ST.NICHOLAS OF MYRA (Known as Santa Claus)

The ancient site of Myra is situated 30 Kms to the west of Finike and 50 Kms to the east of Kas, close to the main highway. It is only 1.5 Km away from the present day town of Demre.The most spectacular collection of the Lycian rock tombs are also found in Myra.

Myra was one of the coastal cities of Lycia visited by Luke, Paul and Aristarchus (Acts 27: 5-6) on the way to Rome, in 60 A.D.

The most important building in the town of Demre is the Church of St.Nicholas. Originally, this was a 3rd century A.D. church. St.Nicholas served in this church until he was martyred during the reign of Diecletian.

St.Nicholas, known also as Santa Claus in English-speaking world was born in Patara, which is about 80 Kms to the west of Myra. During the 4th century he served as an archbishop in this chuch and died in the ancient city of Myra. The church was rebuilt by the Roman Emperor Justinian after an earthquake hit the city in the 6th century. Finally, Turkish archaeologists reconstructed this centuries old ruined church in 1964. There are still original floor mosaics and frescoes on the walls.

In the 11th century, St.Nicholas' bones were moved to Bari in south Italy, the Italian traders. Some of the remaining bones are on exhibition in Antalya Museum today.

The legend about StNicholas is referred to a story of a poor man his three daughters at marriage age. This man did not have enough money to pay for the necessary dowries of his daughters. St.Nicholas secretly leaves three purses of gold into the house one day and saves the girls from a miserable future. This generous effort became a custom in time and all Christians followed his tradition of giving gifts in 6th day of December initially, then the day was moved to 25th of December during the following centuries.

Other than this important and still functional church in Myra there is a rock necropolis and a Roman theater in the town.

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