Tomb of St Nicholas may have been discovered in Turkey

Fear not, kids, Santa Claus is alive and well and busy getting ready for Christmas

St Nicholas church in Antalya, Turkey. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

St Nicholas church in Antalya, Turkey. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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Turkish archaeologists have claimed to have uncovered the likely burial place of St Nicholas, the 4th-century saint who gave rise to the legend of Santa Claus.

We say “claimed”, because as everyone knows , Santa Claus is alive and well and living in Lapland.

Surveys have uncovered an intact temple and burial grounds below St Nicholas church in the province of Antalya, where the saint who was revered for his gift-giving and aid to the poor, is believed to have been born, archaeologists told the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.

“We have obtained very good results but the real work starts now,” said Cemil Karabayram, the director of surveying and monuments in Antalya.

“We will reach the ground and maybe we will find the untouched body of St Nicholas.”

In recent years, the church in Demre in Antalya has been restored, drawing many visitors.

Demre is built on the ruins of Myra, the city where St Nicholas, revered by many denominations in Christianity, is believed to have lived.

It had been thought that the remains of St Nicholas were transferred from Demre by sailors, who smuggled them to the city of Bari in Italy, where the St Nicholas Basilica still stands.

But based on documents obtained from the area, Turkish archaeologists now believe that those remains belonged to a local priest rather than the legendary saint, whose body may still be within the temple complex in Demre.

Fresh surveys

The archaeologists recently began fresh surveys of the area, discovering the temple below the modern church using geo-radars. They said the temple was almost fully intact, but was inaccessible due to the presence of stone reliefs and mosaics that need to be preserved.

Excavation work will allow scholars to access the temple grounds below the church to determine whether it still holds Nicholas’s body.

Guardian service

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