city of Myra, located near Demre,
was the city where St Nicholas lived
in the 4th century. Born in Patara,
he later became the bishop of Myra. He was reputed
for his generosity and compassion. A legend tells
the story of a man who was too poor to provide his
three daughters with a dowry, as they had reached
the age to be married. One night, Nicholas tossed
a bag full of gold through the window of the oldest
girl, in order to save her from her bad situation.
Some time later, Nicholas wished to put up the dowry
money for the other two girls, but because their
windows were closed, he threw the bags of gold down
the chimney, hence the secret bestowal of presents
to children at Christmas. This custom of delivering
gifts at night in secret was first practiced on
the eve of the saint's day (6th of December), then
put off until the 25th of December.
The following stories show why Nicholas has been
accepted as the Patron saint of children and sailors:
on a return voyage from Jerusalem, Nicolas, by his
prayers, saved the ship from sinking and even resurrected
a sailor who had drowned in the sea.
In a time of famine three boys found their way to
the house of a butcher who murdered them in their
sleep, cut up their bodies and put them in a salting-tub,
intending to sell the flesh. Nicholas, informed
by an angel, went to the butchers house and restored
the boys to life.
In 60 or 61 AD, Paul
and Luke reembarked from the port of Myra when they
were taken to Rome, as prisoners.
Church of St Nicholas (Noel Baba Kilisesi)
is located in Demre. On the place of the saint's
tomb, who was martyred under the rule of Docletian,
a chapel was erected in the 4th century, then replaced
by a church that was damaged by the Arab raids, but
restored and surrounded by walls in the 11th century.
However at the end of the same century, the bones
were stolen and taken to Bari (Italy). Some relics
such as fragments of his jawbone and skull are today
kept in the Archaeoligical Museum of Antalya.
In the church of Demre there are fragments of frescoes
and mosaics, as well as a sarcophagus
where St Nicholas is thought to have been burried
(the lid does not belong to it).
International St Nicolas Symposium takes place every
year in Demre.
The rock-cut tombs (4C BC) some of which have
temple facades and beautifully carved reliefs representing
the dead and their families, or warriors. They are
among the most fascinating in Anatolia.