Ar­chae­ol­o­gists may have dis­cov­ered St. Nick’s bones

The Mercury News Weekend - - NEWS -

ANKARA, TURKEY » Turk­ish ar­chae­ol­o­gists be­lieve they may have dis­cov­ered the re­mains of St. Ni­cholas — from whom the leg­end of Santa Claus emerged — be­neath a church at his birth­place in south­ern Turkey, an of­fi­cial said Thurs­day.

St. Ni­cholas was born and served as a bishop of what is now the Turk­ish Mediter­ranean town of Demre, near An­talya, in the 4th cen­tury. He was buried in the area for­merly known as Myra, but his bones were be­lieved to have been stolen and taken to the south­ern Ital­ian town of Bari.

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists, how­ever, have re­cently dis­cov­ered what they think is a tem­ple be­low the church and now be­lieve his re­mains may be ly­ing there, Cemil Karabayram, the head of An­talya’s Reliefs and Mon­u­ments au­thor­ity, told The As­so­ci­ated Press by tele­phone.

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists are look­ing for a way into the tem­ple with­out harm­ing the 11th- cen­tury Church of St. Ni­cholas, Karabayra­m­said.

Karabayram said the tem­ple was dis­cov­ered through geo-radar sur­veys of the church that were con­ducted as part of a restora­tion project.

“It is a tem­ple that is in­tact, has not been touched but may have been af­fected by an earth­quake,” he said.

“This is an im­por­tant find both cul­tur­ally and for Turkey’s tourism,” Karabayram said.

St. Ni­cholas was known for his gen­eros­ity. His leg­end spread around the world and be­came in­ter­wo­ven with myth­i­cal sto­ries of the gift-giv­ing Santa Claus.

Karabayram said that the bones that were smug­gled to Bari may have been the re­mains of an­other pri­est.

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