Santa Claus’s Tomb Found in Turkey, Archaeologists Say

By Nancy Flory Published on October 11, 2017

The tomb of Saint Nicholas — the inspiration for our Santa Claus — may have been found.

The Smithsonian reported last week that burial grounds and an intact temple were discovered under the Church of St. Nicholas in Turkey’s Demre district. Archeologists found the areas during radar scans and CT surveys. The discovery is not confirmed because researchers must carefully remove church floor mosaics — a process they say will take time.

“The temple on the ground of the church is in good condition,” said Antalya Director of Surveying and Monuments Cemil Karabayram. “We believe that it has received no damage so far. But it is hard to enter it because there are stones with motifs on the ground. These stones should be scaled one by one and then removed.”

Where is St. Nick Really Buried?

It is believed that St. Nicholas died on December 6, 343 A.D. The real question is, where is he buried? 

The Telegraph reported that St. Nicholas was buried in Demre, but in 1087 merchants smuggled his bones to Bari, Italy, and a basilica was built to protect them.

However, Venice claims that during the First Crusade, its sailors stole the bones of St. Nicholas and kept them in the church of San Nicolo al Lido. 

Ireland also claims to have St. Nicholas’s bones. Irish legend has it that St. Nicholas’s bones are in the Church of St. Nicholas, Jerpoint. According to that story, two crusaders brought the bones of St. Nicholas back to Ireland in the 1300s.

Finally, a French family named de Frainets was said to have removed the bones from Myra and taken them to Bari in 1169. At the time, Bari was under the rule of the Normans. When the Normans were kicked out of Bari, the family moved to Nice, France, taking the bones with them. After the Normans left France, the family moved to Ireland, burying St. Nicholas in Jerpoint in 1200. 

From St. Nicholas to Santa Claus

St. Nicholas was born around 280 A.D. in Turkey. According to, he lost both parents at an early age and used his inheritance to care for the sick and poor. He eventually became the Bishop of Myra, now called Demre. Because of his generosity, like leaving money in the shoes of the poor, or paying a dowry so a woman could be married instead of sold into servitude, St. Nicholas became associated with gift-giving. 

But it wasn’t until 1820 that a poem titled “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore transform St. Nicholas into the beloved Santa Claus of popular lore. Moore’s poem describes the “jolly, heavy man” who  leaves presents for good boys and girls and drives a sleigh pulled by reindeer. In 1881, Thomas Nast drew a cartoon of Santa wearing his now-legendary red suit, further propelling him to fame.

In related news, a big lump of coal in the stocking this Christmas for The Washington Post. The “bah humbug” headline to a story about the tomb discovery reads: “Santa Dead, Archaeologists Say” 

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  • Chip Crawford

    That’s amazing. All this time, someone or someones have been collecting his SS checks … but filling in for him all the while, so I guess thy think they’ve earned it!

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