Demre combines the heritage of ancient times, and significant religious shrines. It is also believed that it is this ancient city is the home of Santa Claus. How’s that for a dose of history and trivia? Check out the details of the rest of my trip!
The modern Demre is situated around 5 km south of one of the most important archaeological sites of the Mediterranean – the ancient city of Myra. According to Strabo (I B.C.), Myra was the capital of Lycian Federation and one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean, and hence its history is clearly rooted in the ancient times.
As a reminder of the glorious past worlds preserved rock tombs of the Lycian Union and the theater of Greco-Roman era, whose architecture and especially the beauty of sculptural reliefs with ancient theatric masks, talk about the beautiful artistic taste of the local masters of that time. With regard to the necropolis, its uniqueness and originality can be explained by the fact that the peoples of Lycia had the custom of burying the dead in the high places, because it was expected that it will help them go to heaven. Necropolis of Myra is one of the most interesting rock tombs of Anatolia. East of the theater, below the Acropolis hill, is situated the ruins of a brick building, the real purpose of which is unknown, although the inscription on a Doric column shows the ferries that went between the Myra and Limyra, indicating that it was in the Roman period.
This city also is revered as sacred in the Christian faith because here St. Paul had the last meeting with the Apostles before his departure for Rome. This and other facts has contributed and liturgical significance of the city, considered one of the centers of Christianity, and the role of one of its citizens, namely Nicholas of Patara, a well-known in the Orthodox tradition as Nicholas, or Saint Nicholas, in Catholicism – like Santa Claus. The son of a sailor (hence its status as the patron saint of sailors), he was trained in Xanthus and became bishop of Myra, where he preached from about 310 year A.D. until his death in 347 year A.D. Soon after his death there have been several miraculous healings among the faithful who came to bow to his ashes, and Myra has thus become a place of pilgrimage and the holy faith. Was destroyed, but always reborn to life, church with his relics was looted during the Arab raids in 1034.
Byzantine Emperor Constantine IX Monomakh and his wife Zoe gave instructions to surround the church fortress wall. In 1087 Italian merchants were able to take possession of the relics of the saint and transfer them to Bari (Italy), where he was declared the patron saint of the city. Legend: when Italian monks discovered the sarcophagus of the relics of St. Nickolas there were a spreading of pungent smell of chrism. According to another legend, Saint Nicholas (or Santa Claus) was the protector of children, whom he brings presents on Christmas night. Since then, influence and fame of St. Nicholas has expanded to a global scale, even the Turks venerated him as Noel Baba (“Father of Christmas”), and the annual memorial services in his honor (6 December), people gather to entire Earth.