DESTINATIONS

Church of St. Nicholas, Myra

 

The Church of St. Nicholas in ancient Myra (modern Kale or Demre) is a ruined Byzantine church containing the tomb of St. Nicholas of Myra (the inspiration for Santa Claus), as well as many fine mosaics and murals.

 

What to See

 

The floor of the church is several meters below street level, and is accessed by a steeply descending ramp. There are fine marble mosaic pavements (opus sectile) and faded wall paintings throughout the church.

The church has three side aisles; the two on the south have chapels at the east end. A room beyond the north aisle provides access to the upper storey.

The nave is covered by a groined vault and has a synthronon (set of stepped seats for the clergy) with a covered passage in the apse. The stone altar is surrounded by four broken pillars and the exonarthex and narthex are well-preserved.

The empty tomb of St. Nicholas is in the south aisle between two pillars and behind a broken marble screen. A reused Greek-era sarcophagus, the lid features effigies of a man and a woman. The cloisters on the north side of the church are in a good state of repair.


Festivals and Events The Church of St. Nicholas is only used for religious services one day each year: the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6. The ecumenical celebrations begin with a Greek Orthodox Divine Liturgy celebrated by the Metropolitan of Myra, who lives in Istanbul. Next is a service in which Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant clergy participate. The Cardinal Archbishop of Bari, where the saint's relics are now, is also represented. The International St. Nicholas Symposium is held at Demre in early December of each year. [More Info]