St. Nicholas

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Saint Nicholas Church
Myra (Demre/Kale)

The church to honor Saint Nicholas and contain his tomb was built in AD 520 on the foundations of the older Christian church where Saint Nicholas served as bishop. Over time the river changed course and the church filled with silt and was buried (the pictures show it is fifteen-to-twenty feet below ground level). In 1862 Russian Tsar Nicholas I restored the church, adding the tower and making other changes to its Byzantine architecture. The church is regarded as the 3rd most important Byzantine structure in Anatolia. It is noted for the remarkable wall frescos, its architectural and its religious significance. The northeast annex arcade contains the only example of the Nicholas cycle in Turkey. These photos are from 2005 and 2009, taken by J. Rosenthal, M. Porter and C. Myers. Click for larger views.

St. Nicholas Church, Demre
Photo: C Myers
Sketch of St. Nicholas Church, Myra
Conceptual sketch of the original church
Photo: C Myers

Looking down at church entrance
Photo: C Myers

Saint Nicholas statue, gift to Demre from Russia
Photo: C Myers

Information board
Photo: C Myers

Photo: C Myers
Apse with columns
Photo: J Rosenthal

Photo: C Myers

Photo: J Rosenthal
Dome frescos
Chapel dome
Photo: C Myers
Dome frescos
Photo: C Myers
St Nicholas fresco
Photo: J Rosenthal
St. Nicholas fresco
Photo: C Myers
Fresco showing two figures
Photo: C Myers
Bishop fresco
Photo: C Myers
Tomb with broken side
Photo: C Myers
Tomb with broken top
Photo: C Myers
Tomb, St. Nicholas Church, Demre
Photo: J Rosenthal
The tomb on the left is often identified as St. Nicholas' original tomb, as the side is smashed;
however, the cover shows two figures, neither a clergy person.
The middle tomb is also damaged, with a broken top.

The tomb below is also identified as St. Nicholas' original tomb.
Tsar Nicholas I had the Troparion to St. Nicholas carved into stone and placed over this gravesite.
Arched tomb with sign board
Photo: C Myers
Arched tomb
Photo: J Rosenthal

Photo, top: C Myers
Painted ceiling
Painted ceiling
Photo: C Myers
Mosaic floor tiles
Courtyard floor tiles
Photo: C Myers
Mosaic floor tiles
Floor tiles
Photo: C Myers
Stone courtyard wall
Photo: C Myers
Looking out through courtyard arches
Photo: C Myers

Photo: J Rosenthal
Courtyard scenes
Anchor cross on stone
Photo: C Myers
View into church from courtyard
Photo: C Myers
Carved stones propped up in courtyard
Photo: C Myers
Frescos
Photo: J Rosenthal
Frescos
Photo: J Rosenthal
Frescos
Photo: J Rosenthal
These frescos were recently restored
The Coucil of Nicaea
Constantine with many bishops
Photo: C Myers
Saint Cosmas
Photo: Finestripe Productions
Three figures
Photo: J Rosenthal
One figure
Photo: J Rosenthal
Empty aisle with locked door
Photo: C Myers' camera

The northeast aisle arcade was opened to the public in 2009 (it wasn't open when we visited in May 2009—a boy helped by taking photos with my camera through the space underneath the locked doors at each end). The aisle has many frescos from the 12th century, including some of the life cycle of Saint Nicholas—the earliest and only such cycle to have survived in Antalya.

Nicholas visiting man lying down
St. Nicholas visiting Constantine in a dream or the ship captain in time of famine
Photo: M Porter
Two Nicholas scenes above arch
Part of the St. Nicholas cycle
Photo: M Porter
Nicholas and sailors in boat
St. Nicholas and sailors
Photo: M Porter
Nicholas looking in on maidens
St. Nicholas giving dowries
Photo: M Porter
Tomb with frescos
Photo: C Myers' camera
Bishop figure
Photo: M Porter
Crucifixion scene in alcove arch
Photo: M Porter
Figure in fresco
Photo: M Porter

Photo: Finestripe Productions

Photo: Finestripe Productions

Photo: Finestripe Productions

The restoration of the church, and particularly the wall paintings, has been carried out with support from the Antalya Administration (2002), the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (2001), the World Monuments Fund—Samuel H. Kress Foundation (2000), and most recently by the Aristotle S. Onassis and Vehbi Koç foundations (2003–2006). The site was included in the World Heritage List in 1982. The work of inventorying the murals and architectural spaces is carried out by the Conservation of Historic Buildings and Architecture under the direction of architect Cengiz Kabaonlu. Preservation and restoration is under the direction of T. Ridvan Isler. Historian Nilay Karakaya, Erciyes University, analyzes and interprets the wall paintings that have been recorded and restored. Professor Yildiz Otüken, Hacettepe University, Ankara, is Director of the excavations and publishes the reports.

The Four Faces of Nicholas—Who is he in his hometown?
Demre Today: Church or Museum?
Church of Saint Nicholas: Divine Liturgy in Demre, 2009
Myra: Reflection on a first visit
Myra in Lycia: The Church in Demre

Links
Extensive photos of the church, including frescoes 
Photos of the church, rock tombs, amphitheatre and modern Myra/Demre, Russian site

Photos: J M Rosenthal, St Nicholas Society, Matt Porter, Fulbright scholar, Flickr, and Carol Myers, St. Nicholas Center. Fnestripe Productrions. Used by permission.

Source: "Preservation and Restoration of Frescoes and Mosaics in the Church of Saint Nicholas of Myra, Turkey, Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation

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