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St. Nicholas

Saint Nicholas, who is known throughout the world as Santa Claus, was born in Patara, which was an important Lycian city along Turkey's Mediterranean coast.

Towards the year 300 A.D., a rich wheat trader who lived in the wealthy city of Patara had a son whom he named Nicholas. It is said that he came to Earth as a savior of the poor, that he was a pres of the sky upon his birth, a fruit of a sacrifice and answer to his mother's and father's prayers. While still a young man his exceptional nature was eqrually manifest; when a church in the course of build collapsed and buried him, upon his mother's lamentations the stones fell apart and he emerged unscathed.

Some time later, his father died, leaving him substantial inheritance, whereby Nicholas decided to spend the wealth to help the poor and needy. It is said that when he heard of a distinguished citizen Patara who had fallen into penury and was unable find dowries for his three daughters, Nicholas decided to help them. He went to the girls' house at nigh order not to attract so much attention and also no hurt anyone's pride. While they were asleep, threw a sack of gold through the open window of oldest girl. She found the money in the morning whereby she was subsequently saved from her situation.

Later on, Nicholas wished to put up the do money for the other two girls, but because their windows were closed, he threw the bags of gold down the chimney, hence the secret bestowal of present children at Christmas.

Here is a story related to the life of Nicholas; Nicholas travels to Jemsalem on a pilgrim On the return voyage, he saves the ship from sinking through prayers, whereas he even resurrected a sailor who had fallen off the ship and drown in the sea. Ever since that day, St. Nicholas has been accepted as the savior saint of sailors.

Some time later, Nicholas migrates from Patara to the neighboring city of Myra. Even his election as bishop of Myra was not without divine intervention; the dignitaries assembled in the church at Myra to make the choice were instructed by God to elect the man who should enter the building 0n the following morning. As St. Nicholas was the fu arrive at the church, he was selected to become Bishop. The miracles continued to occur here as he saved three generals from death Another story about him goes as follows:

Once in a time of famine, a fleet of 1 carrying corn from Alexandria to Byzantium call Andriace; Nicholas, hurrying to the harbor, on the captains to surrender a hundred bushels each ship, which they unwillingly did; when the eventually arrived in the capital, the cargo was found to be still intact. The corn thus secured by the sufficed the Myrans miraculously for two years and still left enough for sowing.

Just like other Christians, Nicholas thrown in jail for a period during the reign of Emperor Diocletianus and Licinius, both whom were against Christians. In the year 325 A.D., an assembly me was held in Nicaea (modern day Iznik) to : problems dealing with Christianity, whereas participated as Archbishop. The legend surrounding this event was how Nicholas restored three boys while wandering about in this time of famine, f their way to the house of a butcher who murderer them in their sleep, cut up their bodies, and salted them in a tub, intending to use the flesh in the w trade. Nicholas, informed of this occurrence 1 angel, came to the butcher's house and restore, boys to life. This story was later claimed clergyman by the name of Bonaventure. It is beieved that the savior of students, St. Nicholas died in Myra on December 6th, at the age of 65. In' constructing church in his name, the Myrans left him to rest II sarcophagus for eternity. However, during one o Latin Crusades, a band of men from Bari broke I the tomb and carried off some of the bones of the Saint to Italy on April 20, 1087 and buried them on the grounds of a basilica they had built. Bones that are said to have remained from that raid are kept in the Antalya Museum.

The church of Santa Claus

When the church or chapel that was erected for St. Nicholas collapsed in an earthquake in 529, a larger church or perhaps even a basilica-type church was constructed in its place. The architect Feschlow surmised that the two small spaces with equal-sized apses on the north side of the large apse as well as a major portion of the north side aisle in today's building belonged to this first structure. This church was re-constructed again after it was destroyed in the 8th century, due to either an earthquake or Arabian raids. The Church of St Nicholas was totally razed to the ground during a naval assault conducted by the Arabs in 1034. An inscription records that it was restored under Constantine IX in 1043. Some additions were made to the church when it underwent renovation in the 12th century.

