Tomb of ‘Santa Claus’ unearthed in Antalya: Expert
An excavation team has unearthed the exact place of the tomb of Saint Nicholas, also known as “Santa Claus,” and the floor on which he walked, inside the St. Nicholas Church in the southern province of Antalya’s Demre district.
“This is a very important discovery that will add to the value of the church,” said Osman Eravşar, the head of the provincial cultural heritage preservation board in Antalya, told Demirören News Agency.
Living between 270 and 343, Saint Nicholas, was an early Christian bishop during the time of the Roman Empire. Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as “Nicholas the Wonderworker.”
The Church of St. Nicholas, located in Demre, was built in 520 on the foundations of an older Christian church where Saint Nicholas served as a bishop and was buried.
“The first church was submerged with the rise of the Mediterranean Sea, and some centuries later, a new church was built above,” Eravşar said.
“Now we have reached the remains of the first church and the floor on which Saint Nicholas stepped,” he noted.
Adding that the existence of the first church has been known since some photos taken in 1910, Eravşar went to say: “The tiling of the floor of the first church, on which Saint Nicholas walked, have been unearthed.”
The floor will be exhibited after being covered.
One other thing conducted in the restoration works was “opening the roof of the church.”
“In the 1980s, a concrete roof was constructed over the historical church to prevent rainfalls pouring on the church,” the expert said and added: “We took the concrete roof out and an easily-removable roof system will be installed.”
Very little is known about Saint Nicholas, but his legendary habit of secret gift-giving gave rise to the traditional model of “Santa Claus,” and named after him. The Church of St. Nicholas is on UNESCO’s tentative list to become a World Heritage Site.