Nicholas of Myra is widely known around world. However, he isn't the only "Saint Nicholas." Most of the time "St. Nicholas" refers to our St. Nicholas of Myra or Bari; the others are most commonly identified with their distinctive names. Who are these other saints who bear Nicholas' name?
Nicholas of Sion
Nicholas of Tolentino
Colette of Corbie
Nicholas of Flüe or Brother Klaus
Nicholas Pieck of Gorkum
Nicholas Janssen Poppel of Gorkum
Nicholas Owen or Little John
Deacon Nicholas Ferrar
Nicholas of Japan
Nicholas Planas of Athens
Nicholas Black Elk
Nikolai Velimirovitch of Orhid & Zica or Nicholas of South Canaan
Tsar Nicholas II of Russia
Nicholas of Sion (6th Century)
Nicholas of Sion
Photo: Jan Wasmus
During the 9th and 10th centuries accounts of the lives of Bishop Nicholas of Myra and Nicholas of Pharroa, monk of Sion and Bishop of Pinara became interwoven. Many of the stylized hagiographic elements attributed to Nicholas of Myra are actually rooted in the life of Nicholas of Sion (such as having Christian parents, being an only child, suckling only once a day on Wednesdays and Fridays, receiving a Christian education and charity towards the poor; all of which are common elements of saints' lives*).
It is Nicholas of Sion who was born to Epiphanius and Nonna (aka Theophanes and Johanna) at Pharroa, not Patara, as was Nicholas of Myra's birth place. It is he who stood in the bath after birth and was educated by his uncle Nicholas, a monk in Akalissos monastery.
Nicholas of Sion's life has a detailed chronology filled with churches and monasteries as would be found during the 6th century when he lived. This was not true during the 3rd-4th centuries when Nicholas of Myra lived; there were few churches or monasteries during the persecutions of that time. Though there is chronological detail, the Nicholas of Sion accounts do not reveal a personality such as emerges from the stories about Nicholas of Myra.
The life of Nicholas of Sion does contain several references to Nicholas of Myra: "once in the metropolitan city of Myra, he went in the sanctuary of the saint and glorious Nicholas." And again, "When the time came for celebrating the feast of our forefather Saint Nicholas, the servant of God Nicholas [Sion] went to the city of Myra for a religious assembly."
By the time of Nicholas of Sion, Nicholas of Myra was already well-known and venerated. His name had come into popular use and Nicholas of Sion was probably the namesake of this forefather in the faith. Nicholas of Sion is commemorated on December 10.
Nicholas Mystikos (AD 852–925)
Nicholas Mystikos was the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople from March 901 to February 907 when he was deposed over disagreements with Emperor Leo about his fourth marriage. Nicholas was restored as Patriarch, serving from May 912 until his death in 925. Regarded as one of the greatest Ecumenical Patriarchs, he is especially known for his Letters and a homily on the sack of Thessaloniki by the Arabs in 904. During his patriarchate, the Menologion of Saints Lives by Symeon the Translator was ordered. He was a critical thinker, deeply involved in the politics of his day. Nicholas Mystikos' feast day is May 16. More
Nicholas of Tolentino (1246–1305)
Nicholas of Tolentino's name is from Nicholas of Myra, as his parents had prayed at Nicholas of Myra's shrine that they might have a child. He became a monk at age 18 and was ordained priest at 25. Nicholas of Tolentino was known for preaching, teaching and helping the poor. Recognized as the patron saint of holy souls, he died in 1305 and his feast day is September 10. More
Colette of Corbie (1381-1447)
Colette was born to poor older parents after her mother had asked St. Nicholas to intercede that they might have a child. She was baptized Nicolette in honor of St. Nicholas. Her father was a carpenter at the Benedictine Abbey of Corbie. Orphaned at age 17, she gave her inheritance to the poor and joined the Beguines. She later was received by the Third Order of St. Francis. She transferred to the Poor Clares where she brought reforms, returning to extreme poverty, going barefoot, constant fasting and abstinence. They came to be known as Colettines, and some still are today. She was known for her holiness and spiritual wisdom. Colette lived by her words, ""If there be a true way that leads to the Everlasting Kingdom, it is most certainly that of suffering, patiently endured." She is the patron saint of women seeking to conceive, expectant mothers and sick children. Her feast day is March 6. More
Nicholas of Flüe or Brother Klaus (1417-1487)
Nicholas of Flüe, born to wealthy peasants, had a successful career in the military and then as a councillor and judge for nine years. He married and had ten children. Following his vision of a horse eating a lily he believed his worldly life was devouring his spiritual life. With his wife's consent, he left the family and became an ascetic hermit in the Ranft river valley. Legend tells that he survived on only the Eucharist for food for nineteen years. Known for his piety and wisdom, people came from all over Europe for advice. His sanctuary became a place of pilgrimage as it was on the Way of St. James (Santiago de Compostelo). Credited with preventing Swiss civil war, Nicholas became the patron saint of Switzerland. He died surrounded by his wife and children and was canonized in 1947; his feast is March 21, and in Switzerland and Germany, Septmber 25. More
A prayer from Nicholas von Flüe:
My Lord and my God, take from me everything that distances me from you.
