Ancient tomb of Santa Claus found underneath Turkish church

Ancient tomb of Santa Claus found underneath Turkish church”

"We believe this shrine has not been damaged at all, but it is quite hard to get to it as there are mosaics on the floor", Mr Karabayram told the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News.

But based on documents obtained from the area, Turkish archaeologists now believe, that the remains belonged to a local priest rather than the legendary saint, whose body may still be within the temple complex.

Newsweek reports researchers in Turkey discovered an undamaged grave beneath the ruins of the ancient St. Nicholas Church, located in the Middle Eastern country's Antayla province.

St Nicholas was a bishop from the fourth century who lived in Myra, Asia Minor - now known as Turkey.

As reported by Newsweek, the head of Antalya's Monument Authority, Cemil Karabayram, told the Turkish press the shrine was discovered during electronic surveys that showed gaps beneath the church.

A man dressed as Santa Claus rides a Christmas decorated vehicle in Jiyeh south

Archaeologists will now be tasked with removing each individual tile to loosen the tomb.

St Nicholas is also the Saint of Children.

In recent years, the church in Demre district in Antalya, near his birthplace, has been restored and draws many visitors.

Built in 520AD on the foundations of an older Christian church, the site was later flooded with silt and buried until 1862 when it was restored by Russian Tsar Nicholas I. The monarch then added a tower and other cosmetic changes to its Byzantine architecture. But it was believed that during the 11th century, Crusaders removed his remains and took them to Italy. One story, less widely believed, places the bones in an abandoned churchyard in southern Ireland after they were brought there by French knights. Christians visit the site of what was thought to be his final resting place in Bari's Basilica di San Nicola.

Karabayram has said he is very optimistic about uncovering Saint Nicholas's remains. He became popular in Europe when he became Father Christmas, known for giving presents to young children. The Dutch modeled their "Sinterklaas" figure after Saint Nicholas - and he later became known as "Santa Claus" in American tradition.

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