Turkish Archaeologist Makes Seasonal Plea for Santa Claus
December 28, 2009
Archaeologist Nevzat Cevik, head of archaeologicial research in the Turkish town of Demre, has asked his government to demand the return of the bones of St Nicholas to his home town.
The 3rd century saint, on whom the tradition of Santa Claus was modeled, gained a reputation for performing miracles and for his acts of charity when he was the bishop of the Greek city of Myra.
On his death he was canonized as St Nicholas, and his remains were buried in thee Mediterranean town of Demre. In the 11th century, Italian sailors took the remains to the port town of Bari, where they are still kept.
Professor Cevik maintains that Nicholas had made it clear during his lifetime that he wished to be interred in his home town, and that the Turkish government should negotiate with its Italian counterpart to honor the saint’s wishes.
28 December 2009, Monday
A scholar from Akdeniz University has called for the return of the bones of St. Nicholas, better known as Santa Claus, from the Italian city of Bari, where his bones were taken after being stolen, to Antalya’s Demre district, where the saint died and was buried.
Speaking to the Anatolia news agency, Professor Nevzat Çevik, who leads archeological research in Demre, said St. Nicholas is a well-known Christian saint and that he has become very popular in Europe, adding that many churches have been built in Europe in his honor.
“The saint was born and spent his life in Anatolia,” Çevik said. Historical sources say St. Nicholas were born in Patara, a previous name of Antalya, and died in 343 in Demre. The saint’s bones were stolen by Italian craftsmen in 1087 and brought to Bari, where they were interred in a church dedicated to him.
Çevik reiterated St. Nicholas’s remarks in which he said, “I was born here, raised here and I will be buried here.” The professor added that “we should respect the wish of St. Nicholas. The bones should be brought back to his grave in Demre.”
Çevik has also urged state authorities to take steps to contact their Italian counterparts. “The ministries should work to move the bones back to Turkey.” The scholar also emphasized the significance of St. Nicholas’s grave in terms of tourism and said that the number of tourists visiting the church in Demre will drastically increase when the bones are returned.
Antalya Museum Director Cumali Ayabakan told Anatolia that Christians visiting the church in Demre have complained about the absence of Santa Claus’s bones and said an empty grave means nothing to them. “If the bones can be brought to Turkey, they will be returned to the original grave,” he added.