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True Remains of the Saint Behind the Santa Myth Believed Found in Turkey

True Remains of the Saint Behind the Santa Myth Believed Found in Turkey



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Researchers suggest that they have found the almost fully intact temple and burial grounds of Saint Nicholas in Antalya, Turkey. In case the name Saint Nicholas doesn’t ring any bells, keep in mind that we are talking about the original Santa Claus.

Tomb of Santa Claus Discovered?

In case you are still wondering where Santa or Santa Claus is “living,” the answer is: definitely not at the North Pole. According to The Washington Post , the good news is that your parents didn’t lie to you as a kid and Santa Claus did indeed exist; the bad news, however, is that he’s definitely dead.

Archaeologists in Turkey may be on the cusp of correcting a long standing mistaken identification after they detected an intact tomb beneath the ruins of Saint Nicholas Church, in the Demre district of Turkey's south-west province of Antalya.

Tomb in Saint Nicholas Church, Demre, that once housed remains previously believed to be Saint Nicholas ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Until now, the bones of Saint Nicholas were believed to be in Bari, Italy, where they were taken by Italian merchants in 1087 when Myra – at the time a Greek town – was invaded by the Seljuk Turks. But who was Saint Nicholas upon which the modern character of varying names is based?

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Tomb in Bari, Italy, where the remains previously believed to be Saint Nicholas are currently kept ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

The Ancient Origins of Santa Claus (AKA Santa, St. Nick, Kris Kringle and Father Christmas)

As previously reported at Ancient Origins , the real story of Santa Claus begins with Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was born in Asia Minor (Greek Anatolia in present-day Turkey) in the Roman Empire, to a Greek family during the third century in the city of Patara, a port on the Mediterranean Sea. Nicholas used his entire inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. One account of Nicholas tells that he presented three impoverished daughters with dowries so that they would not have to become prostitutes. On three different occasions, the bags of gold providing the dowries had appeared in their home. They had been tossed through an open window and are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas.

A 13th-century depiction of St. Nicholas from Saint Catherine's Monastery , Sinai

Nicholas was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man and became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need and his love for children. Thus began the tradition of gift-giving in honor of Saint Nicholas, whose modern name Santa Claus, comes from the Dutch ‘Sinterklaas’.

Saint Nicholas died on 6 th December, 343 AD and so on the eve of his death, children were bestowed gifts in his honor. December 6 th is still the main day for gift giving in many countries in Europe. In other countries, the day of gifts was moved in the course of the Reformation and its opposition to the veneration of saints in many countries on the 24 th and 25 th December.

Portrait of Saint Nicholas (BigStockPhoto)

New Insights into the Possible Grave of Saint Nicholas

Fast forward to 2017, a group of Turkish archaeologists believe that they found new insights into the possible grave of the real man who inspired the Christmas icon. The church of Saint Nicholas in Demre has been a popular destination for pilgrims for many years, while archaeological excavations have been taking place at the site for two decades. Beneath the mosaic-covered floor of the church, researchers have conducted scans which show the presence of a previously unknown tomb. Cemil Karabayram, Antalya Director of Surveying and Monuments, was the one who announced the existence of an intact tomb under the church, "The temple on the ground of the church is in good condition," he told Hurriyet . And added, "We believe that it has received no damage so far. But it is hard to enter it because there are stones with motifs on the ground. These stones should be scaled one by one and then removed."

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Saint Nicholas Church (Museum) in Demre, under which archaeologists have detected a tomb thought to contain the true remains of Saint Nicholas (Credit: stnicholascenter)

Additionally, Karabayram said that during a study of old documents, archaeologists found notes saying the bones taken to Bari had belonged to another priest. A CT scan, a geo-radar and eight academics had been brought in for the final stages of the excavation work. "The world’s eyes will be set on here. We claim that St. Nicholas has been kept in this temple without any damage. We are at the last stage. If we get the results, Antalya’s tourism will gain big momentum. We will start discussions at an international level after the excavations,” an excited Karabayram told Hurriyet , and hopes that further excavation works at the site will allow scholars to access the temple grounds below the church to determine whether it still holds Nicholas’s body.


Turkey Claims It’s Found Saint Nicholas’ Crypt

Archaeologists in Turkey believe they may have found the tomb of Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, aka Santa Claus, under a church in the Demre district of Turkey.

As Kareem Shaheen at The Guardian reports, researchers discovered an intact temple and burial grounds below the Church of St. Nicholas during radar scans and CT surveys of the site. But the researchers have yet to confirm the find. To access the tomb, they must first remove and preserve valuable mosaics from the church floor, a process that will take time.

“The temple on the ground of the church is in good condition,” Cemil Karabayram, Director of Surveying and Monuments for the Antalya province tells Salim Uzun at Hurriyet Daily News. “We believe that it has received no damage so far. But it is hard to enter it because there are stones with motifs on the ground. These stones should be scaled one by one and then removed.”

