The tomb of the famed Saint Nicolas whose memory was immortalized as Father Christmas and still later Santa Claus has reportedly been found.
The original Saint Nicolas served in the fourth century as the Bishop of Myra, in what is now Turkey. He was famed for his anonymous gift-giving, including surreptitiously stuffing coins into peoples’ shoes.
“The first church was submerged with the rise of the Mediterranean Sea, and some centuries later, a new church was built above,” Osman Eravsar, the chief of the cultural heritage preservation board in Antalya, said of the church in Demre.
“Now we have reached the remains of the first church and the floor on which Saint Nicholas stepped,” he continued. “The tiling of the floor of the first church, on which Saint Nicholas walked, has been unearthed.”
After the church was inundated with rising sea levels, a new church was built atop it to protect Saint Nicolas’ tomb.
“Turkish archaeologists reportedly detected a crypt 5ft beneath the marble slabs which make the church’s floor,” The Irish Sun reported.
Prior research believed the remains of the saint had been stolen by Italian thieves in the 11th century, but Turkish archaeologists aver that the bones in Italy were those of an unknown priest.
One story told of the original Saint Nicolas relates that he bequeathed three poor girls marriage gifts consisting of bags of gold to prevent them from turning to a life of prostitution. He was said to have climbed up to their windows and thrown the money in so they would not be embarrassed by receiving the money in public.
The Roman emperor Diocletian, who hated Christians, reportedly imprisoned Nicolas, but he was released by Emperor Constantine, who embraced Christianity.
After his death, Nicolas became the patron saint of Russia and Greece and cities from Fribourg to Moscow. Literally thousands of European churches were dedicated to him.
In Holland, Saint Nicolas was known for the Reformation as Sinterklaas; when Dutch colonists came to America that name evolved into Santa Claus. “His legend of a kindly old man was united with old Nordic folktales of a magician who punished naughty children and rewarded good children with presents,” Britannica notes.