|Defender of Orthodoxy, Wonderworker, Holy Hierarch, Bishop of Myra|
|Born||Traditionally 15 March 270|
Patara, Roman Empire
|Died||Traditionally 6 December 343 (aged 73)|
Myra, Byzantine Empire
|Venerated in||All Christian denominations which venerate saints|
|Major shrine||Basilica di San Nicola, Bari, Italy|
|Feast||5/6 December in Western Christianity; 19 December in Eastern Christianity
(main feast day – Saint Nicholas Day)|
22 May [O.S. 9 May] (translation of relics)
|Attributes||Vested as a Bishop. In Eastern Christianity, wearing an omophorion and holding a Gospel Book. Sometimes shown with Jesus Christ over one shoulder, holding a Gospel Book, and with the Theotokos over the other shoulder, holding an omophorion|
|Patronage||Children, coopers, sailors, fishermen, merchants, broadcasters, the falsely accused, repentant thieves, brewers, pharmacists, archers, pawnbrokers, Aberdeen, Galway, Russia, Greece, Hellenic Navy, Liverpool, Bari, Siggiewi, Moscow, Amsterdam, Lorraine, Royal School of Church Music and Duchy of Lorraine, students in various cities and countries around Europe|
Very little is known about the historical Saint Nicholas. The earliest accounts of his life were written centuries after his death and contain many legendary elaborations. He is said to have been born in the Greek seaport of Patara, Lycia in Asia Minor to wealthy Christian parents. In one of the earliest attested and most famous incidents from his life, he is said to have rescued three girls from being forced into prostitution by dropping a sack of gold coins through the window of their house each night for three nights so their father could pay a dowry for each of them. Other early stories tell of him calming a storm at sea, saving three innocent soldiers from wrongful execution, and chopping down a tree possessed by a demon. In his youth, he is said to have made a pilgrimage to Egypt and the Palestine area. Shortly after his return, he became Bishop of Myra. He was later cast into prison during the persecution of Diocletian, but was released after the accession of Constantine. An early list makes him an attendee at the First Council of Nicaea in 325, but he is never mentioned in any writings by people who were actually at the council. Late, unsubstantiated legends claim that he was temporarily defrocked and imprisoned during the Council for slapping the heretic Arius. Another famous late legend tells how he resurrected three children, who had been murdered and pickled in brine by a butcher planning to sell them as pork during a famine.
Fewer than 200 years after Nicholas's death, the St. Nicholas Church was built in Myra under the orders of Theodosius II over the site of the church, where he had served as bishop and Nicholas's remains were moved to a sarcophagus in that church. In 1087, while the Greek Christian inhabitants of the region were subjugated by the newly arrived Muslim Seljuk Turks, and soon after their church was declared to be in schism by the Catholic church, a group of merchants from the Italian city of Bari removed the major bones of Nicholas's skeleton from his sarcophagus in the church without authorization and brought them to their hometown, where they are now enshrined in the Basilica di San Nicola. The remaining bone fragments from the sarcophagus were later removed by Venetian sailors and taken to Venice during the First Crusade. His relics in Bari are said to exude a miraculous watery substance known as "manna" or "myrrh", which some members of the faithful regard as possessing supernatural powers.
- 1 Biographical sources
- 2 Life and legends
- 3 Relics
- 4 Veneration and celebrations
- 5 Iconography
- 6 Music
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Nicholas's name also occurs as "Nicholas of Myra of Lycia" on the tenth line of a list of attendees at the Council of Nicaea recorded by the historian Theodoret in the Historiae Ecclesiasticae Tripartitae Epitome, written sometime between 510 and 515. A single, offhand mention of Nicholas of Myra also occurs in the biography of another saint, Saint Nicholas of Sion, who apparently took the name "Nicholas" to honor him. The Life of Saint Nicholas of Sion, written around 250 years after Nicholas of Myra's death, briefly mentions Nicholas of Sion visiting Nicholas's tomb to pay homage to him. According to Jeremy Seal, the fact that Nicholas had a tomb that could be visited serves as the almost solitary definitive proof that he was a real historical figure.
In his treatise De statu animarum post mortem (written c. 583), the theologian Eustratius of Constantinople cites Saint Nicholas of Myra's miracle of the three counts as evidence that souls may work independent from the body. Eustratius credits a lost Life of Saint Nicholas as his source. Nearly all the sources Eustratius references date from the late fourth century to early fifth century, indicating the Life of Saint Nicholas to which he refers was probably written during this time period, shortly after Nicholas's death. The earliest complete account of Nicholas's life that has survived to the present is a Life of Saint Nicholas, written in the early ninth century by Michael the Archimandrite (814–842), nearly 500 years after Nicholas's probable death.
