St. Nicholas Church, Demre
St. Nicholas Church, Demre is an ancient Byzantine Church located in modern-day town of Demre Antalya Province, (Southwest Turkey). Its usage is dated between 5th-12th centuries. It is most notable for being the burial place of St. Nicholas of Myra, who was the Eastern Orthodox bishop of the ancient city of Myra in the 4th century, and is an important religious figure for Eastern Orthodox Christians, and Christians everywhere for being Santa Claus. The Church is a UNESCO world heritage site.
The church was built in AD 520 on the foundations of an older Christian church where Saint Nicholas served as a bishop. Over time the church was flooded,filled with silt, and buried. In 1862 it was restored by Russian Tsar Nicholas I, who added a tower and made other changes to its Byzantine architecture. The church is regarded as the 3rd most important Byzantine structure in Anatolia. It is noted for its remarkable wall frescos, and its architectural and religious significance. The northeast annex arcade contains the only example of St Nicholas's life cycle as well. Click for larger views.
Archaeological excavations in the Church started in 1988 directed by Prof. S. Yıldız Ötüken of Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey. The work has revealed some of the northern section of the monastery complex, and also the small chapels around the nave, one of which notably contains vibrant frescoes detailing the life and miracles of the saint, and a desecrated sarcophagus which is thought to be the original burial place from where his remains were stolen by raiders from Bari in 1087.
- For the story of the translation of the bones see: Charles W. Jones, "Saint Nikolaos of Myra, Bari, and Manhattan: Biography of a Legend" (Chicago: University of Chicago Press) 1978, ISBN 978-0-226-40700-5, pp. 176-193.