At this time of year one would expect Father Christmas to be in the North Pole preparing for his busy season, but in fact it seems that he is resting in Turkey.
Archaeologists have ruined the festive dreams of many children by identifying that the ancient remains of Saint Nicholas might be Antalya, a Turkish coastal town, believed to be the saint’s birthplace. The charitable saint known for his gift-giving and generosity, inspired the legend of Santa Claus, popularised by Dutch immigrants to the colonies.
Geophysical surveys have uncovered an intact temple and burial grounds below St Nicholas Church in the south of the country. The remains are thought to be contained in this shrine, discovered beneath the ancient floor of the 11th Century church, however scientists have struggled to gain access. The floor of the church has had to be skilfully removed tile-by-tile to avoid damage, and the temple itself is also walled-in by mosaics which now need to be carefully lifted. The temple is thought to have suffered some earthquake damage, but further excavation is needed to discover the full extent.
Originally the remains of the saint were thought to be in Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy – stolen by merchant sailors as the Byzantine Empire fell. However, findings have shown that this body is, in fact, that of an anonymous priest.
Future Historians should use this ‘Keeping You Current’ article to examine the impact of new discoveries on our notion of the past. Theology and Religion applicants could examine how historical finds impact on concepts of religion and legend.