The Real St. Nicholas, Discovered?

The Associated Press says that the remains of St. Nicholas may have been discovered in Turkey:

Turkish archaeologists believe they may have discovered the remains of St. Nicholas — from whom the legend of Santa Claus emerged — beneath a church at his birthplace in southern Turkey.

St. Nicholas was born and served as a bishop of what is now the Turkish Mediterranean town of Demre, near Antalya, in the 4th century. He was buried in the area formerly known as Myra, but his bones were believed to have been stolen and taken to the southern Italian town of Bari.

There are a number of stories about bones of saints being stolen and transported to a more favorable location. Saint Mark may be the most famous such instance, but far from the only one. I have always been skeptical about such claims.

Archaeologists, however, have recently discovered what they think is a temple below the church and now believe his remains may be lying there, Cemil Karabayram, the head of Antalya’s Reliefs and Monuments authority, told The Associated Press by telephone.

Archaeologists are not always free from self-interest:

“This is an important find both culturally and for Turkey’s tourism,” Karabayram said.

For what it’s worth, I hope the bones are real. I had never thought much about St. Nicholas until, a few years ago, I came across Bill Bennett’s book The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas.

If you’ve ever been asked, “Who is Saint Nicholas?”…
If you’ve ever wondered if he is just a commercial invention…

If you’ve ever thought there is no such person…

You may be surprised to know the true Saint Nicholas.
You’ll never again think of Santa Claus in quite the same way.

I think I interviewed Bill about the book on a podcast or radio show; I am pretty sure I plugged it on this site. The holiday season is just around the corner, so you might want to pick up a few copies of The True Saint Nicholas to give to family and friends. As the AP says, “St. Nicholas was known for his generosity.” And that was by no means his only virtue. These days, such reminders of the past are valuable.

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