The original tomb of Saint Nicholas, the progenitor of Santa Claus, may have been found beneath a church in Turkey.
Archeologists uncovered burial grounds beneath the Saint Nicholas Church in Demre in southwestern Turkey, where St. Nicholas is believed to have lived during the 4th century, the BBC reports.
“We have obtained very good results but real works start now,” Cemil Karabayram, Antalya Director of Surveying and Monuments, told local media outlet the Hurriyet. “We will reach the ground and maybe we will find the untouched body of St. Nicholas.”
The remains of St. Nicholas were said to have been taken to Bari, Italy, in 1087 when the former Greek town of Myra (now Demre) was invaded by the Seljuk Turks. But a recent re-examination of old documents suggests those bones may have belonged to another priest. Now archaeologists will work on the final stages of the excavation.
“The world’s eyes will be set on here. We claim that St. Nicholas has been kept in this temple without any damage,” Karabayram told Hurriyet. “We are at the last stage. If we get the results, Antalya’s tourism will gain big momentum.”
The Saint Nicholas church in Demre is already a popular pilgrimage destination. Known for his generosity, the saint gave rise to the contemporary lore of Santa Claus.