This story is likely to disappoint millions of children around the world.
Archaeologists in Turkey have discovered what they claim is the likely tomb of the original Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas. The tomb is located beneath an ancient church in Demre, southern Turkey, in the Antalya province which is believed to be the birthplace of the 4th century bishop.
Saint Nicholas was known for his generosity toward children and had a reputation for secret gift-giving. He was popularized in 16th century Europe as Father Christmas, and Dutch arrivals brought their version of Saint Nicholas, “Sinterklass,” to the U.S. where he would later be called Santa Claus.
Cemil Karabayram, the head of Antalya’s Monument Authority, said the shrine was discovered while conducting electronic surveys which showed gaps beneath the church where evidence suggests a tomb would likely be.
While it’s a good bet Saint Nicholas’ remains will be found in the tomb, getting to those remains will be difficult. The floor of the ancient church is covered in mosaics that will have to be removed extremely carefully.
“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,” Mr. Karabayram told the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News.
Karabayram also said that while he is optimistic about uncovering Saint Nicholas’s remains, it will take time to scale each tile in the mosaic one-by-one and remove the whole of it in a mold.
Saint Nicholas was interred at the church in Demre after his death in 343, where he lay undisturbed until the 11th century when it was believed that smugglers stole his bones and took them to the Italian city of Bari. However, according to Turkish archaeologists, they may have stolen the wrong ones.
The tomb the bones were stolen from was believed to be that of the saint, but Turkish experts now claim that they were of another, unknown priest. It is likely, then, that Saint Nicholas is still resting in peace underneath the Demre church.
Unlike the Santa Claus of legend, it doesn’t appear that Saint Nicholas got around much. It’s thought that he was also born in Demre, the same city where he now likely still rests.