Despite its extremely late date, Michael the Archimandrite's Life of Saint Nicholas is believed to heavily rely on older written sources and oral traditions. The identity and reliability of these sources, however, remains uncertain. Catholic historian D. L. Cann and medievalist Charles W. Jones both consider Michael the Archimandrite's Life the only account of Saint Nicholas that is likely to contain any historical truth. Jona Lendering, a Dutch historian of classical antiquity, notes that Michael the Archimandrite's Life does not contain a "conversion narrative", which was unusual for saints' lives of the period when it was written. He therefore argues that it is possible Michael the Archimandrite may have been relying on a source written before conversion narratives became popular, which would be a positive indication of that source's reliability. He also notes, however, that many of the stories recounted by Michael the Archimandrite closely resemble stories told about the first-century AD Neopythagorean philosopher Apollonius of Tyana in the Life of Apollonius of Tyana, an eight-volume biography of him written in the early third century by the Greek writer Philostratus. Christian storytellers were known to adapt older pagan legends and attribute them to Christian saints. Because Apollonius's hometown of Tyana was not far from Myra, it is highly probable that many popular stories about him became attached to Saint Nicholas.
Life and legends
Family and backgroundAccounts of Saint Nicholas's life agree on the essence of his story, but modern historians disagree regarding how much of this story is actually rooted in historical fact. Traditionally, Nicholas was born in the city of Patara (Lycia et Pamphylia), a port on the Mediterranean Sea, in Asia Minor in the Roman Empire, to a wealthy family of Greek Christians. According to some accounts, his parents were named Epiphanius (Ἐπιφάνιος, Epiphánios) and Johanna (Ἰωάννα, Iōánna), but, according to others, they were named Theophanes (Θεοφάνης, Theophánēs) and Nonna (Νόννα, Nónna). In some accounts, Nicholas's uncle was the bishop of the city of Myra, also in Lycia. Recognizing his nephew's calling, Nicholas's uncle ordained him as a priest.
Generosity and travels
According to Michael the Archimandrite's version, on the third night, the father of the three girls stayed up and caught Saint Nicholas in the act of the charity. The father fell on his knees, thanking him. Nicholas ordered him not to tell anyone about the gift. The scene of Nicholas's secret gift-giving is one of the most popular scenes in Christian devotional art, appearing in icons and frescoes from across Europe. Although depictions vary depending on time and place, Nicholas is often shown wearing a cowl while the daughters are typically shown in bed, dressed in their nightclothes. Many renderings contain a cypress tree or a cross-shaped cupola.
The historicity of this incident is disputed. Adam C. English argues for a historical kernel to the legend, noting the story's early attestation as well as the fact that no similar stories were told about any other Christian saints. Jona Lendering, who also argues for the story's authenticity, notes that a similar story is told in Philostratus's Life of Apollonius of Tyana, in which Apollonius gives money to an impoverished father, but states that Michael the Archimandrite's account is markedly different. Philostratus never mentions the fate of the daughters and, in his story, Apollonius's generosity is purely motivated out of sympathy for the father; in Michael the Archimandrite's account, however, Saint Nicholas is instead expressly stated to be motivated by a desire to save the daughters from being sold into prostitution. He argues that this desire to help women is most characteristic of fourth-century Christianity, due to the prominent role women played in the early Christian movement, rather than Greco-Roman paganism or the Christianity of Michael the Archimandrite's time in the ninth century, by which point the position of women had drastically declined.
In another story, Nicholas is said to have visited the Holy Land. The ship he was on was nearly destroyed by a terrible storm, but he rebuked the waves, causing the storm to subside. Because of this miracle, Nicholas became venerated as the patron saint of sailors.
Bishop of Myra
One of the earliest attested stories of Saint Nicholas is one in which he saves three innocent men from execution. According to Michael the Archimandrite, three innocent men were condemned to death by the governor Eustathius. As they were about to be executed, Nicholas appeared, pushed the executioner's sword to the ground, released them from their chains, and angrily chastised a juror who had accepted a bribe. According to Jona Lendering, this story directly parallels an earlier story in Philostratus's Life of Apollonius of Tyana, in which Apollonius prevents the execution of a man falsely condemned of banditry. Michael the Archimandrite also tells another story in which the consul Ablabius accepted a bribe to put three famous generals to death, in spite of their actual innocence. Saint Nicholas appeared to Constantine and Ablabius in dreams, informing Constantine of the truth and frightening Ablabius into releasing the generals, for fear of Hell.
