Hidden treasures

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

Historical Curiosities
San_Nicola

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

Latest posts

Venice: The stone heart of St Mark’s Basilica

cuore-erizzo
Unknown places & works

If you are visiting St Mark’s Basilica and have just abandoned the wonderful vision of the Pala d'Oro (which is a must-see), just a f...

View

Venice: Map of Venice, what to know before you leave

mappa-venezia
Did you know that...

Did you know that Venice is not a single large island but rather a collection of 117 small islands linked together by over 400 bridges?...

View

Venice: What to see in the island of Burano

burano
Unknown places & works

The island of Burano is really a sight to behold and a great emotion for your heart: every year thousands of tourists venture into our ...

View

Venice: Discovering the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, what to see and how to reach it

isola_di_san_giorgio_maggiore
Unknown places & works

One of you may have had the chance to photograph, while travelling in Venice, the marvelous panorama in front of the historic St Mark...

View

Top posts

Padua: Why do people say ‘Rimanere in braghe di tela?’

pietra-del-vituperio
Historical Curiosities

Have you ever wondered where the popular expression ‘Rimanere in mutande’ o ‘Rimanere in braghe di tela’ comes from? It is a wa...

View

Verona: The roman walls of Verona

porta-borsari
Historical Curiosities

Verona has always been considered a city of considerable importance from a military point of view: being at the mouth of the Adige Vall...

View

Venice: The Last Supper by Veronese at the Gallerie dell'Accademia

ultima-cena-veronese
Historical Curiosities

The twelve rooms of the Gallerie dell'Accademia host many works of art from the Veneto Region and the city of Venice made by renowned a...

View

Belluno: The mystery of the Pietrificatore from Sospirolo

pietrificatore
Mysteries & Legends

Nestled inside the Dolomiti National Park, in the province of Belluno lies the small village of Sospirolo. A peculiar man was born here...

View