Bishop of the Council, confrontational benefactor and gift-bringer: from the 4th century Bishop Nicholas of Asia Minor to the. Over the centuries, St. Nicholas became one of the most popular saints of the Catholic Church.

Only a few proven facts are known about the historical figure of Nicholas of Myra, but there are all the more legends. Nicholas was in the 4. A sixteenth-century bishop of Myra in the province of Lycia in what is now Turkey. However, many stories about the bishop of Myra are mixed with the vita of one in the 6th century. The story of St. Nicholas is based on the story of the abbot Nicholas of Sion, who lived near Myra in the sixteenth century, and on the story of Bishop Nicholas of nearby Pinara, today’s Minare near Fethiye.

Public Domain/Aleksa Petrov

Russian icon of St. Nicholas from 1294

In part, this explains the almost exuberant amount of miracles attributed to Nicholas, many of which revolve around gift-giving. Even as an infant, Nicholas is said to have observed fasting days and refused the maternal breast accordingly. As the son of rich parents, Nicholas distributed his inherited fortune among the poor. A famous story is that Nicholas gave gold to a poor family with three unmarried daughters in order to save the girls from a fate as prostitutes. St. Nicholas is therefore often depicted with three golden balls or apples. Stories like these are probably the reason for his reputation as one who secretly brings gifts.

Miracle upon miracle

The grain miracle also falls into the category of "giving life(s)." When there was a famine in his community, Nicholas asked the emperor to allow him to unload grain from an anchored ship and distribute it to the hungry. The emperor agreed – and lo and behold, the grain on the ship did not diminish, and the distributed grain lasted for two years.

Nicholas owes his many roles as patron saint to his numerous miracles. Thus, he is venerated as the patron saint of sailors because he is said to have stopped a storm and saved sailors. Very macabre is the legend of three boys who had already been killed by cannibals and kept dismembered in a pickle barrel and yet were brought back to life by the saint. This miracle narrative also perhaps connected Nicholas with children, of whom he is also the patron saint.

Friedrichsen under by-sa

Painting from the 15. Century: St. Nicholas and the unjustly imprisoned

Slap in the face at the Council of Nicaea

At the time of the persecution of Christians under Emperor Galerius, he is said to have been imprisoned and tortured for a time. It is said that Nicholas took part in the first Council of Nicaea in 325, where he vehemently opposed the teachings of Arianism and even slapped one of his opponents. According to legends, the historical Nicholas was anything but gentle on other occasions as well: he is said to have saved three unjustly imprisoned generals by falling into the executioner’s arms. According to another reading, the bishop appeared to the emperor in a dream to induce him to release the men (stratelat miracle).

In the Greek Orthodox Church, Nicholas is considered a "hyperhagios", a "super-saint". The cult around the bishop developed from the 6. The relic was found in the Byzantine Empire in the thirteenth century and found its way to Italy. Here he was probably spread by Empress Theophanu, who on the occasion of her wedding with Emperor Otto II, gave Santa Claus as a gift. relics from Byzantium, and lived in the 10th century. and 11. Century a large upswing. Since then, Nicholas has traditionally been celebrated on the 6. December on the way, in order to bring to the children "apple, nut and almond core. The Berlin anthropologist Christoph Wulf said to the German news agency dpa: "In the Christian church, St. Nicholas is one of the central saintly figures, along with Christ and Mary with the Child, in many regions."

Hotly sought relics

Nicholas of Myra died in the middle of the 4. Century with approximately 65 years. His relics are since the 11. Santa Claus in the specially built basilica of San Nicola in Bari, southern Italy, in the thirteenth century. Merchants broke open his sarcophagus in Myra in 1087 and brought his bones to Bari. Here every year in May a three-day festival is celebrated in honor of the saint. The Turkish St. Nicholas Foundation reclaims the bones to this day. The 6. December is assumed to be the day of the death of the historical Nicholas and is celebrated as his name day.

Sjohest under by-sa

The broken open sarcophagus in the basilica of Myra, where the mortal remains of Nicholas rested until 1087

St. Nicholas becomes Santa Claus

In recent years, church organizations launched initiatives to promote the saint’s memory and distinguish him from the U.S. Santa Claus, or Santa Claus. Santa Claus can also be traced back to Nicholas.

Dutch emigrants brought St. Nicholas (Dutch: Sinterklaas) in the 17th century. Century to America. From this figure developed the American Santa Claus, who returned to Europe in the form of Santa Claus. However, in the Reformed Presbyterian area, because of the sharp rejection of the veneration of the saint, he had to be stripped of all attributes that correspond to Catholic thinking: That is why Santa Claus wears a soft hood instead of a miter and lacks a crozier and golden book.

What distinguishes St. Nicholas from Santa Claus: Bishop’s miter, staff and book

St. Nicholas customs

The custom of St. Nicholas bringing small gifts to children originated in the 14th century. Century. In the monastery schools, the bishop’s game was played, in which a pupil was allowed to be bishop for a day, first on the "Day of the Innocent Children", later on St. Nicholas Day. From the 17. In the 16th century, the custom developed of going from door to door and examining children and punishing them accordingly or rewarding them with small gifts. In the school of the Monastery of Montserrat in Spain, this custom is maintained to this day.

From the 17. In the seventeenth century in many countries the benevolent St. Nicholas was joined by a sinister companion in the form of the Krampus or Knecht Rupprecht. This figure is nowadays more and more banned from the homes.

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