Patara, the real city of Santa Claus

This article is also available in: Italiano

Yesterday we were tempted, today we are convinced: we must tell you about the origins of St. Nicholas, the one who started the legendary Santa Claus. To do this we will take you to Patara, a historic Greek colony in Anatolia, today’s Turkey.

The city of Patarus

According to legend, Patara was founded by Patarus, son of Apollo, who placed one of his most important sanctuaries right here. Over time this place acquired more and more value thanks to its oracle, second only to that of Delphi, which was also mentioned by Herodotus. The city then followed the fate of the motherland, falling first under Alexander the Great and then under the Romans, decreasing more and more in importance.

The ruins of Patara

It was with the arrival of Christianity, however, that the city soon returned to flourish, becoming in a very short time one of the first centers of Christianity complete with a bishopric. However, the city actually ceased to exist following the struggles between Byzantium and the Arabs, definitively losing its importance as a center of trade. Currently Patara is de facto an archaeological site but continues to remain a bishopric.

St. Nicholas of Patara

St. Nicholas

However, the city remains historic as the birthplace of St. Nicholas, the one who started the legend of Santa Klaus (which is none other than the name of the saint in Dutch). In fact, he was born in the city of Pàtara and then spent his life in nearby Myra, the place where he was bishop until his death. The saint is still remembered in the world today because of his piety and his kindness, then transposed into the myth of Santa Claus. The dress of the well-known character is in fact red precisely in reference to the traditional robes of the bishops.

Later, part of his relics were brought to Italy, of which he became one of the most famous saints ever. However, his figure remained fundamental also in the Nordic and Slavic countries, also becoming the patron saint of Russia.

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