CHRISTMAS RUINED FOREVER? SANTA CLAUS’S TOMB FOUND?
So much for all the kids who did all they could to be good little boys and girls this year. Their hopes for a good Christmas haul may have been ruined forever. It wasn’t the Grinch this time, it was archaeologists in Turkey who claim to have discovered the burial place of Saint Nicholas, the jolly man who is supposed to still be fulfilling kids’ dreams every Christmas, working out of his hidden compound in the North Pole.
ARCHAEOLOGISTS FIND HIDDEN TEMPLE, BURIAL GROUNDS UNDER ST. NICHOLAS CHURCH IN TURKEY
Turkish archeologists conducted surveys that uncovered an intact temple as well as burial grounds below, of course, St. Nicholas church which is located in the province of Antalya, where historians believe he was born. The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet did the local reporting. “We have obtained very good results but the real work starts now,” said Cemil Karabayram, the director of surveying and monuments in Antalya. “We will reach the ground and maybe we will find the untouched body of Saint Nicholas.” Revered for his gift-giving and aid to the poor, the 4th-century saint gave rise to the legend of Santa Claus.
BURIAL SITE IN DISTRICT WHERE SAINT NICHOLAS BELIEVED TO BE BORN
In recent years, the church in Demre district in Antalya, near his birthplace, has been restored and draws many visitors. Demre is built on the ruins of Myra, the city where Saint Nicholas, revered by many denominations in Christianity as Santa Claus is believed to have lived.
It had been thought that the remains of Saint Nicholas were transferred from Demre by sailors who smuggled them to the city of Bari in Italy, where the St Nicholas Basilica still stands.
According to that version of events, the remains of Saint Nicholas were transferred to Bari as parts of the Byzantine empire in modern-day Turkey fell to Muslim invaders around the First Crusade, 700 years after his death. Venice also competed to host his body and today contains relics belonging to the saint.
SANTA CLAUS BODY HAD BEEN BELIEVED TO BE IN VENICE, WHICH STILL HAS RELICS FROM THE JOLLY FAT MAN
Based on documents obtained from the area, Turkish archaeologists now believe the remains belonged to a local priest rather than the saint, whose body may still be within the temple complex. The theft probably took place after the church was burned down and was being restored.
The archaeologists recently began the fresh surveys, discovering the temple below the modern church using ground-penetrating radars. They said the temple was almost intact but inaccessible due to the presence of stone reliefs and mosaics that needed to be preserved.
CAREFUL DIGGING WILL SOON REVEAL IDENTITY OF BODY IN TOMB, PERHAPS STILL HOPE FOR CHRISTMAS AND SANTA CLAUS
Excavation work will allow scholars to access the temple grounds below the church to determine whether it still holds Nicholas’s body.
The saint’s fabled gift-giving gave rise to the legend of Sinterklaas in the Netherlands, which morphed into Santa Claus and was popularised in the US by Dutch immigrants to the colonies.