We understand that some repairs were made to the church and that the people worshipped freely in the church of Myra when the region was captured by the Turks in the 13th century. The chapel next to the big church was repaired in 1738. Ch. Texier, who explored Anatolia between 1833-37, passed through Myra and mentioned the church in his writings. Ten years later, in March, 1842, Lieutenant Spratt and Prof. Forbes arrived in Myra and drew up a plan of the church, whereas they mentioned that they saw a monastery next to the church.

During the Crimean War of 1853, the Russians took an interest in the church, whereas around the same period, the land on which the church stands is said to have been purchased by a Russian consul (other accounts say a Russian princess) with a view to reanimating the cult of the saint, but this was thwarted by the Sublime Forte, who upon lealizing the political implications of the matter bought the land back and only authorized the restoration of the church. Thus, a Frenchman by the name of August Salzmann was given the task of renovating the church of St. Nicholas in the year 1862. These restorations were conducted rather shoddily, whereas the original layout of the church was ruined. The belfry, which is seen today was added during this restoration work, in 1876.

There are close to 2,000 churches throughout the world dedicated to St. Nicholas, who is the savior saint of several cities. One can find his life story and miracles in a number of books, however the earliest description goes back to around 750-800 A.D., which was written by Brother Michael at the Stadium monastery in Byzantium.

Let's take a look together at the Church of St. Nicholas, which is an attractive example of Anatolian Byzantine architecture.

Walking past the entrance, one descends down a path of cut stone. While descending, we pass the statue of Santa Claus in the garden to our left.

Extensions on the north side as well as a chapel in the shape of a cross were added to the 4th century church, which had a single dome when it was first constructed. The church is in basilica form three aisles, to which a fourth has at some tin1( added on one side. In the apse at the end central aisle or nave is a synthronon with a a passage running round and a stone placed as an Inside the niche of the Apse are figurines of that have lost their color in places and are I defined. The fresco in the small niche under these that of St. Nicholas. One can see mosaic par different designs on the floor of this section as , that of the southeast chapel in the actual churct. On the west are a narthex and exonarthex, and pleasant cloisters on the north side. The walls contain re-used material including fragments of inscriptions. Within the niche opposite the stairs on the west side are frescoes of Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist.

From here, a well-preserved door frame us out into the section where the sarcophagi are found, that is, the long section of the cross-s chapel. Even if the frescoes inside the niches the sarcophagi sit are not clearly defined, the I has been decorated with frescoes depicting v. saints. An interesting example is that of the fresco of Mary, found above the columns of the north first niche. From where the fresco of St. Nicholas is situated in the second niche, it is understood from inscriptions that the column was placed upside-down.

Of the sarcophagi situated in the niche: accepted that the first one, which is a Roma sarcophagus, and is decorated with acanthus I belonged to St. Nicholas. In fact, because St. Nt was the saint of seamen, it is said that- the lid sarcophagus was decorated with fish-scale desings. A band of pirates from Bari broke open the sarcophagus and carried off some of the bones of the Saint t on April 2Oth, 1087.

The sarcophagi found in the second niche as well as that in the opposite niche are plain. Besides the sarcophagi found inside the niches here, there are two other tombs located elsewhere on the church grounds. From here, one passes through a door into the church courtyard, which is laid with thick blocks. There are two tombs in a niche of the courtyard that have long since been emptied out. Next to these are blocks of marble with cross and anchor motifs that must have been made for St. Nicholas.

The inscription found on the tomb situated inside the left wall dates back to the year 1118. Before entering the courtyard, one passes through the exonarthex, then through the narthex that opens into the synthronon. Here, one can see frescoes depicting the bishops in a group. The actual place, which is passed through here, opens out to side aisles three belts. There are two aisles in the south o synthronon. Even though it is said that sarcophagus in the niche inside the second aisle that of St. Nicholas, the man and woman relief 0] of it indicates that this cannot be such. In the door the north aisle are frescoes of the Prophet Jesus the 12 Apostles. To the side, one encounter excavation of the side aisle. There are three room the western part of the aisle where excavation is t carried out. In the middle of the building, a large diagonal ribbed vault erected from cut stone was where there should have been a cupola with windows and a drum.

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