Nicholas in Demre has been a popular destination for pilgrims for many years, while archaeological excavations have been taking place at the site for two decades. Beneath the mosaic-covered floor of the church, researchers have conducted scans which show the presence of a previously unknown tomb. Cemil Karabayram, Antalya Director of Surveying and Monuments, was the one who announced the existence of an intact tomb under the church, "The temple on the ground of the church is in good condition," he told Hurriyet . And added, "We believe that it has received no damage so far. But it is hard to enter it because there are stones with motifs on the ground. These stones should be scaled one by one and then removed."

Saint Nicholas Church (Museum) in Demre, under which archaeologists have detected a tomb thought to contain the true remains of Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas Church (Museum) in Demre, under which archaeologists have detected a tomb thought to contain the true remains of Saint Nicholas (Credit: stnicholascenter)

Additionally, Karabayram said that during a study of old documents, archaeologists found notes saying the bones taken to Bari had belonged to another priest. A CT scan, a geo-radar and eight academics had been brought in for the final stages of the excavation work. "The world’s eyes will be set on here. We claim that St. Nicholas has been kept in this temple without any damage. We are at the last stage. If we get the results, Antalya’s tourism will gain big momentum. We will start discussions at an international level after the excavations,” an excited Karabayram told Hurriyet , and hopes that further excavation works at the site will allow scholars to access the temple grounds below the church to determine whether it still holds Nicholas’s body.

Top image: Portrait of Saint Nicholas (BigStockPhoto)

By Theodoros Karasavvas

Comments

"...Antalya’s tourism will gain big momentum. ..."
LOL! That says it all. Everything for the tourist buck!
Some time ago the Turks asked Bari to return the bones of 'Santa' to Demre, because Antalya's tourism would gain big momentum.
But Bari refused. And now, suddenly, the Turks found 'the real remains of St. Nicholas' Yeah right!
Christians who think of visiting the grave of St. Nicholas should know that most of the churches in Turkey are destroyed by muslim Turks. Only those who create big momentum for tourism are kept...

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