Turkey Wants Bones of St. Nicholas Returned

by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

A Turkish archeologist, who claims that because St. Nicholas spent most of his life in Turkey and once said he did not want to be buried anywhere else, is calling on Turkish authorities to demand the return of his bones from their burial place in southern Italy.

According to reports by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet and the BBC, Prof Nevzat Cevik, head of archaeological research in the town of Demre, says the third century Saint Nicholas who became the prototype for Santa Claus, made it clear during his lifetime that he wanted to be buried in Turkey.

Even though St. Nicholas was born in the Greek colony of Patara in Asia Minor in 270 AD, he lived most of his life in Turkey and died there in 346 and was originally buried in the town known today as Demre. However, when Muslim Turks invaded the area in 1087, the saint’s bones were removed by Italian sailors and transported to the port of Bari in southern Italy, where they remain to this day inside the Basilica of di San Nicola. 

Authorities in Ankara say they will pursue the matter delicately and a time frame has not been set for the return of the saint’s bones.

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