Archaeologists have found the exact location of the tomb of Saint Nicholas in Turkey, as well as a fresco representing Jesus holding the Bible in one hand dating from the 3rd or 4th century.

This would be the most fascinating discovery ever made in the Church of Saint Nicholas, a Byzantine building located in Antalya, in the south of Turkey, which is the subject of all the attention of a team of archaeologists for several years. Their excavations have revealed the exact location of the tomb of Saint Nicholas, who inspired Santa Claus, as well as a fresco of Jesus, Daily Sabah reveals, Tuesday October 11, 2022. Saint Nicholas, who lived between 270 and 343, was a Christian bishop from the time of the Roman Empire. The current building was built in 520 on the foundations of an older Christian church, where Saint Nicholas would have had the function of bishop. He would have been buried there.

“The original church was submerged almost eight meters with the rising Mediterranean Sea, and a few centuries later a new church was built over it,” said Osman Eravşar, an official of the Turkish regional council in responsible for the preservation of cultural heritage at the Hürriyet Daily News, Wednesday 12 October. Archaeologists had been working for months to reach the remains of the first church. This is now done. The floor tiles, on which Saint Nicholas walked, have been brought to light. It will be exposed after being covered.

The archaeologists also explain that they have found the exact location of the tomb of the saint, on which we can read Greek inscriptions. The relics of his tomb were carried by a group of Christians to Bari in Italy, when the Ottomans conquered the Eastern Roman Empire. “At that time, the church was damaged”, explains Osman Eravşar to our colleagues from Dailysabah. “The tomb was probably opened, its bones removed and the sarcophagus placed in a niche at the side of the church chapel,” he added.

Another element was discovered, this time restoring “the cupola of the historic church”. Because in the 1980s, a concrete roof was built over the historic church to prevent the rains from flooding the foundations of the primitive building. It was by removing it that archaeologists came across a fresco representing the scene where Jesus holds the Bible in his left hand, the sign of the blessing made with his right hand.

Many mysteries surround the life of Saint Nicholas in Turkey, of which little is still known today. This Christian saint was born in 300 AD, into a wealthy family. His father would have been a wealthy wheat merchant. He is believed to have died aged 65 on December 6, and the church was his final resting place. In Bari, Italy, the city where some of his relics are found, miracles have been attributed to the saint over the centuries. His cult then became extremely popular throughout Europe. Some of the relics are now exhibited in Italy and in the Antalya Museum. The legendary habit of giving gifts that Saint Nicholas would have had during his life would have given rise to the character of “Santa Claus”.


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