St. Nicholas was a Christian leader born in a Roman town in modern Turkey in 280 A.D. According to legend, both of his parents died when he was a young man and Nicholas used his inheritance to serve the poor and sick. He eventually became the bishop of a city called Myra, now called Demre. There are other stories of his generosity, such as secretly paying the dowries of three sisters so they could be married instead of being sold into servitude. He was also known for leaving coins in the shoes of the poor.

As a saint, he proved popular throughout Europe—"the unchallenged bringer of gifts and the toast of celebrations centered around his day, December 6," as Brian Handwerk​ writes in a National Geographic feature on the origins of Santa Claus. But after saints fell out of favor during the Protestant Reformation, gift giving transferred over from December 6 to Christmas. But St. Nicholas didn't go away. The saint continues to hold sway especially in places like the Netherlands, where his feast day continues to be celebrated and where he's earned the nickname Sinterklaas. When Dutch immigrants brought the tradition to the U.S. in the 18th century, the tradition was adapted, blended with the idea of Father Christmas and expanded into the character of Santa Claus.

The new tomb, if confirmed, adds a wrinkle to the curious case of Santa Claus’s body. Josie Ensor at The Telegraph reports that St. Nicholas was indeed buried in the church in Demre after his death in 343 A.D. But in 1087, so the story goes, traders from the Italian city of Bari stole the saint’s bones and transported them to their hometown, where a basilica was built to house them. In 2014, forensic experts reconstructed the face of the man in the crypt, revealing what they said was the true face of Santa.

But Venice also claims that its sailors stole the bones of St. Nicholas in 1099 during the first crusade, and that the bones are actually housed in the church of San Nicolò al Lido.  Then there’s the claim that Santa Claus’s final resting place is in Ireland. According to that tale , a Norman family of crusaders called the de Frainets moved St. Nicholas’s remains to Bari in 1169 when that part of Italy was under Norman control. When the Normans were pushed out of Italy, the de Frainets moved the body to Nice. When the Norman’s lost France, the family supposedly took then took the remains with them to their estate in Jerpoint in Kilkenny, Ireland, and buried them at an abbey where a special ceremony is still held each year to honor the saint.

Uzun reports, however, that the archaeologists, citing documentary evidence, believe that the bones stolen in the 11th century likely came from the tomb of unidentified priest, and that St. Nicholas is still in his original tomb.

“We have obtained very good results but the real work starts now,” Karabayram says. “We will reach the ground and maybe we will find the untouched body of Saint Nicholas.”

Of course there’s one easy way to find out which tomb really holds the bones of the St. Nicholas. Just stake all of them out on December 24 and see which one the sleigh stops at.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.


History of Santa Claus & Father Christmas

He breaks into our houses every year to the delight of good children everywhere but he didn't start out delivering presents to kids. And did you know that there are parts of him that are probably older than Jesus? Find out all you need to know about a man coming to a chimney near you this Christmas.

Read more about: Ancient History

8 forgotten Christmas traditions of the UK

Apart from his elves, no one knows what Father Christmas really looks like but the characteristic white beard and red clothing are in fact creations of American cartoonists in the Victorian era.

The original British Father Christmas, as depicted in 17th century, sported a beard, but it wasn’t white, and his clothing colour was green, not red. And we can thank Scandinavian myths for his reindeer pulled sled, though the red nosed reindeer leader, ‘Rudolph’, was another American advertising creation. His elves have a Germanic and distinctly devilish background but the mince pies, milk and sherry we leave out for Father Christmas have an even more ancient origin. Such offerings are reminiscent of sacrifices to pagan gods that long pre date Christianity.

Read more about: Popular Culture

The pagan roots of Christmas

Another pre Christian link is Father Christmas’s first name, ‘Father’. This is thought to be derived from ‘Woden’, or the better known ‘Odin’, the ‘All-Father’ head god of North European and Scandinavian mythology. Americans prefer to refer to him as Santa Claus, and this name derives from the third century saint, Saint Nicholas. He was a charitable bishop from Myra (now called Demre) in Turkey. His first gifts were anonymously delivered bags of gold coins to a man so that a he could afford to have his daughters married. Some accounts say that he left a gold coin in each of the daughters’ stockings and in others that he dropped his gifts down the man’s chimney because the door was locked. There are still other, more grim and graphic, variations of the story. One has the three daughters about to enter prostitution to escape financial hardship. Another has three boys being butchered in order that their meat could be sold off as ham whereupon Nicholas resurrects the boys.

Saint Nicholas was, and is, such an inspiring figure that even though the town of his birthplace is now largely Muslim, and so no longer recognises Christmas, they still celebrate the figure of Santa Claus. Nicholas is believed to have died on 6 December and in certain countries, like Holland, children receive gifts on this day, the Feast of St Nicholas, rather than at Christmas.

But if our Father Christmas really wanted to be accurate and come the night before the birth of Christ, he’d be popping down our chimneys sometime in September. So why does he come on the 24 December? Well, the Gospels don’t give a date for Jesus’ birth so the reason we celebrate it on 25 December is because Pope Julius I in the fourth century AD said so. He wanted to popularise Christianity and so appropriated existing pagan practises as everyone from the Romans to the Babylonians celebrated the beginning of the end of winter. This is perhaps why early representations of Father Christmas saw him dressed in green, representing the green shoots of spring in the depths of winter.

