Hidden treasures

The relics of St. Nicholas of Myra (Santa Klaus) in the church of St. Nicholas of Lido in Venice

Historical Curiosities

The relics of St. Nicholas of Myra (Santa Klaus) in the church of St. Nicholas of Lido in Venice

One of the symbols of Christmas is definitely the old cheerful and chubby man who brings gifts: Santa Claus. As many know, his figure is linked to St. Nicholas of Myra, a holy bishop who lived between the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. There are several legends related to his generosity and his love for children which is how the modern version of Santa Claus was created.

It is widely believed that the relics of St. Nicholas are in the St. Nicholas Basilica in Bari, but this houses about half of the skeleton of the saint, because the rest is located in Venice.

When Myra fell to the Muslims, Bari and Venice, which were direct rivals in maritime trade with the East, competed for the transfer of the Saint's relics to the West. In 1087 an expedition of sailors from Bari reached Myra and took possession of about half of the skeleton of Nicholas.

The Venetians could not accept this and so, in 1099 some of them went to Myra to visit the empty tomb from where the sailors from Bari had taken the bones. However,  someone then remembered to have seen important ceremonies take place not on the high altar, but on a secondary altar, which is where the Venetians found a large quantity of bone fragments that the people from Bari had not taken! The remains were then transferred to the Benedictine Abbey of St. Nicholas of Lido in the Venetian lagoon.

St. Nicholas of Myra was highly revered in Venice, being the patron saint of sailors: at the time of the Republic, during the Feast of the Ascension, at the end of the famous ceremony of the wedding of the Sea, the Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated in the Benedictine Abbey of St. Nicholas of Lido.

If you find yourself in Venice during the Christmas holidays and want to discover the city in a truly original way, Francesca, our tour guide for Venice and the writer of this charming section, can organize private tours to suit your interests and needs, which can also be suitable for children!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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