St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) Church

St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) Church

Saint Nicholas, a revered religious figure, was born in Patara during the latter half of the third century AD. He later became a bishop in Myra and was elevated to sainthood after his passing. Saint Nicholas is widely celebrated throughout European countries, particularly in those that were previously part of the Russian Empire. The legend of Santa Claus, a beloved protector and joy of children in northern European countries, was influenced by the existing story of Saint Nicholas, resulting in the creation of a legendary character that resonated with Europeans.

The St. Nicholas Church (Aziz Nikolaos Kilisesi) is an important monument in the history of Middle Byzantine art, representing a notable example of architecture and decoration that originated in the 5th century CE. This, combined with Myra's status as the capital of the Lycian state at the time and the second-largest religious authority in Anatolia, contributed to its prestige, particularly following Saint Nicholas's death.

St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) Church

The original church at this site was destroyed by an earthquake in 529. It was later replaced with a larger basilica-style church, which includes remnants of the original building such as two small residences to the south of its large wall and parts of its northern wall.

Unfortunately, the church suffered extensive damage in either another earthquake or at the hands of Arabian raiders during the eighth century. It was rebuilt but then completely destroyed in 1034 during attacks by the Arabian navy. An inscription reveals that the building remained in ruins for a decade before being restored by Byzantine Emperor Constantine IX Monomachus and his wife Zoë in 1042. Additional renovations were made to aid expansion, with some additions and rebuildings completed under Byzantine Emperor Basil II, resulting in the church's current appearance.

During the 13th century, the Turks controlled Myra, and the church remained a place of worship. In 1738, repairs were made to a chapel near the main building. C. Texier, who toured Anatolia from 1833-1837, visited Myra and recorded his observations in his books. Lieutenant Spratt and Professor Forbes also visited the site in March 1842 and drew a sketch of the church.

During the Crimean War in 1853, a group of Russians showed interest in the Saint Nicholas Church and purchased land with the intention of founding a Russian colony there. The Ottoman state recognized the political implications of this initiative and took back the land, but agreed to demands that the church be restored. In 1862, August Salzmann, a Frenchman, was hired to carry out the restoration work. However, his plans were poorly executed and violated the original design of the building, resulting in some regrettable changes, including the addition of a cumbersome bell tower in 1876, which remains to this day.

The Saint Nicholas Church, located in the ancient city of Myra, was added to the UNESCO Tentative List in 2000 and is regarded as one of Turkey's significant universal values.