The tomb of Saint Nicolas, who inspired the stories of Santa Claus, because of his legendary charity and kindness to children, has been discovered after archaeologists uncovered the remains of an ancient church in Turkey.
The church in Demre, a town in the Antalya district in the south of Turkey was covered by rising sea levels in the Mediterranean centuries ago.
Another church was built on top of the original building to protect St Nicholas’ tomb. Archaeologists only recently found mosaics and stone flooring underneath, which helped them find the original church and St Nicholas’ grave.
Osman Eravsar, the head of the provincial cultural heritage preservation board in Antalya, told Demirören News Agency : “The first church was submerged with the rise of the Mediterranean Sea, and some centuries later, a new church was built above.
“Now we have reached the remains of the first church and the floor on which Saint Nicholas stepped.
“The tiling of the floor of the first church, on which saint Nicholas walked, has been unearthed.”
St Nicholas, who lived in what is now Turkey between 270 and 343 AD, was a Christian bishop of Greek origin.
The discovery support claims that St Nicolas lived and died in Turkey and the team also announced that the same stone flooring found hiding beneath layers of sediment was also walked upon by the Christian figure, Demirören News Agency reports.
The Byzantine church built over the ancient foundation was a place of worship for Orthodox Christians between the 5th and 12th centuries and is surrounded by statues of St Nicholas.
It was also added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1982.
The ancient church was first believed to have been discovered in 2017 by researchers who conducted electronic surveys under St Nicholas church, which revealed gaps between the floor and the ground.
The team had announced that they may have found the tomb of Saint Nicholas, but were still working to carefully remove the Byzantine church’s flooring to not damage it.
Osman Eravsar, the head of the provincial cultural heritage preservation board in Antalya, told Demirören News Agency last week: ‘The first church was submerged with the rise of the Mediterranean Sea, and some centuries later, a new church was built above.
‘Now we have reached the remains of the first church and the floor on which Saint Nicholas stepped,’ he noted. ‘The tiling of the floor of the first church, on which Saint Nicholas walked, has been unearthed.’
St Nicholas, who is famous for his gift-giving and charity to the poor, was born in the village of Patara to wealthy parents who died in an epidemic and left their son a large fortune.