Americans believe that Father Christmas is based in the North Pole which considering it consists of constantly shifting frozen ice, is just a bit unlikely. The British and European traditions are more prosaic, and believe his workshop is in Finland, in an area called Lapland. Some even think his grotto is somewhere in the Korvatunturi mountain range.

The address for your letter to Father Christmas, is “Santa’s Grotto, Reindeerland, SAN TA1.” Please note, letters from naughty children may be read but not always actioned, and please limit requests to single items as Father Christmas has roughly 700,000,000 children to visit in one night.


Turkish Archeologists Think They May Have Discovered the Grave of 'Santa Claus'

Archeologists in Turkey think they may have reason to rewrite Christian history. Saint Nicholas , the inspiration for Santa Claus, is believed to have been born in the Demre district in Antalya , and new research at a church that bears his name there has uncovered a tomb that could house his undisturbed remains.

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On Wednesday, Cemil Karabayram , the head of Antalya’s Monument Authority, told the Daily Sabah that his team has searched through historical records relating to the St. Nicholas Church in Demre and found reason to believe that the conventional story about what happened to the remains of Saint Nicholas could be wrong.

The saint is believed to have been buried at the church before it was damaged in an earthquake. According to one account, Italian merchants stole his bones from a damaged sarcophagus (pictured above) during the first crusade in 1087 and brought them home where they’ve been stored at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Bari, Italy ever since. Each year, on December 6th, the clergy collects a clear liquid that seeps from the tomb that is believed to have miraculous powers. Some believe that the liquid is seeping in from outside the tomb, which is below sea level. But if people really are collecting some nasty liquid from a dead guy’s bones, it might be the wrong dead guy.

Working with researchers from eight different fields of study, Karabayram says that an elaborate tomb was discovered beneath the St. Nicholas Church in Turkey after performing digital surveys. Karabayram believes that the men who removed Saint Nicholas’ bones mistakenly picked up the remains of a different priest, making it possible that the real St. Nick is still underground. It’ll be some time before the researchers can get any closer to confirming the theory. “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,” Karabayram told the Daily Sabah . The tiles will carefully be removed together in a mold for preservation.

Karabayram’s team certainly appears to have made a historic find, but there’s plenty of reason to believe that the connection to Saint Nicholas could be wishful thinking. While the real saint is historically confirmed, everything surrounding his story is packed with myth and tall tales. His transformation into Santa Claus , the gift-giving icon of Christmas, began with traditions celebrating folk tales surrounding his life and miracles he was said to have performed. He was known for giving generous gifts to young people and the gradual transliteration of “Saint Nikolaos” gave the figure his modern name.

Several locations around the world have claimed to have some of St. Nick’s bones, but the Catholic Church has treated the Basilica in Bari as the true keeper for quite some time. In 2013, a Turkish group went as far as to write to Pope Francis requesting that the saint’s remains be returned to their original home. While that group may have had a genuine interest in preserving the region’s history, there’s also plenty of financial motivation. St. Nick’s old hometown is firmly Muslim and doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but residents are happy to promote his origin story because it brings in tourism. “We are so happy with Saint Nicholas,” Baris Yuksel, a shopkeeper in Demre told CNN . “After lots of centuries, we are earning money thanks to Saint Nicholas.” This didn’t escape Karabayram’s attention and he told the Turkish press that if Saint Nicholas’s remains are found, it could have quite a positive impact on tourism.

Whatever comes of the dig, it’s fitting that a man who might be the most widely-mythologized saint in history will soon have a new story for scholars and clerics to dispute.


Has Santa Claus been discovered? Scientists find 'lost tomb of St Nicholas'

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Turkish archaeologists found a burial site beneath the ruins of an ancient church, and they believe the remains are of St Nicholas.

The site of the relatively intact 1600-year old tomb was found beneath St Nicholas Church in the Antalya province in southern Turkey.

The church in the Demre district of the province which is widely believed to be the birthplace of the original Santa Claus.

Archaeologists discovered the secretive tomb during electronic surveys which appeared to show a gap beneath the church and the base.

Related articles

&ldquoWe believe this shrine has not been damaged at all"

The head of Antalya&rsquos Monument Authority, Cemil Karabayram, told Turkish media outlet Hurriyet Daily News: &ldquoWe 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.&rdquo

Archaeologists will now be tasked with removing each individual tile to loosen the tomb.

St Nicholas was a bishop from the fourth century who lived in Myra, Asia Minor &ndash now known as Turkey.

The church is based in Turkey

He was born to a rich family, but his parents died when he was young and he inherited their money.

The bishop was a generous person and gave most of the money to the poor and gave secret gifts to those in need &ndash providing the basis for the myth of Santa Claus.


