Saint Nicholas Biography

Saint Nicholaus
Saint Nicholas life with Saints

Saint Nicholas life with Saints


The real Saint Nicholas lived during the fourth century. He was born to a rich family in the village of Patara which at that time was Greek but now lies in modern day Turkey. It is said that even as a child St. Nicholas fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays. His parents raised him as a devout Christian but they died when he was quite young and left him well off. The legend of St. Nicholas says he obeyed Jesus instruction to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor". So he sold his belongings and dedicated his life to God's service by helping the poor, the sick and the suffering. As he was especially favored of children and sailors he is known today as their patron.

At the time Saint Nicholas lived the Roman Emperor ruthlessly persecuted the Christians. Being a devout Christian Saint Nicholas was imprisoned. He was released when Constantine became Emperor of the Roman Empire and he became the Archbishop of Myra. St. Nicholas is most often pictured wearing garments exclusive to bishops and archbishops. He was one of the approximately 250 bishops who attended the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. However, it should be understood that Saint Nicholas lived long before the Eastern Orthodox Church split from the Roman Catholic Church. The St. Nicholas story was told in the 'eastern sector' long before it was carried to western Europe. Saint Nicholas is the Patron Saint of Russia.

There are many legends surrounding the life of Saint Nicholas the wonderworker. One of the oldest portraying St. Nicholas as a protector of children tells of a young boy, named Basilios, who was snatched from his home by Arab pirates and made a slave. His family mourned his loss for a year while Basilios served the king who captured him as personal cup bearer. It is said when the next St. Nicholas feast day arrived Basilios mother would not celebrate with the townspeople but remained at home in silent prayer. As Basilios was fulfilling his tasks he was snatched up by St. Nicholas (in thin air) and whisked back to his family with the king's gold cup still in his hand.

In another story a citizen of Patara lost his money and could not support his three daughters much less give them a dowry. The man intended to send them into prostitution. Legend of St. Nicholas says he threw three bags of gold into the man's house on three separate occasions; thus providing each daughter a dowry so she could marry. Because of this story of St. Nicholas is often pictured carrying three bags of gold.

Because of these and similar stories in St. Nicklaus' life he became a symbol of gift-giving and generosity. Such anonymous acts were the forerunners of traditions such as the 'secret Santa' or simply giving out of kindness without expecting recognition in return.

Saint Nicklaus history tells us sailors (all seafaring men) shared a special kinship with the kind bishop. They carried stories of 'Nicklaus the Wonderworker' to ports along coasts and up rivers throughout the world so that the Arch Bishop of Myra came to be known everywhere. Many seaports and river stops have chapels or churches dedicated to St. Nicklaus even in the modern world.

St Nicklaus died and was buried in his Episcopal city of Myra. His feast day is December 6th.

A basilica was built in Constantinople during the time of the Emperor Justinian but St. Nicholas' remains were kept in the shrine of Myra. At one time the city of Myra fell into the hands of the Saracens and St. Nicholas' remains were carried off to other cities. By May 9, 1087 a new church was built and the city of Bari acquired the precious relics of St. Nicholas under the direction of Pope Urban II. Nicholas in Bari became one of medieval Europe's great pilgrimage centers. St. Nicholas became known as the 'Saint in Bari'. Bari's 'di San Nicola' remains a great tourist attraction even today.


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