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It’s the kind of discovery that’s likely to delight historians and trouble children in equally large numbers. If a group of archaeologists in Turkey have indeed found what they think they have found, we could be looking at the final resting place of the original Santa Claus.
But just to get things straight, we’re not talking about the jolly-old red-and-white plump bringer of gifts still doing the rounds today. So you don’t have to worry about that! Instead, we’re talking about the tomb of Saint Nicholas himself, which may have just been located beneath an ancient church in the south of Turkey.
The tomb is said to be located in the birthplace of Saint Nicholas - Myra, in Antalya province.
As many myths and tall tales as there may be regarding Santa Claus himself, Saint Nicholas was every bit as real as you or I. He was a beloved bishop back in the fourth century and became famous throughout history for his remarkable generosity.
Speaking on behalf of Antalya’s Monument Authority, Cemil Karabayram said that a series of spaces have been discovered underneath the church while going about an electronic survey.
“We believe this shrine has not been damaged at all, but it is quite difficult to get to it as there are mosaics on the floor,” Mr Karabayram told the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News.
The team of archaeologists genuinely believe that Saint Nicholas was laid to rest under this very church, but have stated that it may take a fair amount of time to uncover the tomb and carry out the necessary tests.
“We have obtained very good results but the real work starts now,” Karabayram added.
“We will reach the ground and maybe we will find the untouched body of Saint Nicholas.”
Along with bringing to an end the kind of debate that has spanned countless centuries, experts believe that any discovery regarding the resting place of Saint Nicholas could have an enormous beneficial impact on the area’s tourism industry. While thousands of tourists travel huge distances each year to visit the home of today’s Santa Claus in Lapland, it’s entirely possible that many thousands more could make their way of Turkey to pay homage to the Bishop who started it all.
Interestingly, previous accounts suggest that the remains of Saint Nicholas were in fact stolen from the area and smuggled into Italy around 1000 years ago. Nevertheless, many experts believe that those responsible for this rather gruesome crime actually removed the bones of a local priest by accident, rather than those of Saint Nicholas.
If true, this could mean that the missing remains of Saint Nicholas were in fact right there in his hometown all along.
So far from being an unpleasant or unfortunate tale, it’s actually one that gives fans of all things festive additional reason to celebrate. After all, what could be better than taking a trip to somewhere slightly warmer than the UK this winter to pay respects to the humble bishop who unknowingly gave birth to one of the most celebrated and important Christmas figures in history?
A good excuse for a holiday…if nothing else!