St. Nicholas of Bari, ancestor of Santa Claus

St. Nicholas "Lipensky" (1294), Lipnya Church of St. Nicholas in Novgorod

Biography

At this point however history fades into legend: a nobleman of Patara had become poor and decided to start his three daughters of marriageable age into prostitution because he could not marry them decently Nicola learned of that situation and on three consecutive nights threw into the man's house three cloth bundles full of gold coins, so that the three girls could have a dowry. On the third night the father stayed awake to discover who the benefactor was, but Nicholas asked him not to reveal what had happened. Also for this episode he is revered as a protector of children.

Il Miracolo di San Nicola di Bari (1655), by Luca Giordano 1634-1705, Santa Brigida in Naples

It is not certain that he was one of the 318 participants at the Council of Nicea in 325: according to the tradition, however, during the Council he condemned Arianism defending the Catholic faith, and in a rush of rage he is said to have slapped Arius. The writings of Andrew of Crete, and Johannes Damascene confirm his faith was rooted in the principles of Catholic orthodoxy.

While Myra was threatened by a severe famine, some ships from Alexandria, laden with wheat, stopped at the port of Andriake on their voyage to Constantinople. Nicholas, then bishop of the town, convinced the crew to unload one hundred bushels to feed his people and assured the sailors personally they would not be punished. Once the ships got to their destination, the merchants weighed the goods and realized that grain was missing. One thousand years before Robin Hood, Nicholas of Myra took from the rich to give to the poor. The episode is told by Michael Archimandrite in the early 8th century AD in the Life of St. Nicholas (one of the oldest and most comprehensive biographies), and was painted in tempera on wood by Fra Angelico in the 15th century.

Life of San Nicola: The Miracle of the Three Girls, by Beato Angelico, Musei Vaticani
San Nicola Saves three generals sentenced to death, by Beato Angelico, Musei Vaticani

Veneration

The Translation to Bari

An expedition of 62 sailors from Bari, among them two priests, Lupo and Grimoldo, with three ships belonging to the Dottula family, reached Myra and took away about half the skeleton of Nicholas, who arrived in Bari on May 9, 1087. According to legend, the relics were deposited where the oxen that pulled the wagon stopped, exactly at a Benedictine church (now the Church of St. Michael the Archangel) in the custody of abbot Elijah, who would later become bishop of Bari, The abbot, however, promoted the building of a new church dedicated to the saint, which was consecrated two years later by Pope Urban II at the time of the final placement of the relics under the crypt altar.

Since then, Saint Nicholas became co-patron of Bari along with San Sabino and the dates of December 6 (the day of the saint's death) and 9 May (the day of the arrival of the relics) were declared festive for the city. Until the 19th century, the saint's crest was also present in the coat of arms of Bari.

The Translation to Venice

St. Nicholas was then proclaimed protector of the Venetian fleet, and his church became an important place of veneration. Since St. Nicholas was also the protector of sailors, and the church was located at the port of Lido, where the lagoon ended into the open sea, at that site the annual ritual of the Wedding of the Sea ended. Only in recent times the authenticity of the Venetian remains was however finally established.

The transfer to Lorraine

A famous miracle is connected to St. Nicholas in Lorraine. Around 1230, Cunon de Réchicourt, a knight from Lorraine fighting in the Sixth Crusade with the army of Emperor Frederick II of Swabia, was taken prisoner. He said that on December 5, 1240 he prayed St. Nicholas before falling asleep in his cell. In the morning he woke up, still chained, on the steps of the church of Saint-Nicolas- de-Port, where the chains fell from him during celebration of a Mass. Since then, every year on the Saturday before the feast of St. Nicholas, a procession is celebrated in memory of the "miracle."

At the end of the 15th century to thank St. Nicholas for having saved the Duchy of Lorraine against the Duke of Burgundy Charles the Bold, Duke René II of Lorraine rebuilt the church in the city of Saint-Nicolas-de-Port, which in 1481 became a majestic Gothic basilica almost as big as Notre-Dame de Paris.

In 1622 Duke Henry II of Lorraine obtained from Pope Gregory XV (1621-1623) the erection of a church for his subjects living in Rome. This baroque church is located near Piazza Navona, and is called the Church of St. Nicholas of Lorraine.

In almost any city or village in Lorraine on the 5th or 6th of December a parade is held in honor of St. Nicholas, who traditionally visits the homes on the night between 5 and 6 December, often accompanied by his donkey, offering sweets and candies to the children who sing the "lament of St. Nicholas". In the German-speaking area of Lorraine Saint Nicholas (Sankt Nikolaus) is traditionally accompanied by his assistant Rüpelz or Ruprecht (= bugbear).

Iconography

St. Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, children, prostitutes, pharmacists, lawyers, lenders and prisoners. He is also the patron saint of the city of Amsterdam, of Russia, of Lungro capital of continental Arbereshe. In Russian Orthodox churches St. Nicholas is often the third icon next to Christ and Mary with Child Jesus.

Myths and legends behind Santa Claus

Moore's poem is a key piece in the composite puzzle that gave rise to the figure of the modern Santa Claus: the subsequent depictions of the character were in fact strongly influenced by this text, which has also contributed to inextricably and finally associate the gift bearer to December 24 to 25 instead of December 6, the day dedicated to St. Nicholas, and also to separate the figure of Saint Nicholas from that of his heir Santa Claus.

Actually, all modern versions of Santa Claus are derived from the St. Nicholas of Bari, bishop of Myra, who was said to have found and revived five children kidnapped and killed by an innkeeper, and was therefore considered a protector of children.

The legend of St. Nicholas is at the base of the great Dutch feast of Sinterklaas (on the saint's birthday December 6) which gave rise to the myth and the name of Santa Claus in its different variants. In Europe (particularly in the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and the north-eastern part of Italy) Santa Claus is still represented with a bishop's robes.

Before Christianity, in Germany god Odin (Wodan) was said every year to take a great hunt at the period of the winter solstice (Yule), accompanied by the other gods and dead warriors. Traditionally, children would leave their boots near the fireplace, filling them with carrots, straw or sugar to feed Sleipnir, the god's flying horse. In return, Odin would replace the food with gifts or candy. This practice survived in Belgium and the Netherlands also in the Christian era, and was coupled with the figure of Saint Nicholas. Even in appearance, a bearded mysterious old man, Odin, although devoid of an eye, was similar to St. Nicholas.

The German tradition reached the United States through the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, renamed by the British as New York in the 17th century, and is the origin of the modern habit to hang a stocking by the fireplace for Christmas, a similar tradition to what is customary in Italy on the eve of January 6, for the arrival of the Befana.

Another folk tradition of the Germanic tribes tells the story of a holy man (sometimes identified with Saint Nicholas) struggling with a demon, which may have been the devil, a troll or Krampus, or with a Dark Man who killed during dreams (Blackman or Pitchman). Some legends tell of a monster that scared people creeping into houses through the chimney at night, attacking and killing children in horrible ways. The holy man set out in search of the demon and imprisoned him with magical or blessed bars. Obliged to obey the saint's orders, the demon is forced to move from house to house and amend himself by bringing gifts to children. In some stories, the good deed is repeated every year, in others the demon is so disgusted that he prefers to return to hell.

Other versions of the story have the demon converted to the orders of the saint, who gathers around himself other elves and goblins, thus becoming Santa Claus. A different Dutch version says that the saint is helped by Moorish slaves, usually represented by the character of Zwarte Piet (Black Peter), an analogue of Italian "Uomo nero". In these stories Zwarte Piet beats children with a cane or kidnaps them to bring them into his sack to Spain (Andalusia was a time under Moorish dominion). In Germany, this character becomes Pelznickel or Belsnickle (Furry Nicholas, a beast completely covered with fur) who goes to visit naughty children in their sleep.


10 Things You May Not Know About Christopher Columbus

1. Columbus didn’t set out to prove the earth was round.
Forget those myths perpetuated by everyone from Washington Irving to Bugs Bunny. There was no need for Columbus to debunk the flat-earthers—the ancient Greeks had already done so. As early as the sixth century B.C., the Greek mathematician Pythagoras surmised the world was round, and two centuries later Aristotle backed him up with astronomical observations. By 1492 most educated people knew the planet was not shaped like a pancake.

2. Columbus was likely not the first European to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
That distinction is generally given to the Norse Viking Leif Eriksson, who is believed to have landed in present-day Newfoundland around 1000 A.D., almost five centuries before Columbus set sail. Some historians even claim that Ireland’s Saint Brendan or other Celtic people crossed the Atlantic before Eriksson. While the United States commemorates Columbus𠅎ven though he never set foot on the North American mainland—with parades and a federal holiday, Leif Eriksson Day on October 9 receives little fanfare.

3. Three countries refused to back Columbus’ voyage.
For nearly a decade, Columbus lobbied European monarchies to bankroll his quest to discover a western sea route to Asia. In Portugal, England and France, the response was the same: no. The experts told Columbus his calculations were wrong and that the voyage would take much longer than he thought. Royal advisors in Spain raised similar concerns to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Turns out the naysayers were right. Columbus dramatically underestimated the earth’s circumference and the size of the oceans. Luckily for him, he ran into the uncharted Americas.

4. Nina and Pinta were not the actual names of two of Columbus’ three ships.
In 15th-century Spain, ships were traditionally named after saints. Salty sailors, however, bestowed less-than-sacred nicknames upon their vessels. Mariners dubbed one of the three ships on Columbus’s 1492 voyage the Pinta, Spanish for “the painted one” or “prostitute.” The Santa Clara, meanwhile, was nicknamed the Nina in honor of its owner, Juan Nino. Although the Santa Maria is called by its official name, its nickname was La Gallega, after the province of Galicia in which it was built.