Later versions of the story are more elaborate, interweaving the two stories together. According to one version, Emperor Constantine sent three of his most trusted generals, named Ursos, Nepotianos, and Herpylion, to put down a rebellion in Phrygia, but a storm forced them to take refuge in Myra. Unbeknownst to the generals, who were in the harbor, their soldiers further inland were fighting with local merchants and engaging in looting and destruction. Nicholas confronted the generals for allowing their soldiers to misbehave and the generals brought an end to the looting. Immediately after the soldiers had returned to their ships, Nicholas heard word of the three innocent men about to be executed and the three generals aided him in stopping the execution. Eustathius attempted to flee on his horse, but Nicholas stopped his horse and chastised him for his corruption. Eustathius, under the threat of being reported directly to the Emperor, repented of his corrupt ways. Afterward, the generals succeeded in ending the rebellion and were promoted by Constantine to even higher status. The generals' enemies, however, slandered them to the consul Ablabius, telling him that they had not really put down the revolt, but instead encouraged their own soldiers to join it. The generals' enemies also bribed Ablabius and he had the three generals imprisoned. Nicholas then made his dream appearances and the three generals were set free.
Council of Nicaea
- Nicholas did not attend the Council of Nicaea, but someone at an early date was baffled that his name was not listed and so added him to the list. Many scholars tend to favor this explanation.
- Nicholas did attend the Council of Nicaea, but, at an early date, someone decided to remove his name from the list, apparently deciding that it was better if no one remembered he had been there.
Other reputed miracles
Though this story seems bizarre and horrifying to modern audiences, it was tremendously popular throughout the late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period and widely beloved by ordinary folk. It is depicted in stained glass windows, wood panel paintings, tapestries, and frescoes. Eventually, the scene became so widely reproduced that, rather than showing the whole scene, artists began to merely depict Saint Nicholas with three naked children and a wooden barrel at his feet. According to English, eventually, people who had forgotten or never learned the story began misinterpreting representations of it. The fact that Saint Nicholas was shown with children led people to conclude he was the patron saint of children; meanwhile, the fact that he was shown with a barrel led people to conclude that he was the patron saint of brewers.
According to another story, during a great famine that Myra experienced in 311–312, a ship was in the port at anchor, loaded with wheat for the Emperor in Constantinople. Nicholas invited the sailors to unload a part of the wheat to help in the time of need. The sailors at first disliked the request, because the wheat had to be weighed accurately and delivered to the Emperor. Only when Nicholas promised them that they would not suffer any loss for their consideration, the sailors agreed. When they arrived later in the capital, they made a surprising find: the weight of the load had not changed, although the wheat removed in Myra was enough for two full years and could even be used for sowing.
A solemn bronze statue of the saint by Russian sculptor Gregory Pototsky was donated by the Russian government in 2000, and was given a prominent place in the square fronting the medieval Church of St. Nicholas. In 2005, mayor Süleyman Topçu had the statue replaced by a red-suited plastic Santa Claus statue, because he wanted an image more recognisable to foreign visitors. Protests from the Russian government against this were successful, and the bronze statue was returned (albeit without its original high pedestal) to a corner nearer the church.
On 28 December 2009, the Turkish government announced that it would be formally requesting the return of Saint Nicholas's skeletal remains to Turkey from the Italian government. Turkish authorities have asserted that Saint Nicholas himself desired to be buried at his episcopal town, and that his remains were illegally removed from his homeland. In 2017, an archaeological survey at St. Nicholas Church, Demre was reported to have found a temple below the modern church, with excavation work to be done that will allow researchers to determine whether it still holds Nicholas's body.
Prior to the translation of Nicholas's relics to Bari, his cult had been known in western Europe, but it had not been extremely popular. In autumn of 1096, Norman and Frankish soldiers mustered in Bari in preparation for the First Crusade. Although the Crusaders generally favored warrior saints, which Saint Nicholas was not, the presence of his relics in Bari made him materially accessible. Nicholas's associations with aiding travelers and seafarers also made him a popular choice for veneration. Nicholas's veneration by Crusaders helped promote his cult throughout western Europe.
