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Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas

Ho Ho Ho... The true story of Santa Claus begins with a man named Nicholas who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents raised him to be a devout Christian, but died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children and his concern for sailors and ships.

Bishop Nicholas suffered greatly for his faith, he was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests and deacons (as there was much persecution of Christians) at that time that there was no room for the real criminals.

Several stories tell of Nicholas and the sea. When he was young, Nicholas sought the holy by making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There he walked where Jesus walked. He aspired to experience Jesus' life and passion more deeply. Returning by sea, a mighty storm threatened to wreck the ship. Nicholas calmly prayed. The terrified sailors were amazed when the wind and waves suddenly calmed, sparing them all. And so St. Nicholas is the patron of sailors and voyagers.

He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered and intensified the devotion to the legend of St. Nicholas. Later, because his followers feared his remains would be robbed or disturbed they moved his body. In the spring of 1087, sailors from Bari succeeded in spiriting away the bones, bringing them to Bari, a seaport on the southeast coast of Italy. An impressive church was built over St. Nicholas' crypt and many faithfully journeyed to honor the saint.  He had rescued children, prisoners, sailors, famine victims, and many others with his compassion and generosity during his lifetime.

The Proof of St. Nick

Modern forensic anthropology have developed tools to help discover what people looked like. These techniques are primarily used to assist in identifying unknown crime victims. However, they can be used also for historic personages when there is access to the right information. Normally, this would be skeletal remains, including the skull. These bones were temporarily removed when the crypt was repaired during the 1950s. At the Vatican's request, anatomy professor Luigi Martino from the University of Bari, took thousands of minutely-detailed measurements and x-ray photographs (roentgenography) of the skull and other bones. They engaged an expert facial anthropologist, Caroline Wilkinson, at the University of Manchester in England, to construct a model of the saint's head from the earlier measurements.

Using this data, the medical artist used state-of-the-art computer software to develop a model of St. Nicholas. After inferring the size and shape of facial muscles (there are around twenty-six) from the skull data, the muscles are pinned onto the virtual skull, stretched into position, and covered with a layer of skin. The muscles connect in the same place on everyone, but because skulls vary in shape, a different face develops," Wilkinson comments. The tangents from different parts of the nasal cavity determine the length of a nose. This was difficult because St. Nicholas' nose had been badly broken. It must have been a very hefty blow because it's the nasal bones between the eyes that are broken. This is speculated to have happened while he was imprisoned and possibly tortured.

The result of the project is the image of a Greek man, who lived in Asia Minor (part of the Greek Byzantine Empire), about 60-years old, 5-feet 6-inches tall, who had a heavy jaw and a broken nose. Amazing, this technology, isn't it?


Kimberlee Written and Designed by Sol Mystic Familiar 2008

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