October 4, 2017 2:30 pm
Updated: October 5, 2017 4:42 pm

Tomb of ‘Santa Claus’ discovered under church in Turkey, researchers suggest

ABOVE: Archaeologists say they have discovered what is believed to be the tomb of St. Nicholas - who the legend of Santa Claus is based around - under a church in southern Turkey.

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The possible tomb of Saint Nicholas — dubbed Santa Claus — has been uncovered, according to archaeologists in Turkey.

The final resting place of the well-known Christian figure is said to be under the St. Nicholas church (called Aziz Nicholas Kilisesi in Turkish) in the province of Antalya.

The recently discovered site includes a temple and burial grounds, according to Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News.

St. Nicholas church in Antalya, Turkey.

Schellhorn/ullstein bild via Getty Images

The tomb was found in Demre city, which is built on the ruins of the ancient city of Myra — where St. Nicholas served as a bishop.

Cemil Karabayram, who is in charge of surveying monuments in the province, said archaeologists working on the project still have a lot of work to do.

A view from Myra St. Nicholas Church in Antalya, Turkey.

Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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The team of researchers haven’t been able to reach the actual tomb yet, due to stones and mosaics blocking the route. But excavation efforts are expected to open up the passage.

“We will reach the ground and maybe we will find the untouched body of Saint Nicholas,” Karabayram told the newspaper.

The St. Nicholas church is a popular tourist spot among Christians, many of whom view the saint as a father of their faith, according to the St. Nicholas Center.

The centre, dedicated to educating the public about the saint’s life, adds on its website that he was born in the third century in the village of Patara, which is modern-day Antalya.

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The discovery of the tomb could bust the theory that St. Nicholas’ grave was moved to Bari, Italy — where the famous Nicholas Basilica is located — about 700 years after his death.

Turkish researchers now claim the wrong bones were moved.

How did St. Nicholas become Santa Claus?

St. Nicholas was born to a wealthy family, and known for his generosity in regularly helping the poor, and giving gifts to children.

According to the St. Nicholas Center, much of Europe celebrates St. Nicholas’ Feast Day on Dec. 6 each year, where they exchange gifts as per his tradition.

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The saint was earlier known as Father Christmas, and as “Sinterklaas” in Dutch.

The concept of Santa Claus slowly emerged later on, largely due to an American poem, The Visit of St Nicholas, which was published in 1823.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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