Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas
Jaroslav Čermák (1831 - 1878) - Sv. Mikuláš.jpg
Full-length icon of Saint Nicholas by Jaroslav Čermák, showing him with a halo, dressed in clerical garb, and holding a book of the scriptures in his left hand while making the hand gesture for the sign of the cross with his right.
Defender of Orthodoxy, Wonderworker, Holy Hierarch, Bishop of Myra
BornTraditionally 15 March 270[1]
Patara, Roman Empire
DiedTraditionally 6 December 343(343-12-06) (aged 73)
Myra, Roman Empire
Venerated inAnglicanism, Baptist, Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, Methodism, Reformed
Major shrineBasilica di San Nicola, Bari, Italy
Feast19 December [O.S. 6 December] (main feast day – Saint Nicholas Day)
22 May [O.S. 9 May] (translation of relics)[2]
AttributesVested as a Bishop. In Eastern Christianity, wearing an omophorion and holding a Gospel Book. Sometimes shown with Jesus Christ over one shoulder, holding a Gospel Book, and with the Theotokos over the other shoulder, holding an omophorion
PatronageChildren, coopers, sailors, fishermen, merchants, broadcasters, the falsely accused, repentant thieves, brewers, pharmacists, archers, pawnbrokers, Aberdeen, Galway, Russia, Greece, Hellenic Navy, Liverpool, Bari, Siggiewi, Moscow, Amsterdam, Lorraine and Duchy of Lorraine

Saint Nicholas of Myra[a] (traditionally 15 March 270 – 6 December 343),[3][4][b] also known as Nicholas of Bari, was an early Christian bishop of the ancient Greek city of Myra in Asia Minor (modern-day Demre, Turkey) during the time of the Roman Empire.[7] He is revered by many Christians as a saint.[8] Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker.[c] Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, and students in various cities and countries around Europe. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was common for early Christian saints, and his legendary habit of secret gift-giving gave rise to the traditional model of Santa Claus ("Saint Nick") through Sinterklaas.

Very little is known about the historical Saint Nicholas. The earliest accounts of his life were written centuries after his death and contain many legendary elaborations. He is said to have been born in Patara, Lycia in Asia Minor to wealthy Christian parents. In one of the earliest attested and most famous incidents from his life, he is said to have rescued three girls from being forced into prostitution by dropping a sack of gold coins through the window of their house each night for three nights so their father could pay a dowry for each of them. Other early stories tell of him calming a storm at sea, saving three innocent soldiers from wrongful execution, and chopping down a tree possessed by a demon. In his youth, he is said to have made a pilgrimage to Egypt and the Palestine area. Shortly after his return, he became Bishop of Myra. He was later cast into prison during the persecution of Diocletian, but was released after the accession of Constantine. An early list makes him an attendee at the First Council of Nicaea in 325, but he is never mentioned in any writings by people who were actually at the council. Late, unsubstantiated legends claim that he was temporarily defrocked and imprisoned during the Council for slapping the heretic Arius. Another famous late legend tells how he resurrected three children who had been murdered and pickled in brine by a butcher planning to sell them as pork during a famine.

Fewer than 200 years after Nicholas's death, the St. Nicholas Church was built in Myra under the orders of Theodosius II over the site of the church where he had served as bishop and Nicholas's remains were moved to a sarcophagus in that church. In 1087, after the Byzantine Empire temporarily lost control of the region to the Seljuk Turks, a group of merchants from the Italian city of Bari removed the major bones of Nicholas's skeleton from his sarcophagus without authorization and brought them to their hometown, where they are now enshrined in the Basilica di San Nicola. The remaining bone fragments from the sarcophagus were later removed by Venetian sailors and taken to Venice during the First Crusade. His relics in Bari are said to exude a miraculous watery substance known as "manna" or "myrrh", which some members of the faithful regard as possessing supernatural powers.

Biographical sources

Very little at all is known about Saint Nicholas's historical life.[9][10] Any writings Nicholas himself may have produced have been lost[11] and he is not mentioned by any contemporary chroniclers.[11] This is not surprising,[12] since Nicholas lived during a turbulent time in Roman history.[12] Furthermore, all written records were kept on papyrus or parchment, which were less durable than modern paper,[13] and texts needed to be periodically recopied by hand onto new material in order to be preserved.[13] The earliest mentions of Saint Nicholas indicate that, by the sixth century, his cult was already well-established.[14] Less than two hundred years after Saint Nicholas's probable death, the Eastern Emperor Theodosius II (ruled 401 – 450) ordered the building of the Church of Saint Nicholas in Myra, which thereby preserves an early mention of his name.[15] The Byzantine historian Procopius also mentions that the Emperor Justinian I (ruled 527 – 565) renovated churches in Constantinople dedicated to Saint Nicholas and Saint Priscus,[16][15] which may have originally been built as early as c. 490.[16]