My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you.
My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you.
Nicholas Pieck of Gorkum (1534-1572)
Nicholas Pieck was a Franciscan friar and priest who was the Guardian of the friary in Gorkum. As part of the 1568 rebellion against Spain, Calvinists turned against Roman Catholics, as well. When Gorkum fell, nineteen Franciscans and priests were taken prisoner and removed to Brielle. There they were tortured, and hanged after refusing to renounce the Real Presence in the Eucharist and the authority of the Pope. Brielle has been a place of pilgrimage since the 19th century. The Martyrs of Gorkum were canonized in 1857. The church in Gorkum is dedicated to H.H. Nicolaas Pieck en Gezellen (Companions). The feast day for Nicholas Pieck and Companions is July 9. More
"'The hour is now at hand,' Father Nicholas said, 'to receive from the hand of the Lord the long desired reward of the struggle, the crown of eternal happiness.' He encouraged them [his companions] not to fear death nor to lose through cowardice the crown prepared for them and soon to be placed on their brows. Finally he prayed that they would joyfully follow the path on which they saw him leading the way. With these and similar words he joyfully mounted the ladder without ceasing to exhort his companions until strangulation deprived him of the use of his voice" from a contemporary account of the martyrdom.
Nicolas Janssen Poppel (van Heeze) of Gorkum (1532-1572)
Nicholas Janssen Poppel was a Franciscan theologian and lay associate pastor to Leonard van Wechel, the pastor of Gorkum. Nicholas was also known as Nicholas van Heeze, as he was from Heeze, Brabant. He was another of the Martyrs of Gorkum, with Nicholas Pieck. The feast day for them is July 9. The Hofkerk, Amsterdam, is the Parish of the Holy Martyrs of Gorkum. More
Nicholas Owen or Little John (ca. 1550-1606)
Born in Oxford, Nicholas Owen was a carpenter of very small stature, who, from around 1575 until his arrest in 1606, built many "priest holes." It was when the practice of Catholic faith was forbidden and it was treason to conduct Mass. These "priest holes" were places concealed in Catholic family homes to hide priests, vestments, and Mass vessels. They could be an offshoot of a chimney, behind paneling, or inside pillars. Nicholas Owen was highly skilled and it is thought some of his places may not yet have been discovered. During this time he became a Jesuit lay brother. Arrested twice and released, the third time he was held in the Tower where he died under extreme torture. He revealed nothing and was canonized in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. His feast day, with the others, is October 25. More
Deacon Nicholas Ferrar (ca. 1592-1637)
Born in London Nicholas Ferrar was educated broadly and traveled widely. After his extended family lost their company, they withdrew to Little Giddings and renounced worldliness, committing themselves to a life of prayer and godly living. With his family, he founded what is known as the first Anglican monastic house in England following the dissolution of the monasteries. His entire family shared in a discipline of prayer based on all the Prayer Book offices, twice daily recitation of the entire Psalter, and took turns praying at the altar around the clock, to obey the command to pray without ceasing. They restored St. John the Evangelist church, abandoned in the 14th century plague of the Black Death. They fasted, gave alms to relieve the poor, worked to educate and look after the health of local children, wrote books on Christian faith and learned bookbinding. His feast day is December 1. More
Nicholas of Japan (1836-1912)
Ivan Dimitrovich Kasatkin took the name "Nicholas," the most revered saint in Russia, when he became a monk. He later served as a Russian Orthodox priest who first introduced the Eastern Orthodox Church to Japan. The Orthodox cathedral of Tokyo is known as Nikolai-do, in remembrance of his work. Nicholas of Japan was the first saint of the Japanese Orthodox Church. In 1970 he was canonized as "Equal-to-the-Apostles, Archbishop of Japan, St. Nicholas." His feast day is February 3 or February 16 on the Julian calendar. The Russian and Japanese Orthodox churches celebrate on the 16th. More