5. The Santa Maria wrecked on Columbus’ historic voyage.
On Christmas Eve of 1492, a cabin boy ran Columbus’s flagship into a coral reef on the northern coast of Hispaniola, near present-day Cap Haitien, Haiti. Its crew spent a very un-merry Christmas salvaging the Santa Maria’s cargo. Columbus returned to Spain aboard the Nina, but he had to leave nearly 40 crewmembers behind to start the first European settlement in the Americas—La Navidad. When Columbus returned to the settlement in the fall of 1493, none of the crew were found alive.

6. Columbus made four voyages to the New World.
Although best known for his historic 1492 expedition, Columbus returned to the Americas three more times in the following decade. His voyages took him to Caribbean islands, South America and Central America.

7. Columbus returned to Spain in chains in 1500.
Columbus’s governance of Hispaniola could be brutal and tyrannical. Native islanders who didn’t collect enough gold could have their hands cut off, and rebel Spanish colonists were executed at the gallows. Colonists complained to the monarchy about mismanagement, and a royal commissioner dispatched to Hispaniola arrested Columbus in August 1500 and brought him back to Spain in chains. Although Columbus was stripped of his governorship, King Ferdinand not only granted the explorer his freedom but subsidized a fourth voyage.

8. A lunar eclipse may have saved Columbus.
In February 1504, a desperate Columbus was stranded in Jamaica, abandoned by half his crew and denied food by the islanders. The heavens that he relied on for navigation, however, would guide him safely once again. Knowing from his almanac that a lunar eclipse was coming on February 29, 1504, Columbus warned the islanders that his god was upset with their refusal of food and that the moon would “rise inflamed with wrath” as an expression of divine displeasure. On the appointed night, the eclipse darkened the moon and turned it red, and the terrified islanders offered provisions and beseeched Columbus to ask his god for mercy.

9. Even in death, Columbus continued to cross the Atlantic.
Following his death in 1506, Columbus was buried in Valladolid, Spain, and then moved to Seville. At the request of his daughter-in-law, the bodies of Columbus and his son Diego were shipped across the Atlantic to Hispaniola and interred in a Santo Domingo cathedral. When the French captured the island in 1795, the Spanish dug up remains thought to be those of the explorer and moved them to Cuba before returning them to Seville after the Spanish-American War in 1898. However, a box with human remains and the explorer’s name was discovered inside the Santo Domingo cathedral in 1877. Did the Spaniards exhume the wrong body? DNA testing in 2006 found evidence that at least some of the remains in Seville are those of Columbus. The Dominican Republic has refused to let the other remains be tested. It could be possible that, aptly, pieces of Columbus are both in the New World and the Old World.

10. Heirs of Columbus and the Spanish monarchy were in litigation until 1790.
After the death of Columbus, his heirs waged a lengthy legal battle with the Spanish crown, claiming that the monarchy short-changed them on money and profits due the explorer. Most of the Columbian lawsuits were settled by 1536, but the legal proceedings nearly dragged on until the 300th anniversary of Columbus’ famous voyage.


Persecution Blog

St. Nicholas: The Real Story of the Man Who Became Santa Claus

Many American children are looking forward to the arrival of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, bearing presents for good little boys and girls. But most of those celebrating don't know that there is a real man behind the story of Santa Claus, and  that real man was a Christian persecuted because of his faith and actions.

The following is excerpted from "A Note from the Author to Parents and Educators" that is included in The Story of St. Nicholas: More than Reindeer and a Red Suit, a book for children published by VOM that tells the true story of St. Nicholas of Myra, the man whose story became the basis of our modern-day Santa Claus.

Throughout history many legends about the life of Saint Nicholas of Myra have circulated around the world, bringing us to the man we know today as Santa Claus—a chubby man in a red suit who delivers presents to good boys and girls with his reindeer on Christmas Eve. 

But who is this man behind the myth of Santa Claus?

Nicholas of Myra was born in the third century in a province called Lycia, which was a part of the Roman Empire. Today ancient Lycia is a part of the country we know as Turkey. Nicholas is believed to have died around 343 A.D., on December 6 th , a date that is currently celebrated by many nations, such as Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, where it is called “Saint Nicholas Day.” For example, in Germany, children are known to put a boot, called a Nikolaus-Stiefel, outside their front door on the eve of Saint Nicholas Day, hoping he will fill it with gifts if he thinks they were good. But if found bad, they will receive a lump of charcoal.

The real Nicholas was a man full of generosity and conviction. He was born to wealthy parents who, when they died, left him their fortune. He chose to use his inheritance to help those in need. For example, one of the vignettes in the book is about three sisters who were saved from life on the streets. Their father was unable to arrange suitable marriages because he did not have enough money for their dowries. (Therefore, the father was left with no choice but to sell them to a brothel.) Upon hearing this, Nicholas secretly threw bags of gold into the girls’ room. The father was elated and, after discovering his daughters’ mysterious benefactor, was sworn to secrecy by Nicholas that he would never tell anyone who had given him the gold.

Nicholas is recorded to have exposed the corruptness of a government official during a famine. He uncovered the governor’s deceitful actions of hoarding grain until the demand forced it into higher prices. Later, Nicholas intervened in an execution of three innocent men…all falsely accused by the same, crooked governor. It is said that one of the prisoners was situated on the block for decapitation, and Nicholas grabbed the sword from the executioner’s hands, setting all three men free. He was praised for his bravery.

