Father Christmas’ grave finally found underneath church in Turkey

Christmas has come early for a group of excited archaeologists who have uncovered the tomb of St Nicholas – the inspiration behind Santa Claus.

His resting place was located amid the remains of an ancient Christian Orthodox church located in Turkey, that was submerged by rising Mediterranean sea levels in the Middle Ages.

The Christian bishop died age 73 in 343 AD, having gained a reputation for his generosity after giving away the money he inherited from his wealthy parents to the poor.

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His legend was shared in stories rather than told in historical documents, including the time he reportedly gave three girls bags of gold to spare them a life of prostitution.

Another church was built on top of the previous basilica in the town of Myra between the 5th and 12th centuries to protect St Nicholas' tomb, which was located after the archaeologists found mosaic and stone flooring from the original sanctuary, supporting claims that the holy figure lived and died in the Roman Empire (modern-day Turkey).

The second church has always been surrounded by statues of St Nicholas and the place of worship was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites 40 years ago.

Speaking to the Demiroren News Agency, Osman Eravsar, the head of the provincial cultural heritage preservation board in Antalya, said: "The tiling of the floor of the first church, on which Saint Nicholas walked, has been unearthed."

Born in the village of Patara, St Nicholas abided by Jesus' teaching of selling all his worldly possessions and giving to the poor after both his parents died in an epidemic.

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He went on to become bishop of Myra but was then jailed by the Roman emperor Diocletian, who persecuted Christians, before being released when Constantine the Great took over as ruler.

Records have always suggested that the saint was buried at the church built in his name, although it was also believed that his remains were smuggled to Bari in Italy by sailors or merchants in 1087.

But Turkish archaeologists are now claiming the wrong bones were removed – with the ones in Italy those of an anonymous priest.

Some of Nicholas’s relics, meanwhile, remain enshrined in Bari's 11th-century San Nicola church, though fragments have been acquired by other churches around the world.


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