Venezia_-_Chiesa_di_S.Nicolò

Today, December 6, is the feast of Saint Nicholas of Myra, also known in Italy as Saint Nicholas of Bari. He was a fourth-century bishop of Myra, modern-day Demre, in Turkey, who due to his reputation for giving gifts in secret, evolved into our modern day Santa Claus, or Father Christmas. As a bishop, he attended the council of Nicea and was one of the signatories of the Nicene Creed, a profession of christian faith used to this day in the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox masses.

Nicholas died on 6 December 343 and was buried in Myra. In 1087, his skeleton was stolen by sailors from the southern Italian city of Bari and taken there where it is venerated to this day. However, in their haste, they only took half. In 1095, Venetian sailors, passing through on their way to the First Crusade, took the other half which now resides in the church of San Nicolò al Lido.

Saint Nicholas, or San Nicolò as he is known locally also features in an important Venetian legend in which a fisherman was co-oerced by three strangers to take a boat to the opening of the lagoon during a storm in order to save Venice from an army of devils. The strangers turned out to be Saints Mark, George, and Nicholas, who he picked up and dropped off again at their respective churches. Saint Mark gave him a ring, which had disappeared from the state treasury to give to the Doge as proof of the veracity of his story. (There is a sixteenth-century painting of this episode by Paris Bordone in the Accademia Gallery.)