Turkish researchers believe that they have potentially found the ancient tomb of St. Nicholas, the Christian figure who became the inspiration for the Santa Claus Christmas tradition.
According to the Hurriyet Daily News, an intact temple discovered under the Saint Nicholas Church in Demre, Turkey, has sparked speculation that the Christian saint has been secretly buried at the location all along (Demre was built over the ruins of Myra, where many say St. Nicholas lived).
Cemil Karabayram, director of surveying and monuments in Antalya, said that experts are speculating that St. Nicholas’ tomb could also be buried at the same location. More research efforts will reportedly be undertaken to asses if this is truly the case.
“The temple on the ground of the church is in good condition. We believe that it has received no damage so far,” Karabayram said. “But it is hard to enter it because there are stones with motifs on the ground. These stones should be scaled one by one and then removed.”
Experts are using a CT scan and geo-radar, among other investigative tools, to try and see if the tomb is truly at the location. Getting to any potential burial site, though, requires dealing with the mosaics and other complex dynamics.
Thus, it could take some time to get definitive answers.
“We have obtained very good results but real works start now. We will reach the ground and maybe we will find the untouched body of St. Nicholas,” Karabayram said. “We appointed eight academics of different branches to work here.”
Remains were discovered in the church back in the 11th century, though some now believe those bones were from a different priest, The Huffington Post reported.
Some observers, though, are encouraging people to exercise caution, including Carol Myers, founder of the St. Nicholas Center, a nonprofit organization that offers information on the saint. She told HuffPo that any “speculation is very premature.”
“If relics are found, they would need to be dated and examined by international experts,” she said. “The Turks, of course, are very interested in promoting tourism. I’d be very reluctant to jump to any conclusions.”
Read more about St. Nicholas’ life and generosity here.