Akdeniz University (AÜ) Archaeology professor Nevzat Çevik has called on the Vatican to return to Turkey the bones of Saint Nicholas (the original Santa Claus), which were taken out of the country in 1087, in an interview with Anatolia news agency.
|Myra - St. Nicholas Church|
Çevik said the bones of Saint Nicholas were taken from Turkey "by force" to be buried in a church in the Bari province of Italy, and should be returned to the place where the saint lived.
"This has nothing to do with tourism. Returning his bones to his grave in Demre [a town in the southern province of Antalya] is a human wish," Çevik said, adding that Saint Nicholas would himself like to be buried in the funerary chapel next to his church in Demre.
In the interview, Çevik also expressed his satisfaction at the return of a number of artifacts to Turkey through the initiative of the Culture and Tourism Ministry.
"Saint Nicholas is also important for the Muslim world, despite belonging to a period before the arrival of Islam. He was trying to spread Christianity, which was also a religion sent by God," he said.
Çevik also emphasized the importance of the Saint Nicholas Church in Demre as a place of pilgrimage for 1500 years.
Saint Nicholas was born in the Aegean region and he lived in ancient town of Myra, in Lycia, which is today called Demre. The Saint Nicholas Church was built in the 4th century A.D., and is now a museum that attracts scores of visitors, especially Orthodox tourists.