After the relics were brought to Bari, they continued to produce "myrrh", much to the joy of their new owners. Vials of myrrh from his relics have been taken all over the world for centuries, and can still be obtained from his church in Bari. Even up to the present day, a flask of manna is extracted from the tomb of Saint Nicholas every year on 6 December (the Saint's feast day) by the clergy of the basilica. The myrrh is collected from a sarcophagus which is located in the basilica vault and could be obtained in the shop nearby. The liquid gradually seeps out of the tomb, but it is unclear whether it originates from the body within the tomb, or from the marble itself; since the town of Bari is a harbour, and the tomb is below sea level, there have been several natural explanations proposed for the manna fluid, including the transfer of seawater to the tomb by capillary action.
In 1966, a vault in the crypt underneath the Basilica di San Nicola was dedicated as an Orthodox chapel with an iconostasis in commemoration of the recent lifting of the anathemas the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches had issued against each other during the Great Schism in 1054. In May 2017, following talks between Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, a portion of the relics of St. Nicholas in Bari were sent on loan to Moscow. The relic was on display for veneration at Christ the Savior Cathedral before being taken to St. Petersburg in mid-June prior to returning to Bari. More than a million people lined up in Moscow for a momentary glimpse of the gilded ark holding one of the saint's ribs.
The clergy at Bari strategically gave away samples of Nicholas's bones to promote the cult and enhance its prestige. Many of these bones were initially kept in Constantinople, but, after the Sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, these fragments were scattered across western Europe. A hand claimed to belong to Saint Nicholas was kept in the San Nicola in Carcere in Rome. This church, whose name means "Saint Nicholas in Chains", was built on the site of a former municipal prison. Stories quickly developed about Nicholas himself having been held in that prison. Mothers would come to the church to pray to Saint Nicholas for their jailed sons to be released and repentant criminals would place votive offerings in the church. As a result of this, Nicholas became the patron saint of prisoners and those falsely accused of crimes. An index finger claimed to belong to Saint Nicholas was kept in a chapel along the Ostian Way in Rome. Another finger was held in Ventimiglia in Liguria. Today, many churches in Europe, Russia, and the United States claim to possess small relics, such as a tooth or a finger bone.
An Irish tradition states that the relics of Saint Nicholas are also reputed to have been stolen from Myra by local Norman crusading knights in the twelfth century and buried near Thomastown, County Kilkenny, where a stone slab marks the site locally believed to be his grave. According to the Irish antiquarian John Hunt, the tomb probably actually belongs to a local priest from Jerpoint Abbey.
In 2004, at the University of Manchester, researchers Caroline Wilkinson and Fraco Introna reconstructed the saint's face based on Martino's examination. The review of the data revealed that the historical Saint Nicholas was 5'6" in height and had a broken nose, which had partially healed, revealing that the injury had been suffered ante mortem. The broken nose appeared to conform with hagiographical reports that Saint Nicholas had been beaten and tortured during the Diocletianic Persecution. The facial reconstruction was produced by Dr. Caroline Wilkinson at the University of Manchester and was shown on a BBC2 TV program The Real Face of Santa. In 2014, the Face Lab at Liverpool John Moores University produced an updated reconstruction of Saint Nicholas's face.
In 2017, two researchers from Oxford University, Professor Tom Higham and Doctor Georges Kazan, radiocarbon dated a fragment of a pelvis claimed to belong to Saint Nicholas. The fragment originally came from a church in Lyons, France and, at the time of testing, was in the possession of Father Dennis O'Neill, a priest from St Martha of Bethany Church in Illinois. The results of the radiocarbon dating confirmed that the pelvis dates to the fourth century AD, around the same time that Saint Nicholas would have died, and is not a medieval forgery. The bone was one of the oldest the Oxford team had ever examined. According to Professor Higham, most of the relics the team has examined turn out to be too young to have actually belonged to the saint to whom they are attributed, but he states, "This bone fragment, in contrast, suggests that we could possibly be looking at remains from St Nicholas himself." Doctor Kazan believes the pelvis fragment may come from the same individual as the skeleton divided between the churches in Bari and Venice, since the bone they tested comes from the left pubis, and the only pelvis bone in the collection at Bari is the left ilium. In the absence of DNA testing, however, it is not yet possible to know for certain whether the pelvis is from the same man.
