Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Yes, There Really is a St. Nicholas !
New Australian / TNA News ^ | 12/16/2001 | John David Powell

Posted on 12/25/2001 10:01:01 AM PST by ex-Texan

Yes, there really is a St. Nicholas

by John David Powell

He has been called a saint for all seasons. His reputation has traveled around the world. He is the patron saint of children, maidens, merchants, travelers, scholars and sailors. His feast day is December 6, but he is associated with a more well-known December date. Some folks believe he comes from the land of the ice and snow; but he was born in what is now Turkey a long, long time ago.

He is St. Nicholas of Myra, the Wonderworker, not jolly old St. Nick, the fat bearded guy.

Pre-saint Nicholas was born around 300 A.D. in Asia Minor. His early life remains a mystery. It is known that as the bishop of Myra he attended the Council of Nicea in 325, the first of the great councils that established much of the Christian thought we have today. Those early years were not pleasant ones for Christians. In the days before the emperor Constantine, Christianity was an outlawed religion. As such, its followers were tortured or put to death. Nicholas was arrested and tortured, but continued his work for the church.

During those pre-Constantine days an event occurred that would link Nicholas with gift-giving and the spirit of the Christmas season. It was, and is, the custom in many countries for the father of the bride to provide a dowry to the groom. Many times a girl would go unmarried because her father was poor. Such was the case in Myra in the days of Nicholas, only instead of one girl there were three sisters in one family doomed to live as spinsters.

We are told that one night the family heard a thud in the fireplace. They were amazed to discover someone had tossed down their chimney a bag containing just the right amount of money for the oldest daughter’s dowry. And so she was married, and we would like to believe she and her husband lived happily ever after.

There remained, however, two sisters and a father who was still strapped for cash. Would the mysterious benefactor deliver the necessary dowries? Would they come via the chimney? The answers are yes. Twice more thuds in the hearth were the results of money down the chimney. Nicholas was given credit for these unselfish deeds, and this is why three gold balls or bags of gold are used as symbols for St. Nicholas.

Nicholas’ popularity grew after his death. In fact, it took on international proportions, along with scandal and intrigue. In the late 11th century, merchants from the Italian city of Bari were looking for a way to increase their tourist trade. Someone got the bright idea to make Bari’s local saint the cornerstone of its tourism campaign. Members of the Bari Chamber of Commerce all nodded their heads and slapped each other on the backs, congratulating themselves for coming up with such a fine plan.

There was just one snag: Bari didn’t have a saint. So, the merchants frowned and wandered around aimlessly until someone else came up with the idea to utilize another town’s saint. Again there were appreciative nods and congratulatory slaps. Ah, but which saint should be chosen? And how would that saint be appropriated? Vexing questions, indeed. Since the good folks of Bari felt close to St. Nicholas of Myra, they devised a plot to liberate his body from its resting place in Turkey. By hook and by crook they acquired his remains and spirited them back to Bari.

A great parade was held and there was much joy and celebration (in Bari, not Myra) and on May 9, 1087, the remains of St. Nicholas were enshrined in their new home. The good citizens of Bari eventually built a basilica in his honor. Meanwhile, the folks of Myra did not take kindly to awakening one morning to discover St. Nicholas was not among them. Emissaries were dispatched to Bari. Frank and earnest discussions began.

Nine hundred years later, the people of Myra, the church in Rome, and the Bari tourist board/saint acquisition committee are still negotiating the return of St. Nick’s relics. Barians, as one can imagine, are not keen on the idea of giving up their saint (or Myra’s saint, depending on one’s viewpoint). And besides, in 1972 the Vatican gave many of St. Nicholas’ other relics to the Orthodox Church in America, in what was described as an ecumenical gesture.

Despite grave-robbing and centuries of hard feelings and haggling, the good works of St. Nicholas are still remembered and cherished and serve as a model for us all, especially at this time of the year.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Front Page News

1 posted on 12/25/2001 10:01:01 AM PST by ex-Texan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: ex-Texan


A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Hail Caesar

2 posted on 12/25/2001 10:21:58 AM PST by Hail Caesar
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ex-Texan
BTTT for 12-06-03!
3 posted on 12/05/2003 9:58:33 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ex-Texan
Life of Saint Nicholas the Bishop, from The Golden Legend compiled by Jacobus de Voragine

Yes, There Really is a St. Nicholas !

Don't forget: St. Nicholas' Day is tomorrow (get your shoes out!)

4 posted on 12/06/2003 9:17:09 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

BTTT on 12-06-04! Happy St. Nicholas Day!

5 posted on 12/06/2004 8:01:44 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: ex-Texan

BTTT on December 6, 2005, Optional Memorial of St. Nicholas.

6 posted on 12/06/2005 9:14:57 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ex-Texan
American Catholic’s Saint of the Day


December 6, 2006
St. Nicholas
(d. 350?)

The absence of the “hard facts” of history is not necessarily an obstacle to the popularity of saints, as the devotion to St. Nicholas shows. Both the Eastern and Western Churches honor him, and it is claimed that, after the Blessed Virgin, he is the saint most pictured by Christian artists. And yet, historically, we can pinpoint only the fact that Nicholas was the fourth-century bishop of Myra, a city in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor.

As with many of the saints, however, we are able to capture the relationship which Nicholas had with God through the admiration which Christians have had for him—an admiration expressed in the colorful stories which have been told and retold through the centuries.

Perhaps the best-known story about Nicholas concerns his charity toward a poor man who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters of marriageable age. Rather than see them forced into prostitution, Nicholas secretly tossed a bag of gold through the poor man’s window on three separate occasions, thus enabling the daughters to be married. Over the centuries, this particular legend evolved into the custom of gift-giving on the saint’s feast. In the English-speaking countries, St. Nicholas became, by a twist of the tongue, Santa Claus—further expanding the example of generosity portrayed by this holy bishop.


The critical eye of modern history makes us take a deeper look at the legends surrounding St. Nicholas. But perhaps we can utilize the lesson taught by his legendary charity, look deeper at our approach to material goods in the Christmas season and seek ways to extend our sharing to those in real need.


“In order to be able to consult more suitably the welfare of the faithful according to the condition of each one, a bishop should strive to become duly acquainted with their needs in the social circumstances in which they live.... He should manifest his concern for all, no matter what their age, condition, or nationality, be they natives, strangers, or foreigners” (Decree on the Bishops' Pastoral Office, 16).

7 posted on 12/06/2006 11:50:11 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson