The Tomb of “Santa Claus” is Discovered Beneath Turkish Church

The tomb of Saint Nicholas, the inspiration behind Santa Claus, is said to have been discovered by archaeologists now. The remains of an ancient church, submerged by rising sea levels in the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages, were uncovered in Turkey. Nicholas lived between 270 and 343 AD and is known for inheriting money that he gave away to the poor. The most famous story about Saint Nicholas is about him gifting three girls bags of gold to save them from a life of prostitution. 

In an attempt to protect the saint’s tomb, a second church was built on top of the ancient basilica’s foundation. However, it was only recently that archaeologists found mosaic and stone flooring from the previous sanctuary under the one that stands at present. Nicholas’ final resting place was thus found.

This recent discovery supports claims that Nicholas lived in Turkey and died there too. According to the Demirören News Agency, the team claimed Nicholas also walked upon the same stone flooring hidden under layers of sediment.  Reportedly, the Byzantine church built over the old foundation served as a place of worship for Orthodox Christians between the 5th and 12th centuries. It is surrounded by Nicholas’ statues. Back in 1982, it was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

It is believed that the ancient church was discovered in 2017 by researchers who conducted electronic surveys under St Nicholas church. The survey reportedly revealed gaps between the floor and the ground. The team has said that they are working to carefully remove the Byzantine church’s flooring so as not to damage the tomb. “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 head of the provincial cultural heritage preservation board in Antalya, said as reported by the LBC

The Byzantine church built over the unearthed foundation served as a place of worship for Orthodox Christians 

“Now we have reached the remains of the first church and the floor on which Saint Nicholas stepped,” he added. “The tiling of the floor of the first church, on which Saint Nicholas walked, has been unearthed.”

Born in the village of Patara to wealthy parents, Nicholas is known for gift-giving and charity to the poor. It is said that his parents, who died in an epidemic, left him a huge fortune. These ideas, however, have only been shared in stories and are not presented in any historical document.

In the 4th century, Nicholas became the bishop of Myra. Roman emperor Diocletian imprisoned him shortly after, at a time when Christians were persecuted and then released under the rule of Constantine the Great. Records show that Nicholas was indeed buried at the church built in his name.

The saint died in 343 AD and researchers believe that at the time, he was interred at the church in Demre. This is where he lay until the 11th century. It was earlier believed that merchants smuggled the 1,674-year-old remains to the Italian city of Bari in 1087. Turkish archaeologists later suggested the possibility that the wrong bones were removed. The ones that were taken to Italy, they said, were of an anonymous priest.

Nicholas is believed to have been buried in his church at Myra. His shrine became widely known by the 6th century. Italian sailors or merchants are believed to have stolen his alleged remains from the tomb and taken them to Italy’s Bari in 1087. His relics remain enshrined in the 11th-century basilica of San Nicola at Bari. It is believed that churches across the world have acquired fragments. 

Santa Claus is based on stories about Nicholas. The name ‘Santa Claus’ evolved from Nick’s Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, which is a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas – Dutch for Saint Nicholas. 

Original Article

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