Veneration and celebrations
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Saint Nicholas's memory is celebrated on almost every Thursday of the year (together with the Apostles) with special hymns to him which are found in the liturgical book known as the Octoechos. Soon after the transfer of Saint Nicholas's relics from Myra to Bari, a Russian version of his Life and an account of the transfer of his relics were written by a contemporary to this event. Devotional akathists and canons have been composed in his honour, and are frequently chanted by the faithful as they ask for his intercession. He is mentioned in the Liturgy of Preparation during the Divine Liturgy (Eastern Orthodox Eucharist) and during the All-Night Vigil. Many Orthodox churches will have his icon, even if they are not named after him. In Oriental Orthodoxy, the Coptic Church observes the Departure of St. Nicholas on 10 Kiahk, or 10 Taḫśaś in Ethiopia, which corresponds to the Julian Calendar's 6 December and Gregorian Calendar's 19 December.
In late medieval England, on Saint Nicholas Day parishes held Yuletide "boy bishop" celebrations. As part of this celebration, youths performed the functions of priests and bishops, and exercised rule over their elders. Today, Saint Nicholas is still celebrated as a great gift-giver in several Western European and Central European countries. According to one source, in medieval times nuns used the night of 6 December to deposit baskets of food and clothes anonymously at the doorsteps of the needy. According to another source, on 6 December every sailor or ex-sailor of the Low Countries (which at that time was virtually all of the male population) would descend to the harbour towns to participate in a church celebration for their patron saint. On the way back they would stop at one of the various Nicholas fairs to buy some hard-to-come-by goods, gifts for their loved ones and invariably some little presents for their children. While the real gifts would only be presented at Christmas, the little presents for the children were given right away, courtesy of Saint Nicholas. This and his miracle of him resurrecting the three butchered children made Saint Nicholas a patron saint of children and later students as well.
Santa Claus evolved from Dutch traditions regarding Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas). When the Dutch established the colony of New Amsterdam, they brought the legend and traditions of Sinterklaas with them. Howard G. Hageman, of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, maintains that the tradition of celebrating Sinterklaas in New York existed in the early settlements of the Hudson Valley, although by the early nineteenth century had fallen by the way. St. Nicholas Park, located at the intersection of St. Nicholas Avenue and 127th Street, in an area originally settled by Dutch farmers, is named for St. Nicholas of Myra.
In a strange twist, the three gold balls referring to the dowry affair are sometimes metaphorically interpreted as being oranges or other fruits. As in the Low Countries in medieval times oranges most frequently came from Spain, this led to the belief that the Saint lives in Spain and comes to visit every winter bringing them oranges, other 'wintry' fruits and tales of magical creatures.
MusicIn 1948, Benjamin Britten completed a cantata, Saint Nicolas on a text by Eric Crozier which covers the saint's legendary life in a dramatic sequence of events. A tenor soloist appears as Saint Nicolas, with a mixed choir, boys singers, strings, piano duet, organ and percussion.
- "Saint Nicolas / Op. 42. Cantata for tenor solo, chorus (SATB), semi-chorus (SA), four boy singers and string orchestra, piano duet, percussion and organ". Britten-Pears Foundation. 1948. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
- Blacker, Jean; Burgess, Glyn S.; Ogden, Amy V. (2013), "The Life of St Nicholas: Introduction", Wace: The Hagiographical Works: The Conception Nostre Dame and the Lives of St Margaret and St Nicholas, Leiden, The Netherlands and Boston, Massachusetts: Brill, ISBN 978-90-04-24768-0
- Coughlan, Sean (6 December 2017), "'Santa's bone' proved to be correct age", BBC News: Family & Education, retrieved 7 December 2017
- Cullen, Ellie (6 December 2017), "Bone fragment thought to belong to saint who inspired Father Christmas discovered in Italy: Academics have tested findings and say they belong to correct epoch", The Atlantic
- English, Adam C.; Crumm, David (2 December 2012), "Adam English digging back into the real St. Nicholas", ReadTheSpirit online magazine
- English, Adam C. (2016), Christmas: Theological Anticipations, Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, ISBN 978-1-4982-3933-2
- Ferguson, George (1976) , "St. Nicholas of Myra or Bari", Signs and Symbols in Christian Art, Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, pp. 135–136
- Greydanus, Steven D. (6 December 2016), Let's Stop Celebrating St. Nicholas Punching Arius: One, he didn't do it. Two, it wouldn't be such a great thing if he had., National Catholic Register
