48 Facts About St Nicholas


Saint Nicholas of Myra, known as Nicholas of Bari, was an early Christian bishop of Greek descent from the maritime city of Myra in Asia Minor during the time of the Roman Empire.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,131

Saint St Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, unmarried people, and students in various cities and countries around Europe.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,132

St Nicholas's reputation evolved among the pious, as was common for early Christian saints, and his legendary habit of secret gift-giving gave rise to the traditional model of Santa Claus through Sinterklaas.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,133

St Nicholas is said to have been born in the Greek seaport of Patara, Lycia in Asia Minor to wealthy Christian parents.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,134

St Nicholas was later cast into prison during the persecution of Diocletian, but was released after the accession of Constantine.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,135

Fewer than 200 years after Nicholas's death, the St Nicholas Church was built in Myra under the orders of Theodosius II over the site of the church where he had served as bishop, and his remains were moved to a sarcophagus in that church.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,136

The earliest mentions of Saint St Nicholas indicate that, by the sixth century, his cult was already well-established.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,137

St Nicholas's name occurs as "St Nicholas of Myra of Lycia" on the tenth line of a list of attendees at the Council of Nicaea recorded by the historian Theodoret in the Historiae Ecclesiasticae Tripartitae Epitome, written sometime between 510 and 515.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,138

Accounts of Saint St Nicholas's life agree on the essence of his story, but modern historians disagree regarding how much of this story is actually rooted in historical fact.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,139

Traditionally, St Nicholas was born in the city of Patara, a port on the Mediterranean Sea, in Asia Minor in the Roman Empire, to a wealthy family of Greek Christians.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,140

The father immediately arranged a marriage for his first daughter, and after her wedding, St Nicholas threw a second bag of gold through the same window late at night.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,141

The scene of St Nicholas's secret gift-giving is one of the most popular scenes in Christian devotional art, appearing in icons and frescoes from across Europe.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,142

Philostratus never mentions the fate of the daughters and, in his story, Apollonius's generosity is purely motivated out of sympathy for the father; in Michael the Archimandrite's account Saint St Nicholas is instead expressly stated to be motivated by a desire to save the daughters from being sold into prostitution.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,143

St Nicholas argues that this desire to help women is most characteristic of fourth-century Christianity, due to the prominent role women played in the early Christian movement, rather than Greco-Roman paganism or the Christianity of Michael the Archimandrite's time in the ninth century, by which point the position of women had drastically declined.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,144

The bishop of Myra, who had succeeded St Nicholas's uncle, had recently died and the priests in the city had decided that the first priest to enter the church that morning would be made bishop.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,145

St Nicholas went to the church to pray and was therefore proclaimed the new bishop.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,146

St Nicholas is said to have been imprisoned and tortured during the Great Persecution under the Emperor Diocletian, but was released under the orders of the Emperor Constantine the Great.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,147

One of the earliest attested stories of Saint St Nicholas is one in which he saves three innocent men from execution.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,148

Saint St Nicholas appeared to Constantine and Ablabius in dreams, informing Constantine of the truth and frightening Ablabius into releasing the generals, for fear of Hell.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,149

St Nicholas confronted the generals for allowing their soldiers to misbehave and the generals brought an end to the looting.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,150

Immediately after the soldiers had returned to their ships, St Nicholas heard word of the three innocent men about to be executed and the three generals aided him in stopping the execution.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,151

Eustathius attempted to flee on his horse, but St Nicholas stopped his horse and chastised him for his corruption.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,152

St Nicholas then made his dream appearances and the three generals were set free.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,153

In 325, St Nicholas is said to have attended the First Council of Nicaea, where he is said to have been a staunch opponent of Arianism and devoted supporter of Trinitarianism, and one of the bishops who signed the Nicene Creed.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,154

St Nicholas's name appears on a total of three early lists, one of which, Theodore the Lector's, is generally considered to be the most accurate.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,155

Later legend, first attested in the fourteenth century, over 1,000 years after St Nicholas's death, holds that, during the Council of Nicaea, St Nicholas lost his temper and slapped "a certain Arian" across the face.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,156

St Nicholas tells them he is imprisoned "for loving you" and they free him from his chains and restore his vestments.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,157

The scene of St Nicholas slapping Arius is celebrated in Eastern Orthodox icons and episodes of Saint St Nicholas at Nicaea are shown in a series of paintings from the 1660s in the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,158

St Nicholas, visiting the region to care for the hungry, saw through the butcher's lies and resurrected the pickled children by making the Sign of the Cross.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,159

The fact that Saint St Nicholas was shown with children led people to conclude he was the patron saint of children; meanwhile, the fact that he was shown with a barrel led people to conclude that he was the patron saint of brewers.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,160

St Nicholas invited the sailors to unload a part of the wheat to help in the time of need.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,161

Only when St Nicholas promised them that they would not suffer any loss for their consideration, the sailors agreed.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,162

St Nicholas was the only major saint associated with that part of Turkey.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,163

On 28 December 2009, the Turkish government announced that it would be formally requesting the return of Saint St Nicholas's skeletal remains to Turkey from the Italian government.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,164

Turkish authorities have asserted that Saint St Nicholas himself desired to be buried at his episcopal town, and that his remains were illegally removed from his homeland.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,165

Sailors from Bari took only the main bones of St Nicholas's skeleton, leaving all the minor fragments in the grave.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,166

An Irish tradition states that the relics of Saint St Nicholas are reputed to have been stolen from Myra by local Norman crusading knights in the twelfth century and buried near Thomastown, County Kilkenny, where a stone slab marks the site locally believed to be his grave.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,167

Whereas the devotional importance of relics and the economics associated with pilgrimages caused the remains of most saints to be divided up and spread over numerous churches in several countries, Saint St Nicholas is unusual in that most of his bones have been preserved in one spot: his grave crypt in Bari.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,168

St Nicholas suffered from severe chronic arthritis in his spine and pelvis.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,169

The broken nose appeared to conform with hagiographical reports that Saint St Nicholas had been beaten and tortured during the Diocletianic Persecution.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,170

In centuries of Greek folklore, St Nicholas was seen as "The Lord of the Sea", often described by modern Greek scholars as a kind of Christianized version of Poseidon.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,171

St Nicholas is the patron saint of all of Greece and particularly of the Hellenic Navy.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,172

St Nicholas is mentioned in the Liturgy of Preparation during the Divine Liturgy and during the All-Night Vigil.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,173

Today, Saint St Nicholas is still celebrated as a great gift-giver in several Western European and Central European countries.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,174

Saint St Nicholas is a popular subject portrayed on countless Eastern Orthodox icons, particularly Russian and Serbian ones.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,175

St Nicholas is depicted as an Orthodox bishop, wearing the omophorion and holding a Gospel Book.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,176

Iconographically, St Nicholas is depicted as an elderly man with a short, full, white, fluffy beard and balding head.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,177

In Roman Catholic iconography, Saint St Nicholas is depicted as a bishop, wearing the insignia of this dignity: a bishop's vestments, a mitre and a crozier.

FactSnippet No. 1,885,178