Santa’s tomb believed to be found in Demre

St Nicholas

Archeologists believe they may have found the tomb of St. Nicholas, our Christmas Saint, under a church floor in Antalya.

A little about St. Nicholas

We have run stories in the past about the important link Turkey plays in the Christmas story. In our article from December 2015, The real story of Santa starts in Patara, we told of a young boy called Nicholas born to wealthy devout Christian parents in Patara. On his parents passing, he inherited all their worldly goods. Obeying his religious beliefs Nicholas, little more than a child, set about giving all he owned to those less fortunate. This he did in secret. It is said that he climbed onto the roofs of houses and tossed coins down chimneys – sound familiar? One evening he was caught by a homeowner who told the town of the young boy’s acts of generosity. How Nicholas had been the secret local hero putting smiles on the faces of struggling families and giving hope and happiness to the children of the town. It was Nicholas’s kind acts that formed the basis behind Santas obsession with chimneys and moulded the basics of our magical Christmas story.

The church soon heard of little Nicholas’ actions and, whilst still a young man, he was made Bishop of Myra, now the modern town we know as Demre. And it is here in Demre, at the Church of St. Nicholas, that they may have found a tomb containing this legendary saints remains.

Archeologists believe they have found St. Nicholas’ tomb.

St Nicholas
Tomb of St Nicholas in Demre

According to the Daily Sabah yesterday, Cemil Karabayram, Head of Antalya’s Monument Authority, said that archaeologists recently came across a hidden tomb under the mosaic floors of the church whilst conducting digital surveys. According to files, it appears the church was burnt down and then rebuilt over the tomb. The shrines location does, however, mean that it is exceptionally difficult to access the remains without causing damage to the intricate mosaic tile work – but it is possible.

If these new findings are correct, it would beg the question of whose remains lie in the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy as it is here that Orthodox and Catholic Christians believe the remains of St. Nicholas are kept. It is thought that merchants stole bones back in 1087 from the church in Demre and smuggled them to Italy but this would mean the bones were not of the saint but of an anonymous priest in reality.

Karabayram is optimistic over the findings and hopes that the remains really do turn out to be Santas. If that is the case it would shed even more light on Turkey’s fascinating history and its connection with the magical modern Christmas tale.

A little closer to home – St. Nicholas and his connection with Fethiye, Gemiler and Oludeniz.

St Nicholas
Church of St Demetrius ruins at Ecclesia Hotel in Oludeniz

It is well reported that St. Nicholas was born in Patara, 40 minutes from Fethiye in around AD 275. That he became the Bishop of Myra (Demre) due to his kind acts and beliefs and has a deep connection with the Fethiye area, Gemile Adisi (St. Nicholas Island) in particular where he escaped persecution in the 4th Century. During his time in the area, there is also evidence that St. Nicholas came to Symbola (Oludeniz) more than once, visiting the church of the Archangel and the church of Demetrius – the ruins of which today lie as an impressive feature behind Buzz Bar, as the centrepiece for Ecclesia Hotel on the famous beachfront (see the history on their website – well worth a look if you get a chance).

Should Turkey do more to publicise it’s Christmas connection?

It would be wonderful to find out that the newly discovered tomb does contain the remains of St. Nicholas. We wish the archaeologists luck in discovering the truth behind the tomb. What does amaze us though is how little is publicised about Turkey’s connection with St. Nicholas. Few that we have spoken to know the real story behind Santa Claus. Would it not be worth the Ministry of Culture and Tourism making more of this – Santa tours perhaps? A few features in the press? A Santa trail? Everyone loves Santa. I’m sure it would create more interest and attract a few more tourists to the area.

What are your thoughts? Please comment and let us know.

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