Could Ancient Remains Suggest Santa Claus was Real?

by johnsmith

New research by University of Oxford scientists has revealed that bones long venerated as relics of Saint Nicholas, the 4th century Orthodox Christian saint who inspired the iconography of Santa Claus, do in fact date from the right historical period.

Icon of St Nicholas, unknown icon painter, 13th or 14th century.

Icon of St Nicholas, unknown icon painter, 13th or 14th century.

The remains of St Nicholas have been held in the Basilica di San Nicola, Bari, Southern Puglia, since 1087, where they are buried in a crypt beneath a marble alter.

Over the years relic fragments have been acquired by various churches around the world, calling into question how the bones can all be from the same person.

Using a micro-sample of bone fragment, University of Oxford’s Professor Tom Higham and Dr. Georges Kazan have for the first time tested one of these bones.

The radio carbon dating results pinpoint the relic’s age to the 4th century CE — the time that some historians allege that St Nicholas died (around 343 CE).

The results suggest that the bones could in principle be authentic and belong to the saint.

“Many relics that we study turn out to date to a period somewhat later than the historic attestation would suggest,” Professor Higham said.

“This bone fragment, in contrast, suggests that we could possibly be looking at remains from St Nicholas himself.”

St Nicholas is thought to have lived in Myra, Asia Minor, which is now modern day Turkey.

According to legend, he was a wealthy man who was widely known for his generosity, a trait that inspired the legend of Father Christmas as a bringer of gifts on Christmas Day.

Believed to have been persecuted by the Emperor Diocletian, the saint died in Myra, where his remains became a focus of Christian devotion.

His remains are said to have been taken away by a group of Italian merchants and transported to Bari, where the bulk of them sit to this day in the Basilica di San Nicola.

The bone analyzed is owned by Father Dennis O’Neill, of St. Martha of Bethany Church, Shrine of All Saints in Morton Grove Illinois, the United States. The relic originally came from Lyon in France but most of the bones believed to be from St Nicholas are still preserved in Bari, with some in the Chiesa di San Nicolo al Lido in Venice.

The bone has been identified as part of a human pelvis. Interestingly, the Bari collection does not include the saint’s full pelvis, only the left ilium (from the upper part of the bone). While Fr. O’Neil’s relic is from the left pubis (the lower part of the bone) and suggests that both bone fragments could be from the same person.

“These results encourage us to now turn to the Bari and Venice relics to attempt to show that the bone remains are from the same individual,” Dr. Kazan said.

“We can do this using ancient palaeogenomics, or DNA testing. It is exciting to think that these relics, which date from such an ancient time, could in fact be genuine.”

The relics held in Venice consist of as many as 500 bone fragments, which an anatomical study concluded were complementary to the Bari collection, suggesting that both sets of relics could originate from the same individual. It remains to be confirmed what fragments of the pelvis are contained amongst the Venice relics, if any.

The Oxford team’s research has revealed that the bone has been venerated for almost 1700 years, making it one of the oldest relics that the team has ever analyzed.

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