Even though many have preserved the stories of Nicholas’ acts of righteousness, few know of his sufferings for Christ. When the Roman emperor Diocletian took power, he instigated a horrific persecution of Christians. Nicholas was imprisoned and physically tortured (pinched with hot iron pliers) for refusing to deny Jesus as God. One account mentions the prisons were so full of church leaders there was no room for the actual criminals.

After the reign of persecution ended, Nicholas would still face a fierce testing of his faith—this time within the church. A preacher named Arius began promoting a heresy that Jesus was not God in the flesh. Arius even went so far as to set his false teaching to music by putting words to popular drinking songs. Constantine, the new leader of the Roman Empire, called together church leaders at Nicea to discuss Arius’ teachings and other issues dividing the church. This was called the Council of Nicea. According to legend, as Arius was making his presentation, he began singing one of his blasphemous songs about Jesus. Unwilling to see this man shame Christ, Nicholas stood up and punched Arius in the mouth. Those in attendance were shocked! Although they understood Nicholas’ need to stand up for Christ’s reputation, they did not believe they could allow such behavior since Christ taught us to love our enemies and live a life of peace. Therefore, Nicholas was no longer allowed to serve as bishop. (It’s noted he was later restored to his position.) But this action did not stop Nicholas from serving the sick and needy.

Those who are persecuted for following Christ today are much like Nicholas of Myra: They humbly serve their fellow countrymen and courageously stand for the Lord when faced with the choice of prison with  Christ or no prison without Christ. His story of boldness and generosity in the face of persecution from the government and conflict within the church is for everyone. By any Christian definition, Nicholas was indeed a saint.

May Nicholas of Myra’s life challenge us to live generously by serving the poor and courageously by standing for Christ in a culture that is increasingly hostile to Him and His people!

Posted by VOM_MediaDev on December 08, 2014 at 01:04 PM in Books, saints and martyrs | Permalink


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In this sense it is difficult to know where the so called incorruptibility ends and the accepted methods of preservation begin.

It was once thought incorruptibility was permanent but many of the saints belonging to the so-called group have become little more than skeletons over the years.

The Church no longer counts incorruptibility as a miracle but sees it more like a favourable, if fading, sign from God.

Another of the incorruptibles: The wax effigy of St Carlo da Sezze. His relics are enshrined under the altar behind his effigy in the San Francesco d’Assisi a Ripa Grande church in Rome

Blessed hand: The forearm of St Francis Xavier is currently displayed in the Church of the Gesu in Rome

Among the saints pictured by journalist Elizabeth Harper is St Paula Frassinetti, displayed in a glass coffin at the Convent of St Dorotea in Rome.

Paula was born in 1809 in Genoa, Italy and helped to establish an order known as the Sisters of Saint Dorothy while devoting her life to helping the poor.

She died in 1882 and her body was deemed incorruptible in 1906. While Paula has become little more than a skeleton, her facial features remain unusually intact - thanks to carbolic acid.

Another incorrupt saint pictured is St Pope Pius V, who has been encased in silver since his death in 1572.

Incorruptibility can also affect just one body part, according to traditional belief, and the preserved arm of St Francis Xavier is currently displayed in the Church of the Gesu in Rome.

The right forearm, which Xavier used to bless and baptize his converts, was detached by Superior General Claudio Acquaviva in 1614 and is displayed since in a silver reliquary.

Adding to the confusion around incorrupt saints are the ones who seem perfect, but in fact are too good to be true.

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Nothing left but bones: The incorrupt but now skeletal body of St Francesca Romana, also called Santa Maria Nova. Francesca was deemed incorrupt a few months after her death in 1440

Preserved in glass: The 'incorrupt' body of St Robert Bellarmine. His remains, in a cardinal's red robes, are displayed behind glass under a side altar in the Church of Saint Ignatius

Displayed to the public: The relics of St Giovanni da Triora lie in the Basilica of St Mary of the Altar of Heaven in Rome

St Victoria, a fragmented skeleton, was hauled out of the Roman catacombs at the mere suggestion she might be a martyr.

She would not have recognised her name, story, and even clothes she was dressed in as they were pieced together or invented entirely by the Church.

Then there is Francesca Romana, who is little more than a skeleton dressed in a nun’s habit. Francesca was deemed incorrupt a few months after her death in 1440.

When her tomb was reopened two centuries later, she was nothing but bone.

According to Heather Pringle, who investigated research conducted by a team of pathologists from the University of Pisa, opening a tomb can disrupt the microclimates that leads to spontaneous preservation, so even the body of a saint can decompose after it’s discovered.

The incorrupt body of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, who died in 1837, rests in the church of San Crisogono.

From afar she looks incorrupt but visitors who get close can see that the wrinkles in her face are formed in wax.

A few dozen black hairs reach out from her blonde curls, signalling something more macabre underneath. She, too, is a skeleton.

