Archaeologists have discovered a fourth-century church in Turkey’s Antalya province where they believe the remains of St. Nicholas, the saint behind Santa Claus, are buried.
Rising sea levels in the Mediterranean covered the church in Demre, a town in the south of Turkey, centuries ago, according to the outlet. Another church was built on top of the original to protect St. Nicholas’ tomb, LBC News reported. Archaeologists only recently discovered mosaics and stone flooring which led them to St. Nicholas’ grave. Though Saint Nicholas’ burial place was previously known, his remains were stolen around 700 years after his death, leaving the original burial location, unknown, according to LiveScience.
The excavations revealed “the floor on which St. Nicholas’s feet stepped” from the original church, Osman Eravsar, chairman of the Antalya Cultural Heritage Preservation Regional Board, told Turkish news organization Demirören News Agency, according to LBC.
“This is an extremely important discovery, the first find from that period,” Eravsar added.
Tomb of ‘Santa Claus’ is FOUND: Burial spot of Saint Nicholas who died more than 1,600 years ago is discovered 🎅
— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) October 19, 2022
“Now we have reached the remains of the first church and the floor on which Saint Nicholas stepped,” he told DHA, according to LBC. “The tiling of the floor of the first church, on which Saint Nicholas walked, has been unearthed.”
Previous archaeologists speculated that looters stole the Saint’s relics and transported them to Bari, Italy. Researchers now believe the looters had stolen the wrong bones, according to LBC.
St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop of Greek origin who lived in what is now Turkey between 270 and 343 A.D., according to LBC. He inspired the origins of Santa Claus, after a story about him giving three poor, young sisters each a bag of gold coins so they would have marriage dowries.