Cultural Corridors of South East Europe

Heritage by Type / Christian religious centre

Church of St.Nikolas

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Church of St.Nikolas

About the site


Corridor: Via Anatolia
Country: Turkey, Demre, Antalya
Type: Christian religious centre
Epoch: Antiquity
Theme:
World Heritage:
AntiquityChristian religious centre

St. Nicholas born in 245 AD in Patara near Fethiye (known variously as St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Pere Noel) and died in 363 AD, having spent his life in Anatolia. After he died he was buried in Demre and a church was built there in his memory.
The Church of St Nicholas (Noel Baba Kilisesi) was build on the place of the saint's tomb, who was martyred under the rule of Docletian.
The earliest church of St. Nicholas was built in the 6th century AD, supposedly over St. Nicholas' tomb. Later it was rebuilt, the present church is from the 9th century (probably rebuilt after Arab attacks). It was further rebuilt in 1042 under the patronage of Constantine X and a monastery was added at that time or shortly after. Tsar Alexander II bought the building in 1863 and began to have it restored, but the renovation was not completed. Excavations and restorations were done during the 1960's and continue today from the early 1990's. Wall painting restorations were carried out from 2000-2005. The church's floor is of beautiful opus sectile and cosmati, types of luxury marble mosaic floor tilings, and there are some remains of wall paintings (see photo below). A marble sarcophagus was reused to bury the bones of the saint, but actually they were stolen earlier and taken to Bari, Italy (see info below).
The Church was a popular pilgrimage center attracting pilgrims from home and abroad in all periods, even after the remains of St. Nicholas were stolen in 1087 AD.
In the church of Demre there is the sarcophagus where St Nicholas is thought to have been burried (the lid does not belong to it).
The church and its close environs were registered as a 1st-degree archaeological site in 1982, and also placed on the tentative list of World Heritage Sites by the Turkish Ministry of Culture. It is ranked among specialists as the third most important Byzantine structure present in Anatolia.
 

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