Turkish archaeologists believe they’re on the brink of obtaining the remains of Saint Nicholas.
Researchers say they’ve discovered the remains of the man commonly known among children as Santa Claus, within an undamaged grave at St. Nicholas Church in the Turkish district of Demre,according to Newsweek.
Cemil Karabayram, the head of Antalya’s Monument Authority, told the Turkish press that the grave was discovered using electronic surveys. Gaps in said surveys appeared beneath the church, cluing experts to the location.
Karabayram told the Hurriyet Daily News that they believe the grave is not damaged at all, but it’s difficult to access because of nearby mosaics.
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As it’s excavated, archaeologists will have to loosen the tiles from the mosaics and remove them as a mold, Newsweek writes. Karabayram said that researchers across multiple fields helped with the archaeological finding.
Saint Nicholas is believed to have lived from 270-343 A.D. Upon his death, he was interred at Demre (then known as Myra).
The gravesite was left untouched until the 11th century, when it’s believed he was transported to Venice or Bari, Italy. This came amid the crusades, as armies and whole faiths waged wars over holy lands.
As Newsweek further points out, another account suggests Saint Nicholas’ bones were swept away to a churchyard in southern Ireland — ushered to the countryside by French knights.
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However, the mostly standard belief is that Saint Nicholas’ final resting place is at the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy.
Yet now Turkish archaeologists are saying the wrong bones were escorted to Europe many centuries ago. They maintain that they were actually the remains of an unknown priest.
A short history
Saint Nicholas was said to have been born in Asia Minor (now Turkey). In his lifetime, he journeyed to both Egypt and Palestine.
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What’s more, “miracles” were often associated with him, which is why he became known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker. Faithful Christians began to revere the fourth-century cleric. His tale grew exponentially, as he was known to have a habit of distributing gifts. Upon his return from various holy lands, he was named Bishop of Myra, and he was actually jailed during a period of Christian persecution within the Roman Empire in the early 300s.
When Constantine — the first Roman ruler to convert to Christianity — gained power, Nicholas was freed.
By the 16th century, the long-since-deceased Saint Nicholas began to be labeled “Father Christmas.” Thus, when Dutch immigrants arrived in the early U.S., they called Saint Nicholas, aka Father Christmas, “Sinterklaas.” This morphed into the moniker of Santa Claus.
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