According to some, this preservation of the incorrupt is to maintain an honest impression of her the moment they are discovered in their graves.

Encased in silver: The incorrupt body of St Pope Pius V, who died in 1572, lies in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome

Ancient remains: The relics of St Wittoria, the skeleton of a catacomb martyr, covered in gauze and dressed. Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome

Hidden away: The 'incorrupt' St Camillus de Lellis. His skeleton is not in the effigy, but housed in a compartment underneath, La Maddalena, Rome

The first of the incorruptibles: The tomb of St Cecilia, the first 'incorrupt' saint. This famous effigy depicts the position her body was found in, with the wound in her neck from her martyrdom

Wax effigy: The wax effigy and relics of St Victoria, the skeleton of a catacomb martyr with cutaways to show her relics. She lies in the Santa Maria della Vittoria church in Rome

Early saint: St Victoria was hauled out of the Roman catacombs at the mere suggestion she might be a martyr


Nicholas de Fer's map of 1705 showing California as an island. It is titled "Cette Carte De Californie et Du Nouveau Mexique." Image provided courtesy http://www.RareMaps.com — Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc.

The Origin of the Name “California”

“There ruled on that island of California, a queen great of body, very beautiful for her race, at a flourishing age, desirous in her thoughts of achieving great things, valiant in strength, cunning in her brave heart, more than any other who had ruled that kingdom before her. . .Queen Calafia.”

—Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo, “The Adventures of Esplandián” (1510)

The name “California” derives from a novel written by Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo in the 16th century titled, “Las Sergas del muy esforzado caballero Esplandian, hijo del excelente rey Amandis de Gaula.” It was the fifth book in a series of Spanish romance novels.

The story tells of a mythical island called “California” ruled by Queen Calafia and warrior women “of vigorous bodies and strong and ardent hearts and of great strength.” The queen and her warriors venture forth on forays, where they seize and kill men they come upon. Any man found in their domain they eat. And although sometimes they have children from those they make peace with they keep only daughters and murder sons. It is a land near the Terrestrial Paradise, where the only metal in existence is gold. A land where griffons abound, which the women take as pets and feed to them the men they capture and the sons they bear.

Where Montalvo got the idea for the name remains unknown, but several plausible theories exist. One idea holds that it stems from an Islamic term for leader, which is “caliph.” The Spanish equivalent being “Calif.” In Montalvo’s novel Queen Calafia is a sovereign ruler who is allied with infidels against Muslims. Thus the name “California” is a logical designation for the land she ruled over.

Montalvo’s novels were popular reading material and the legend of California island was not unknown to New World explorers of the time. But like much in history no definitive understanding informs us today of the events surrounding the actual naming of the land that is now part of the United States. “No clear account has come down to us,” Dora Beale Polk writes, “about how the name was chosen, where, when, or by whom. All we have to date are tantalizing scraps of information.” What is understood is that the name was first applied in some manner to the Baja peninsula. Either the headland known today as Land’s End near where Cabo San Lucas is located or in reference to the entire peninsula itself.

The Island of California Myth

“A general tendency of geography and romance prevailing in those days was to locate in an insular landscape the scene of adventures and the place of wonders and marvels.”

Leonardo Olschki Storia letteraria delle scoperte geografiche (1937)

Spanish explorers of the 16th century thought California was an island. It was a myth that ebbed and flowed through the centuries based on the reports of various maritime explorers of different nationalities. Despite occasional doubt cast upon the legend and contrary evidence, the mistake was reflected on maps for a couple hundred years and became one of the great cartographic errors of all-time.

Upon landing on the Baja California peninsula in 1535, Hernán Cortés believed he had found an island. In describing his discovery as insular he is credited as the originator of the island theory. Cortés thought the body of water later named in his honor, the Sea of Cortés, was actually a strait separating mainland Mexico from the island of California. In 1539, he sent an expedition led by Francisco de Ulloa to circumnavigate the imagined island and it was Ulloa that named the Gulf of California in Cortés’ honor. Ulloa, however, was unable to lay the myth to rest and correct Cortes’ erroneous belief. The legend lived on.

Yet, as early as 1542, the notion of California being an island was largely dismissed and cartographers began showing the region attached to the mainland. Despite the change in general sentiment, though, all views remained at most “ambiguous or fence-straddling theories,” Polk writes. The myth proved hard to kill.

Maps drawn in subsequent years, such as the one featured here from 1705, resurrected the island myth. It was not until 1747 that the true nature of California was finally settled. In that year, Spanish monarch Ferdinand VI issued a royal proclamation based on the exploration of the Jesuit missionary, Fernando Consag, and informed the world that “California is not an island.” There was finally too much evidence for myth and fantasy to outweigh empirical facts on the balance of reason. At long last the uncertainty was over.

A detail showing the “Canal of Santa Barbara” as thought to exist in 1705. It was a place name later mentioned by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. in 1835. Today it is better known as the Santa Barbara Channel.

Bibliography:

Dora Beale Polk, The Island of California: A History of the Myth (1991)


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