- Hunt, John (1974), Irish Medieval Figure Sculpture, 1200–1600: A Study of Irish Tombs with Notes on Costume and Armour, Dublin, Ireland: Irish University Press, ISBN 085667012X
- Jones, Charles W. (1978), Saint Nikolaos of Myra, Bari, and Manhattan: Biography of a Legend, Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, ISBN 978-0-226-40700-5
- Keys, David (17 December 1993), "Santa's tomb is found off Turkey: Academics claim to have found where St Nicholas was buried. David Keys reports", The Independent, retrieved 19 December 2011
- Lendering, Jona (2006), "Nicholas of Myra", Livius.org
- Medrano, Kastalia (5 December 2017), "Santa is Dead—And the Bones of Old St Nicholas Are Buried in a Bunch of Different Churches", Newsweek: Tech & Science
- University of Oxford (5 December 2017), Could ancient bones suggest Santa was real?: New Oxford University research has revealed that bones long venerated as relics of the saint, do in fact date from the right historical period., University of Oxford
- Seal, Jeremy (2005), Nicholas: The Epic Journey from Saint to Santa Claus, New York City, New York and London, England: Bloomsbury, ISBN 978-1-58234-419-5
- Wheeler, Joe L. (2010), Saint Nicholas, Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, ISBN 978-1-59555-115-3
- Wilkinson, Caroline (2018), "Archaeological Facial Depiction for People from the Past with Facial Differences", in Skinner, Patricia; Cock, Emily (eds.), Approaching Facial Difference: Past and Present, London, England: Bloomsbury Academic, ISBN 978-1-3500-2830-2
- Asano, Kazoo, ed. (2010). The Island of St. Nicholas. Excavation and Research of Gemiler Island Area, Lycia, Turkey. Osaka: Osaka University Press.
- Wheeler & Rosenthal (2005). St. Nicholas: A Closer Look at Christmas. Nelson Reference & Electronic.[full citation needed]
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Saint Nicholas.|
- The Saint Nicholas Center – comprehensive Saint Nicholas related information and resources.
- Saint Nicholas Center: Who is Saint Nicholas?
- Biography of Saint Nicholas
- The History of Santa Claus and Father Christmas
- Saint Nicholas at Curlie
- Translation of Grimm's Saga No. 134 about Saint Nicholas
- 130 pictures of the church in Myra (original tomb at Church of Saint Nicholas, Myra, Turkey)
- Colonnade Statue St Peter's Square
- Literature by and about Saint Nicholas in the German National Library catalogue
- "Saint Nicholas" in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints
- Lehigh Codex 1 Historia of St. Nicholas with the lections at OPenn
- Lehigh Codex 2 Anon. Life of St. Nicholas
The fourth-century Saint Nikolaos of Myra, Greek Anatolia (in present-day Turkey) spread to Europe through the port city of Bari in southern Italy... Devotion to the saint in the Low countries became blended with Nordic folktales, transforming this early Greek Orthodox Bishop into that Christmas icon, Santa Claus.
Nicholas was born in the Greek city of Patara around 270 AD. The son of a businessman named Theophanes and his wife, Nonna, the child's earliest years were spent in Myra… As a port on the Mediterranean Sea, in the middle of the sea lanes that linked Egypt, Greece and Rome, Myra was a destination for traders, fishermen, and merchant sailors. Spawned by the spirit of both the city’s Greek heritage and the ruling Roman government, cultural endeavours such as art, drama, and music were mainstays of everyday life.
Saint Nicholas (Bishop of Myra) replaced Sabino as the patron saint of the city… A Greek from what is now Turkey, he lived in the early fourth century.
For although he is the patron saint of Russia, and the model for a northern invention such as Santa Claus, Nicholas of Myra was a Greek.
The original Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, was a Greek born in Asia Minor (now modern Turkey) in the fourth century. He was very religious from an early age and devoted his life to Christianity.
Nicholas was born around 270 AD in Patara on the coast of what is now western Turkey.
Nicholas was born around 270 AD in Patara on the coast of what is now western Turkey; his parents were Epiphanius and Joanna.
The historical figure that served as model for the Dutch Sinterklaas was born around 270 AD in the port of Patara in the Greek province of Lycia in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). His Greek name Nikolaos means something along the lines of “victor of the people”.
In Myra, the traditional St. Nicholas Feast Day is still celebrated on December 6, which many believe to be the anniversary of St. Nicholas's death. This day is honored throughout Western Christendom, in lands comprising both Catholic and Protestant communities (in the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Saint's feast date is December 19). On December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day, some American boys and girls put their shoes outside their bedroom door and leave a small gift in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon will be there.