Nicholas's name also occurs as "Nicholas of Myra of Lycia" on the tenth line of a list of attendees at the Council of Nicaea recorded by the historian Theodoret in the Historiae Ecclesiasticae Tripartitae Epitome, written sometime between 510 and 515.[15][14] A single, offhand mention of Nicholas of Myra also occurs in the biography of another saint, Saint Nicholas of Sion,[10] who apparently took the name "Nicholas" to honor him.[10][17] The Life of Saint Nicholas of Sion, written around 250 years after Nicholas of Myra's death, briefly mentions Nicholas of Sion visiting Nicholas's tomb to pay homage to him.[10][17][14] According to Jeremy Seal, the fact that Nicholas had a tomb that could be visited serves as the almost solitary definitive proof that he was a real historical figure.[18][17]

In his treatise De statu animarum post mortem (written c. 583), the theologian Eustratius of Constantinople cites Saint Nicholas of Myra's miracle of the three counts as evidence that souls may work independent from the body.[16] Eustratius credits a lost Life of Saint Nicholas as his source.[16] Nearly all the sources Eustratius references date from the late fourth century to early fifth century,[16] indicating the Life of Saint Nicholas to which he refers was probably written during this time period, shortly after Nicholas's death.[16] The earliest complete account of Nicholas's life that has survived to the present is a Life of Saint Nicholas, written in the early ninth century by Michael the Archimandrite (814–842), nearly 500 years after Nicholas's probable death.[19]

Despite its extremely late date, Michael the Archimandrite's Life of Saint Nicholas is believed to heavily rely on older written sources and oral traditions.[20][21] The identity and reliability of these sources, however, remains uncertain.[21] Catholic historian D. L. Cann and medievalist Charles W. Jones both consider Michael the Archimandrite's Life the only account of Saint Nicholas that is likely to contain any historical truth.[19] Jona Lendering, a Dutch historian of classical antiquity, notes that Michael the Archimandrite's Life does not contain a "conversion narrative", which was unusual for saints' lives of the period when it was written.[21] He therefore argues that it is possible Michael the Archimandrite may have been relying on a source written before conversion narratives became popular, which would be a positive indication of that source's reliability.[21] He also notes, however, that many of the stories recounted by Michael the Archimandrite closely resemble stories told about the first-century AD Neopythagorean philosopher Apollonius of Tyana in the Life of Apollonius of Tyana, an eight-volume biography of him written in the early third century by the Greek writer Philostratus.[21] Christian storytellers were known to adapt older pagan legends and attribute them to Christian saints.[21] Because Apollonius's hometown of Tyana was not far from Myra, it is highly probable that many popular stories about him became attached to Saint Nicholas.[21]

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Nikolaus von Myra
العربية: القديس نقولا
asturianu: Nicolás de Bari
Bân-lâm-gú: Sèng Nicholas
bosanski: Sveti Nikola
brezhoneg: Nikolaz Mira
čeština: Svatý Mikuláš
Cymraeg: Sant Nicolas
eesti: Nikolaus
Ελληνικά: Άγιος Νικόλαος
Esperanto: Nikolao de Mira
français: Nicolas de Myre
hrvatski: Sveti Nikola
Bahasa Indonesia: Nikolas dari Myra
Kiswahili: Nikolasi wa Myra
Lëtzebuergesch: Kleeschen
lietuvių: Šv. Mikalojus
Ligure: San Nichioso
Limburgs: Sinterklaos
Lingua Franca Nova: San Nicola
македонски: Свети Никола
Malagasy: Nicolas de Myre
Bahasa Melayu: Santo Nicholas
Nederlands: Nicolaas van Myra
Napulitano: San Nicola 'e Mira
norsk nynorsk: Heilage Nikolas
Nouormand: Saint Nic'lesse
Piemontèis: Nicòla ëd Myra
português: Nicolau de Mira
Ripoarisch: Nikolaus von Myra
română: Nicolae de Mira
Simple English: Saint Nicholas
slovenčina: Mikuláš z Myry
slovenščina: Nikolaj iz Mire
српски / srpski: Свети Никола
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Sveti Nikola
தமிழ்: நிக்கலசு
Türkçe: Nikolaos (aziz)
українська: Святий Миколай
Tiếng Việt: Nicôla thành Myra
粵語: 聖尼古拉
中文: 圣尼古拉