In memory of St. Nicholas, known throughout the world as Santa Claus, more than 500 people, including many Russian tourists, took part in the service and held a ceremony at the St. Nicholas Memorial Museum in the Demre district of Antalya on December 6, which is considered the anniversary of of his death.
In Russia, St. Nicholas is known by such names as Nikolai the Wonderworker Nikolai Ugodnik, Nikolai Mirlikiysky, St. Nicholas, and in the Catholic tradition, he became the prototype of Santa Claus, bringing gifts to people at Christmas.
According to Ensonhaber, the ceremony began at 09:00 and lasted 3 hours. The liturgy, held with the permission of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, at the burial site of the saint was led by the cleric of Demre, Metropolitan Chrysostomos Kalaichi, from the Greek Patriarchate of Fener. They were accompanied by clergy from the Istanbul Feneri Greek Patriarchate, Antalya, Greece, Russia and other countries, as well as Russian tourists.
People professing Orthodoxy and Catholicism, living abroad or who came to the museum from Turkey, were baptized in front of photographs of Jesus and St. Nicholas. While salted bread was served to the participants, others were shown a bone fragment believed to be Saint Nicholas.
“I supervise and help Christians with worship here. This church has, in fact, been the burial place of St. Nicholas since the 3rd century. People who believed in him gathered around him and prayed. So gradually a small chapel arose around it. Then, in the 4th century, the church was built in layers, and in the 7th century it became larger. In the XII century, it grew even stronger. Once this place was periodically flooded, but in the XIX century everything changed. We have been continuing our ritual for 30-35 years,” said Chrysostomos Kalaichi.
“Saint Nicholas was born in Patara and served as a bishop here, that is, he spent his entire career here. He was responsible for this place and for the whole country. For him, people were saints. Most sailors today, believers or non-believers, believe that captains also protect the sea. Saint Nicholas is considered the helper of those who are going through difficult times at sea. This is a church, but later it turned into a museum, which is the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Therefore, we, as patriarchs, write petitions every year, receive permission and can conduct ceremonies like a church,” he added.
Immediately after his death, the relics of Nicholas became an object of pilgrimage. A basilica was built over the grave in the 6th century, and at the beginning of the 9th century, the church of St. Nicholas, where the relics were kept until they were stolen by the Italians from the city of Bari (1087). Although scientists already knew that the body of Nicholas the Wonderworker was buried in a church in the 4th century AD. in the Turkish province of Antalya, the saint's remains were stolen about 700 years after his death, so the exact location where he was originally buried remained a mystery. The experts made a curious observation: the architecture of the Church of St. Nicholas is the same as in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker has an unfinished dome. When the temple was restored by Russian Emperor Alexander II in the 1860s, the dome was never completed. In addition, the placement of the fresco depicting Jesus Christ is also the same – this has become a clue to modern archaeologists exactly where the body of St. Nicholas was buried. As a result, the researchers accurately identified the burial place of the saint.
Reference: Saint Nicholas, commonly known as “Santa Claus”, was born in the ancient city of Patara, the capital of the Lycian Union. As a young priest, he came to Myra, one of the 6 important cities of the Lycian League, to serve as a priest there. He dedicated his life to protecting children, sailors, helping poor young girls. He died in 343 at the age of 65. Part of the bones, which are considered the remains of St. Nicholas, is today kept in the Antalya Museum. Around the world, there are about 2,000 churches built in the name of St. Nicholas, who is considered the “patron saint” of many cities in the world.
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