Turkish archaeologists believe they have confirmed the original burial site of St. Nicholas, who inspired Santa Claus and was the victim of a tomb theft in the 11th century.

“This is an extremely important discovery, the first discovery of that period,” said Osman Eravsar, president of the Antalya Regional Council for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage.

Fox News Digital reported in 2017 that a team of researchers had initiated an examination of the church of St. Nicholas in Demre, a circa 7th-century church, using CT scanning technology and geo-radar to examine a tomb beneath its foundations.

The last home of St. Nicholas, the 4th-century Greek bishop who inspired the legend of Santa Claus, was well known after a group of wealthy Italians in 1087 AD decided to take the body, breaking up the saint’s original burial site to get it back him.

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This photo shows the interior of the St. Nicholas Church in Demre, Turkey. Experts believe that the tomb of St. Nicholas may be found under the church, a historical inspiration for Santa Claus.
(Kenan Olgun / iStock)

The original burial site remained unknown until the late 20th century, when researchers began examining the foundations of the church of St Nicholas in Demre, a town in southern Turkey, and found an older church beneath the current one.

“When the screed slab laid in the 1970s was removed where it was, an excavation was carried out to find out what’s underneath,” Eravsar told the Turkish outlet DHA. “The result was an early 4th century church flooring. The present church is dated later.”

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“There are some architectural traces in various parts of the early period structure, but there were no traces in terms of flooring. This is an emerging, possibly earlier flooring,” he added.

Saint Nicholas of Myra was a Christian bishop of the ancient city of Demre, Turkey, during the Roman Empire

Saint Nicholas of Myra was a Christian bishop of the ancient city of Demre, Turkey, during the Roman Empire
(iStock)

Researchers found a fresco of Jesus under the new floor and the combination of Jesus making the blessing sign, as well as a tile with the Greek words for “as grace”, indicate that Saint Nicholas originally lay under the fresco. .

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Researchers had a hard time examining the foundations, which had sand and silt that obscured much of the church’s original floor, which originated in the 3rd or 4th century. The current church was built in the 7th or 8th century.

The Church of St. Nicholas is an ancient Byzantine church in today's Turkish city of Demre, in the province of Antalya.  It was used from the 5th to the 12th century.  It is best known as the first burial place of San Nicola di Mira.

The Church of St. Nicholas is an ancient Byzantine church in today’s Turkish city of Demre, in the province of Antalya. It was used from the 5th to the 12th century. It is best known as the first burial place of San Nicola di Mira.
(Bild Schellhorn / ullstein via Getty Images)

Saint Nicholas was born in Patara, an ancient city in Lycia on the southwestern coast of Turkey. Nicholas went to Myra, which later became known as Demre, and served as a bishop for many years. He reportedly donated his inherited wealth anonymously to the poor, inspiring Santa’s tales.

Eravsar said the discovery would “add to the architectural history” of the area and that researchers will cover the exhibit after using a “certain technique” to protect it after the research is completed.

The most exciting element of the discovery was the discovery of further relics belonging to St. Nicholas, although their conditions may not be ideal. The church is located below sea level, which makes it subject to occasional flooding.

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“Since geophysical studies have some distractors, one of them is the humidity in the field. If there is intense humidity and water, no results can be obtained,” explained Eravsar. “In that case, the only thing we can do is dig that area.

“If these are carried out by the excavators in the future, this information will come out in a more concrete way and we will learn new things.”

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