Nicholas Planas of Athens (1851-1932)
Papa Nicholas was born to well-to-do parents on the island of Naxos. The estate had a little Saint Nicholas Chapel and as a child young NIcholas would hide in the chapel, chanting, wearing a sheet. Like his namesake, his father died when he was young. Known as the "Simple Shepherd of the Simple," Nicholas Planas served a small church in Athens, saying daily Divine Liturgy, lasting hours as he remembered thousands in prayer. He lived in the spirit of Saint Nicholas of Myra, giving what he had to the poor and guiding others to God. He was canonized in 1992; his feast day is March 2nd. More
Nicholas Black Elk (1863-1950)
Nicholas Black Elk, a holy man of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux), received a vision at an early age that "we should all live as one." When he converted to Catholicism, he took the name "Nicholas" after the healer St. Nicholas and was baptized on December 6. He was a noted catechist and missionary, working with Jesuits on a number of native reservations. Nicholas Black Elk continued celebrating Lakota ritruals while fully embracing the sacramental life of the Catholic Church. He learned to read and write, loving sacred Scripture. He catechized more than 400 Lakolta people and many were baptized during the forty years he was a catechisit. He taught the Bible, held Masses, preached sermons, and lived a humble, righteous, and useful life: a model of faithful Christian life. Nicholas Black Elk died on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1950. The process for his beatification moved forward in 2017 when the episcopal canonical consultation process was approved by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. More
Nikolai Velimirovitch of Orhid & Zicaor
Nicholas of South Canaan (1881-1956)
Nikola Velimirovic was born in Western Serbia and given the name Nikola because Saint Nicholas was the family's patron saint. Bishop of Ohrid and of Zica in the Serbian Orthodox Church, he was an influential theological writer, best known for the Prologue from Ohrid. He was devoted to the renewal of the Serbian church and opposed communism, spending time abroad to further the Serbian cause. Nicholas of Zica built close relationships, especially with Anglicans. During World War II he was imprisoned at Dachau. Following liberation he came to the United States in 1946. At the time of his death he was Deputy Abbot of the Russian Orthodox Monastery of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk and Rector of St. Tikhon's Orthodox Pastoral Seminary, both in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. He was canonized in 2003 by the Serbian Orthodox Church; his feast day is March 5 or 18 on the Julian calendar. More
Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (1894-1917)
Tsar Nicholas II was canonized in 2000 by the Russian Orthodox Church as Saint Nicholas the Passion-Bearer and earlier by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia as Saint Nicholas the Martyr in 1981. The former Tsar was executed with his wife Alexandra and their five children following the Bolshevik Revolution. The Tsar was a kind man who had genuine concern for the peasantry. However, he was a weak ruler, governing incompetently. The canonizations were controversial in both churches. As his death was not related to his faith, the Russian Orthodox Church eventually recognized the family as "passion bearers" meaning people who face death with resignation, in a Christ-like manner, as distinguished from martyrs killed explicitly for their faith. Despite this, they are referred to as "martyrs" in publications, on icons and in popular veneration. The feast day for the Romanov family is July 4 or 17 on the Julian Calendar. More
*Cioffari, Gerardo, "The Truth About Saint Nicholas: The Most Ancient Texts in the Light of Recent Historical Criticism," Bollettino di San Nicola, Anno SLVI - zn. 11-12, November-December 1997, pp. 13-16.