Saint Nicholas Church
Southern Coast, Turkey
Most people know of the story of Santa Claus, but very little know the story of Saint Nicholas, the man who inspired the legend. And surprisingly, his story doesn’t take place in the frigid north, but along the warm Mediterranean Coast. Born in nearby Patara in the 3rd century AD, Nicholas became bishop of Myra and performed wonderful acts of giving and compassion to various peoples, most notably seamen and children. According to sources, a church was constructed in his honor in this town while he lived or shortly thereafter. Though much remains unknown of the older church as an earthquake tore it apart, the Emperor of Rome, Theodosius, ordered its reconstruction in 529. The church seen today underwent several restorations since the 6th century.
12th century wall paintings and murals adorn the interior of the church, depicting the life of the Saint and of biblical scenes. They remain important examples of Byzantine art. The church overall is an excellent example of Byzantine architecture and art, with plenty of stories to keep its significance alive and relevant.
In the heart of Mediterrean town of Demre, situated in the central region of the Turquoise Coast.
Reconstruction by Emperor Theodosius in 529 A.D., followed by subsequent restorations.
A church built to commenmorate the life Saint Nicholas of Patara, who spent most of his life in Demre.
Open for visits to the public, in which visitors can admire the frescoes and moasaics of Byzantine times.
We arrived at the gates of the church just before closing, so we battled both the daylight and the closing time as we hurried through the church. We did stop for a good look at the murals though, as we found them quite stunning. Outside the sculptures of mosaics and St. Nicholas standing alongside children was a nice modern addition that brought together the ancient bishop and the story of Santa Claus.
If already in Demre for the ruins of Myra, it makes sense to stop by for a visit. If at all curious about the St. Nicholas, it really is a unique glimpse into his life.
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