Here Comes Santa Claus! Archaeologists Discover the Tomb of Saint Nicholas

The remains are thought to be buried beneath the floor of a Turkish church.

The tomb at the Church of Saint Nicholas in Demre, Turkey, that was thought until now to have been the burial place of St. Nicholas, more popularly known as Santa Claus. Courtesy of Schellhorn/ullstein bild via Getty Images.
The empty tomb at the Church of Saint Nicholas in Demre, Turkey, that was previously thought to be the burial place of St. Nicholas. Courtesy of Schellhorn/ullstein bild via Getty Images.

Archaeologists think they have discovered the final resting place of Santa Claus—and no, it’s not at the North Pole. The real life Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, is now believed to be buried near his birthplace of Demre, a town on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, in the church that bears his name.

Recent electronic surveys have uncovered the suspected whereabouts of the grave, in empty spaces beneath the church.“We believe this shrine has not been damaged at all, but it is quite difficult to get to it as there are mosaics on the floor,” Cemil Karabayram, the head of the Antalya region’s Monument Authority, toldTurkish news outlet the Daily Sabah.

A view from Myra St. Nicholas Church in Antalya, Turkey, thought to be the burial place of Santa Claus. Courtesy of Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

A view from Myra St. Nicholas Church in Antalya, Turkey, thought to be the burial place of Santa Claus. Courtesy of Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

To investigate further, archaeologists plan to carefully remove the mosaic tiles in large sections in order to access the area below. Until now, it was thought that Italian merchants removed the saint’s bones from his grave at the church in 1087, during the Crusades. Experts now believe that the remains they transported to the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy, actually belong to an anonymous priest and that the saint’s tomb was not where they originally thought it was.

Saint Nicholas, a bishop known in part for his kindness to children and for secret gift giving died in 343. He didn’t become a popular part of holiday traditions in Europe until the 16th century. The name Santa Claus comes from his Dutch name, Sinterklaas.

In Turkey, Karabayram is eager to begin excavations of the church. “Maybe we will find the untouched body of Saint Nicholas,” he said. “If we get the results, Antalya’s tourism will gain big momentum.”


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