St. Nicholas

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Iceland

Holy Card: Italy
St Nicholas Center Collection

Saint Nicholas, patron saint of seafarers, at one time was one of the most venerated saints in Iceland. He may have been brought by Vikings from either Norman areas in England and the Continent or directly from Byzantium. He must have been well-known by the 12th century when a law was passed calling for a night-long fast before the feasts of the apostles and of St. Nicholas.

Iceland once had thirty-nine churches dedicated to St. Nicholas and he was also patron of another thirteen—only the Virgin Mary, St. Peter and St. Olafur were used more. One of the greatest treasures among Icelandic Medieval manuscripts is the Book of Helgastadir, containing a Life of St. Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra, with three full-page pictures of St. Nicholas and fifteen figured initials. It was most unusual to have more than one full-page illumination for a section. The book was reprinted in a special edition in 1982 by the Stofnun Árna Magnússonar á Íslandi and Lögberg Publishers. The origianl manuscript is in Royal Library in Stockholm.

In the 1930s a group of lads dressed in Santa costumes, introducing a new image and character, now referred to as the "Coca-Cola Santa."

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