St. Nicholas

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The Life of St. Nicholas
excerpts from The Golden Legend

adapted and illustrated by Jennifer Lynn Jordan, Per Omnia Saecula: Adventures in Medievalism

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Here beginneth the Life of Saint Nicholas the Bishop.
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Nicholas, citizen of the city of Patras, was born of rich and holy kin, and his father was Epiphanes and his mother Johane. He was begotten in the first flower of their age, and from that time forth they lived in continence and led a heavenly life.
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Then the first day that he was washed and bathed, he addressed himself right up in the basin,
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and he would not take the breast nor the pap but once on the Wednesday and once on the Friday,
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and in his young age he eschewed the plays and japes of other young children. He used and haunted gladly holy church;
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and all that he might understand of holy scripture he executed it in deed and work after his power.
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And when his father and mother were departed out of this life, he began to think how he might distribute his riches, and not to the praising of the world but to the honour and glory of God.
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And it was so that one, his neighbor, had then three daughters, virgins, and he was a nobleman: but for the poverty of them together, they were constrained, and in very purpose to abandon them to the sin of lechery, so that by the gain and winning of their infamy they might be sustained. And when the holy man Nicholas knew hereof he had great horror of this villainy,
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and threw by night secretly into the house of the man a mass of gold wrapped in a cloth.
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And when the man arose in the morning, he found this mass of gold, and rendered to God therefore great thankings, and therewith he married off his oldest daughter.
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And a little while after this holy servant of God threw in another mass of gold, which the man found, and thanked God, and purposed to wake, for to know him that so had aided him in his poverty.
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And after a few days Nicholas doubled the mass of gold, and cast it into the house of this man. He awoke by the sound of the gold, and followed Nicholas; and anon he kneeled down, and would have kissed his feet, but the holy man would not, but required him not to tell nor discover this thing as long as he lived.
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And in this time certain men rebelled against the emperor, and the emperor sent against them three princes Nepotian, Ursyn, and Apollyn.
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And they came into the port Adriatic, for the wind, which was contrary to them; and the blessed Nicholas commanded them to dine with him, for he would keep his people from the ravin [plunder] that they made.
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And whilst they were at dinner, the consul, corrupt by money, had commanded three innocent knights to be beheaded. And when the blessed Nicholas knew this, he prayed these three princes that they would much hastily go with them.
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And when they were come where they should be beheaded, he found them on their knees, and blindfolded, and the righter brandished his sword over their heads.
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Then Saint Nicholas embraced with the love of God, set himself hardily against the righter, and took the sword out of his hand, and threw it from him, and unbound the innocents, and led them with him all safe.
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And anon he went to the judgment to the consul, and found the gates closed, which anon he opened by force.
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And the consul came anon and saluted him: and this holy man having this salutation in despite, said to him: "Thou enemy of God, corrupter of the law, wherefore hast thou consented to so great evil and felony, how darest thou look on us?" And when he had sore chidden and reproved him,
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he repented, and at the prayer of the three princes he received him into penance. After, when the messengers of the emperor had received his benediction, they made their gear ready and departed, and subdued their enemies to the empire without shedding of blood, and then returned to the emperor, and were worshipfully received.
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After this it happed that some other in the emperor's house had envy on the weal of these three princes, and accused them to the emperor of high treason, and did so much by prayer and by gifts that they caused the emperor to be so full of ire that
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he commanded them to prison, and without other demand, he commanded that they should be slain that same night. And when they knew it by their keeper, they rent their clothes and wept bitterly;
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and then Nepotian remembered how Saint Nicholas had delivered the three innocents, and admonished the others that they should require his aid and help. And thus as they prayed Saint Nicholas appeared to them,
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and after appeared to Constantine the emperor, and said to him: "Where hast thou taken these three princes with so great wrong, and has judged them to death without trespass? Arise up hastily, and command that they be not executed, or I shall pray to God that he move battle against thee, in which thou shalt be overthrown, and shalt be made meat to beasts." And the emperor demanded: "What art thou that entered by night into my palace and durst say to me such words? Who art thou that menaces me?"
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Nicholas said to him: "Know thou I am Nicholas, bishop of the city of Mirea." When the emperor heard the life and the miracles of Saint Nocholas, he said to the princes: "Go forth, and yield thanks to God, who has delivered you by the prayer of this holy man, and worship him. Bear him your jewels and pray him that he threaten me no more, but that he pray for me and my realm unto Our Lord."
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A while after, the said princes went unto the holy and fell down on their knees humbly at his feet, saying: "Verily art thou the man of God, and the very worshipper and lover of Jesu Christ." Nicholas lifted up his hands to heaven and gave thanks and praise to God, and sent again the princes, well informed, into their countries.
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When it pleased our Lord to have him depart from this world, he prayed our Lord that he would send him his angels; and inclining his head he saw the angels come to him, whereby he rendered up his soul and died, the year of our Lord three hundred and forty three,
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with great melody sung of the celestial company.
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A man, for the love of his son, hallowed the feast of Saint Nicholas much solemnly. One time it happed that the father had to host a dinner, and he called many clerks to his home.
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The devil came to the gate in the habit of a pilgrim asking alms, and the father commanded his son to give alms to the pilgrim.
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When he went to the gates the devil caught the child and strangled him.
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When the father heard this he sorrowed strongly and wept, saying:
"Bright, sweet son, how is it with thee? Saint Nicholas, is this my reward for having so long served you?"
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And as he said these words, the child opened his eyes, and awoke as though he had been asleep,
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and was raised from death to life.
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Let us then pray to this blessed saint that he will pray for us to our Lord Jesu Christ, which is blessed in secula seculorum. Amen.


Also available as a PowerPoint presentation

Adapted from The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, 1275, and illustrated by Jennifer Lynn Jordan, Per Omnia Saecula: Adventures in Medievalism. Used by permission.

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