The tomb of St. Nick, who was the inspiration for the tradition of Santa Claus, has reportedly been discovered under an ancient church in Turkey, archaeologists said Wednesday.
Utilizing electronic surveys of the earth, archaeologists discovered mysterious gaps below 1,500-year-old St. Nicholas Church in the Antalya Province town of Demre. The site will be difficult to reach for further investigation as beautiful mosaics that cannot be harmed cover the sanctuary floor.
“We believe this shrine has not been damaged at all, but it is quite difficult to get to it as there are mosaics on the floor,” Cemil Karabayram, head of Antalya’s Monument Authority, told the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, according to the Telegraph.
St. Nicholas became world renowned by using his entire inheritance to help the needy, sick, and suffering. He is venerated for his aid to children and those in need. He became popular as Father Christmas in 16th century Europe, with the Dutch modeling their Sinterklaas figure, the patron saint of children, after him. He became the American cultural icon Santa Claus following a 1930s Coca-Cola ad campaign.
The various stories of St. Nick that have been told over the centuries are compiled at StNicholasCenter.com.
Scholars believe St. Nick came into the world in the ancient Greek city of Myra, now modern-day Demre.
Karabayram says it will take time to reach the shrine, and that there are no guarantees it is the great St. Nick. But he is hopeful.
“We have obtained very good results but the real work starts now,” he said. “We will reach the ground and maybe we will find the untouched body of St. Nicholas.”
Uncovering his body would be an impressive feat of archaeology and ancient history as the great saint died all the way back in 343 AD. For a long time, scholars believed his remains were brought to the city of Bari, Italy in 1087 — but Turkish experts now claim the wrong bones were removed from the shrine and in fact belonged to a local priest.
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