Rorate Caeli

Another barefaced insult from the Turks

AFP - Turkey will ask for the return of the bones of Saint Nicholas, who Father Christmas is modelled on, from their display in Italy, local media reported on Friday. (Of course, the bones of St. Nicholas are not "on display" in Bari; these were taken to Bari in order to be saved from desecration! CAP)

Saint Nicholas, from the modern-day town of Demre on southern Turkey's Mediterranean coast, is, according to tradition, the ancestor of Father Christmas, but his remains were stolen by Italian pirates in the 11th century.

"These bones should be exposed here and not in a town of pirates" in Bari, said Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay, quoted in the newspaper Milliyet.

"If we build a museum in this town (Demre), naturally the first thing we will ask for are the remains of Father Christmas".

The minister gave no schedule for the museum construction, which would exhibit relics of ancient civilisations, but said that after a study by experts, Turkey would request that Italy return the remains of Saint Nicholas.

Many tourists, especially from Russia, visit the Saint Nicholas church in today's Demre, a fifth-century Byzantine basilica rebuilt in the 11th century.

Nicholas was a bishop in ancient Myra (Demre) in the fourth century, during the Byzantine period.

He was buried in Myra, but pirates stole his remains in the 11th century and brought them to Bari in southern Italy, placing them in its own Saint Nicholas basilica.

Saint Nicholas is celebrated for his charity, and his generosity towards others is at the origin of the character of Father Christmas, who took Nicholas's place in Christianity as the giver of presents to children.

From France 24.

BBC helpfully adds that:

Even without the bones, the town of Demre has not been shy about cashing in on its most famous native son - today visitors to the Byzantine church there are greeted by a large, plastic Santa statue, complete with beard and red snow-suit.

(The Byzantine church is currently in ruins, a casualty of Turkey's long-running campaign against Christianity.)

Click here to find out more!