(ORDO NEWS) — The Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Demre, Turkey, was flooded due to the rising level of the Mediterranean Sea during the Middle Ages.
Therefore, for a long time, archaeologists could not find the tomb of the saint, who became the prototype of Santa Claus (Santa – “saint”, Klaus – “Nicholas”).
Despite the fact that for many years people have been visiting the church in Demre, until now, scientists did not know exactly where the tomb of the saint was located.
Nicholas the Wonderworker, known for his generosity and mercy to the poor, was born in the village of Patara, Lykia, to wealthy parents who died during an epidemic and left their son a large fortune.
Being a devout Christian, Nicholas followed the teachings of Jesus and distributed money to the poor.
In particular, he is known for the story of how he gave bags of gold to three girls to save them from prostitution. This story was the beginning of the tradition of giving gifts for Christmas.
Mystery of the Church
The Byzantine church, built on ancient foundations, was a place of worship for Orthodox Christians between the 5th and 12th centuries, surrounded by statues of Saint Nicholas.
The church was built on the foundations of an ancient basilica in order to protect the tomb of the saint.
Despite the fact that scholars knew about it, it was only recently that archaeologists discovered the mosaics and stone floor of a previous sanctuary underneath the one that stands today.
This discovery led them to the final resting place of Nicholas the Wonderworker.
The team is now working on removing the flooring of the Byzantine church carefully so as not to damage it.
Osman Eravsar, head of the Antalya Cultural Preservation Council, said: “The first church was flooded with the rise of the Mediterranean Sea, and a few centuries later a new church was built over it.
Now we have reached the ruins of the first church and the floor that Nicholas himself stepped on.”
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