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St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Bishop of Myra in Lycia

Little that withstands the scrutiny of modern eyes is known about this popular saint, whose legendary kindness to children created the story of Santa Claus. A IV-Century bishop of Myra in Lycia, Nicholas was probably born in Patara and to have travelled as a youth in Palestine and Egypt. He is said to have been imprisoned during the persecutions by Diocletian and to have been released after he had a vision of Christ and His mother. No records indicate that he attended the First Oecumenical Council of Nicaea (325), at which he allegedly cuffed Arius. Nicholas was buried in his cathedral at Myra, where his shrine was a popular pilgrimage attraction. In 1087, Italians translated his relics to Bari, which became another popular pilgrimage destination.

St. Nicholas is the patron of children. A popular subject of story and visual art is his tossing three bags of gold into the window of an impoverished man who had planned to sell his daughters into prostitution. St. Nicholas is also the patron of sailors and is often depicted rescuing them.

Karen Rae Keck


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