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Research by the University of Oxford has revealed that bones revered for more than 1,700 years as relics of Saint Nicholas, the 4th century Saint who inspired the iconography of Santa Claus, date from the correct historical period.
Saint Nicholas is one of the most revered Orthodox Christian saints and his remains are in the Basilica of San Nicola in Bari since 1807, buried in a crypt under a marble altar.
Over the years, various churches around the world have acquired fragments of his remains, raising the question of how all those bones can be from the same person.
Using a bone fragment micro sample, Professor Tom Higham together with Dr Georges Kazan, directors of the Oxford Relic Cluster, have analyzed one of these bones for the first time.
Carbon dating results indicate the age of the fragment in the 4th century, moment in which the Historians allege that San Nicolás died (approximately in 343); so they suggest that they could be authentic and belong to the saint.
Higham explained that “many relics we studied turn out to be dated somewhat later than their historical testimony suggested. This fragment instead suggests that we could be analyzing the remains of Saint Nicholas himself.
The story of Saint Nicholas
It is believed that Saint Nicholas lived in Myra, Asia Minor (current Turkey). According to legend, he was a wealthy man widely known for his generosity, a trait that inspired the legend of Santa Claus as a bearer of gifts on Christmas Day.
It is believed that he was persecuted by the emperor Diocletian until his death in Myra, where his remains became a focus of Christian devotion, and his remains there were secretly transferred to Bari by a group of Italian merchants during the Muslim conquest of Anatolia, where most of them remain.
The relic was in the possession of Father Dennis O'Neill of the St. Martha of Bethany Church, in Illinois (USA), although it originally came from Lyon, France, although everything indicates that the remains of Saint Nicholas are preserved in Bari and some of them at San Nicolo al Lido in Venice.
The fragment that O'Neill owns, acquired in Europe, comes from the pelvisCuriously, the part of the body that the Bari collection does not have.
Kazan explained that “These results lead us to analyze the remaining fragments from Bari and Venice to try to show that they belong to the same individual, using paleogenomics or DNA tests. It's exciting to think that these relics, which date from such an ancient time, could be genuine.
The relics found in Venice are up to 500 bone fragments, which an anatomical study concluded that they were complementary to the Bari collection, so that both could come from the same person.
The legend of Santa Claus
In the 16th century the stories about Saint Nicholas became popular and the legend of santa claus was born. December 6 is known and celebrated in several European countries, especially in Holland, as the Day of the Feast of Saint Nicholas. On the eve of the party, the children leave their shoes to be filled with gifts.
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