Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Santa's Grave

The modern-day version of Santa Claus has a lot in common with the version of Jesus found in modern Christianity. Santa Claus was originally based on a real historical person, Saint Nicholas, a Turkish bishop who lived during the fourth century and was known for helping the sick and the poor. However, Santa Claus has accumulated so much additional baggage over the last few centuries that he would be unrecognizable to anyone who knew the real Saint Nicholas.

Now Turkish archaeologists claim that they have discovered the grave of Saint Nicholas, and plan on excavating the site in order to confirm the existence of his remains.

Turkish publication Daily Sabah reported Tuesday that an undisturbed gravesite discovered under a church in the Antalya province may belong to the saint. The head of the province’s monument authority said the gravesite was discovered as archaeologists performed digital surveys of the ground below St. Nicholas Church. St. Nicholas Church is in Antalya’s Demre district, which is known as the birthplace of Santa.

“We believe this shrine has not been damaged at all, but it is quite difficult to get to it as there are mosaics on the floor,” Cemil Karabayram said, according to the Daily Sabah. Each tile in the mosaics has to be scaled, one by one, and removed as a whole, Karabayram said. He said he is optimistic that St. Nicholas’ remains can be reached.

Newsweek reported that the claims conflict with previous narratives that placed the saint’s bones, known as his relics, in Italy. Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe that the Basilica di San Nicola, in Bari, Italy, is where his remains lie.

St. Nicholas was initially buried in 343 A.D. at a church in Demre, but his bones were taken during the Crusades in the 11th century, Newsweek said. The belief was that the relics were taken to Italy at that time. Turkish experts now believe that the bones stolen centuries ago actually belonged to an anonymous priest, the news magazine reported.

I personally believe that the modern story of Santa Claus is a lot like what happened with the story of Jesus. Some historians believe that no historical Jesus ever existed, but personally I think it's more likely that there was a historical person who led the sect established by John the Baptist when he was imprisoned by the Romans. It's not even unlikely that his name was Yeheshua, as it was a common Jewish name of the period.

However, I also think that the Jesus story in the Gospels was compounded with so many additional mythological elements that many of the events attributed to him probably never happened - just like how the real Saint Nicholas never lived at the North Pole, flew around in a sleigh, kept reindeer, or distributed presents around the world. He apparently did have a white beard and gave poor children gifts, but that's where the resemblance ends.

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