The Life of St Nicholas 

Saint Nicholas of Myra was an Orthodox Christian bishop born at the port city of Patara, Lycia in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) to a wealthy family of Greek Christians. His birth day is traditionally said to be on the 15 March 270 AD. Although one of the most prominent saints of the Christian Orthodox Church, there isn't actually much information accounted about him as he lived during the time of Roman persecution of Christians and written documents about him were lost or destroyed.

He is remembered for the many miracles and altruistic deeds he performed especially for saving girls from prostitution, calming rough seas and storms, saving soldiers from execution and felling a tree possessed by a demon. He pilgrimaged in Egypt and Palestine in his adolescence and on his return was made a bishop of the city of Myra.

St Nicholas' Remains and Feast Day

After his death, it is said he was buried in Myra. Just under 200 years later, Theodosius II gave orders for St. Nicholas church to be built over the site of the original church where he served and was buried. His remains were kept there for over 500 years. Unfortunately, in 1071 AD, after the decisive loss at the Battle of Manzikert, the Byzantine Empire was in steady decline and losing lands to the Turks. Additionally, due to political and religious tensions and disagreements, Rome separated itself from the Orthodox Church and became the Catholic Church during the Great Schism of 1054 AD. These events were important as due to Turkish occupation and the limited resources and power the residents of Myra had, made it difficult to guard and maintain the remains of St Nicholas. In 1087 AD, Italian sailors from Apulia seized and looted the church and took the remains to Bari. Two years later, Pope Urban inaugurated a new "Basilica di San Nicola" where St Nicholas remains were transported into the tomb beneath the altar. Just over a decade later, as St Nicholas' cult and popularity was increasing in Western Europe, Venetian crusaders looted again Myra in 1100 to gather the remaining few fragments of St Nicholas' remains, as well as the remains of other bishops of Myra, and take them back to Venice at the San Nicolo al Lido monastery. His remains are still in Bari and Venice to this day. Sources mention of fragments of his remains being given by the clergy of Bari to enhance the cult and promote prestige. Remains are said to be located at places such as Normandy, Flanders and Nancy but, primarily, Western Europe. Ηis remains are still said to be exuding myrrh and people can visit and worship his tomb in Bari.

He is considered to be, primarily, the patron saint of sailors, fishermen and merchants but also of children, thieves (who have repented), brewers, pawnbrokers and students. While Western culture has wrongly attributed Santa Claus as giving presents during Christmas, this folk tale came to rise due to Saint Nicholas' habit of secretly giving gifts and helping of those most in need.

 

Saint Nicholas died in 342 AD at the age of 72. As it is tradition in the Orthodox Church, saints' feast days are celebrated on the day they die. Accordingly, Saint Nicholas' feast day is on the 6th of December.

Photos and web design by Michael Vasileiadis

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