Archaeologists may have identified the tomb of Saint Nicholas—Santa Claus—beneath an ancient church in southern Turkey. (Telegraph)
Where is Santa Claus residing these days? Use our study guide to find out.
Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.
- Wait a minute. Santa is DEAD?
- Who was St. Nicholas?
- Nicholas was an early Christian leader from Asia Minor. He served as bishop of the city of Myra, then a part of the Roman Empire. Today, Myra (now known as Demre) and the rest of Asia Minor are a part of Turkey.
- Nicholas’ reputation for “generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships” helped make him the patron saint of more groups than any other Christian saint. To name a few: children, sailors, merchants, prisoners, broadcasters, pawnbrokers, students, murderers, shoe shiners … the cities of Amsterdam and Moscow … livestock in Poland … and protection from wolves and thunderstorms.
- Although St. Nicholas has been associated with Christmas and gift-giving (particularly to children) since the Middle Ages, his “transmogrification into Santa Claus was accomplished in 19th-century America, largely through the poem ‘The Visit of St. Nicholas’” by Clement C. Moore and its illustration by Thomas Nast. (Take a look at another great Nast depiction of St. Nick here.)
- Why do archaeologists think the newly discovered shrine may belong to St. Nicholas?
- The shrine was discovered beneath an ancient church in Demre (Myra), where St. Nicholas supposedly died in early December 343.
- If the shrine contains the remains of St. Nicholas, who exactly is being venerated at the Basilica de San Nicola in Bari, Italy, long thought to be the final resting place of the saint?
- Possibly some other early medieval character. Relic trafficking (and counterfeiting!) was a real thing in the Middle Ages, and the subject of a book by one of our favorite authors.
- Legend holds that St. Nicholas was originally interred at a church in Demre, until the church was destroyed during the First Crusade and his remains were smuggled to Bari in 1087. Experts are “now claiming the wrong bones were removed and those taken abroad belong to another, local priest, rather than the legendary bishop.”
TEACHERS TOOLKIT TEXT SET
Telegraph: Archaeologists in Turkey believe they have discovered Santa Claus’s tomb
Nat Geo: Weinachtsmann is Coming to Town
St. Nicholas Center: Who is St. Nicholas?
Nat Geo: Santa Claus in Camp