St. Nicholas' Grave Found Beneath Church in Turkey: 'Extremely Important Discovery,' Expert Says

Archaeologists say they've uncovered the exact spot where the figure who inspired Santa Claus was buried

The old Greek antique temple of Saint Nicholas in city of Demre, Antalya, southern Turkey.
Photo: Getty

The grave of the figure who inspired Santa Claus has been unearthed in Turkey.

Archaeologists recently discovered the original burial place of St. Nicholas underneath a church in the country's Antalya province, according to Live Science and local outlet DHA.

The church, named after St. Nicholas, was built in the 7th or 8th century atop another church, where the saint is believed to have served as bishop before it flooded in the Middle Ages, reported DHA.

Professor Dr. Osman Eravşar, president of the Antalya Cultural Heritage Preservation Regional Board, said the "extremely important discovery" is the first of its kind from that time period, according to DHA.

"We see this church as a discovery that will increase the architectural history and its iconographic value a bit more," Eravşar told the outlet.

A view of the 11th century Church of St. Nicholas, in Demre, near Antalya, southern Turkey, Friday, Oct. 6, 2017.
DHA-Depo Photos via AP

Researchers have long believed that Saint Nick's body was initially buried somewhere within the province during the fourth century A.D., according to Live Science.

His remains were stolen and moved around 700 years later.

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The Demre burial site was located after a slab of floor laid in the 1970s was removed, Eravşar said, per DHA. A 4th century floor was discovered underneath following excavation.

Pilgrims near the sarcophagus of St. Nicholas in Demre, Turkey

The Church of St. Nicholas was built in A.D. 520 above the church where he served as a bishop, according to Live Science. He died in the same town in A.D. 343.

William Caraher, an archaeologist at the University of North Dakota who specializes in early Christian architecture, told Live Science it's actually "not unusual" for churches from that period to be built on top of each other.

The site will now "be covered" and "made ready for display," Eravşar told DHA.

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