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Experts in Turkey say they have uncovered the tomb of St Nicholas, who is the bishop believed to be the inspiration for Santa Claus.
St Nicholas was a real person who lived between the years 270 and 343. He was a Christian bishop of Greek origin who was known for giving to the poor.
Legends and stories about his generosity include tales that he once gifted three poor sisters a bag of coins each by discretely throwing gold into their bedrooms to save public embarrassment.
Though there is little confirmed information about his life, the legends gave way to the modern Christmas tale we tell today that Santa Claus will bring presents if you’ve been good.
St Nicholas’ tomb was found in St Nicholas Church in Demre, located in the Antalya district of southern Turkey. Centuries ago the church was covered by rising sea levels, so another church was built on top of it.
But, in 2017, signifiers suggesting the existence of another church underneath were revealed in electronic surveys that showed there were gaps between the floor and ground.
Since then, experts have been working away to reach the original ancient site by removing the floor of the Byzantine church built on top of the original foundations.
Osman Eravsar, the head of the provincial cultural heritage preservation board in Antalya, told Demirören News Agency: “The first church was submerged with the rise of the Mediterranean Sea, and some centuries later, a new church was built above.
“Now we have reached the remains of the first church and the floor on which Saint Nicholas stepped.
“The tiling of the floor of the first church, on which Saint Nicholas walked, has been unearthed.”
Atlas Obscura notes that the church in Turkey houses the tomb of St Nicholas, but his remains were taken to Italy in 1087.
They said: “When legend blends with history, facts and fiction become difficult to untangle. In this regard, few figures have achieved the legendary stature of Santa Claus. It is widely accepted that St Nicholas must have been the progenitor of the character who came to be known as Santa Claus.
“Though St. Nicholas likely looked nothing like the white-bearded, big-bellied man that is most common today, his propensity for giving away his wealth to people in need makes for a credible basis on which the image of Santa Claus developed.”
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