St. Nicholas

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St. Nicholas Timeline

To see St. Nicholas through the centuries—click on the date circles

  • Stained glass

    AD c270

    Nicholas' Birth

    Nicholas was born around AD 270 in Patara, Lycia, Asia Minor, to Christian parents. As he grew, he flourished physically, mentally and spiritually.
    Stained glass: Cathedral of St. Etienne, Bourges, France
    Photo: Stuart Whatling, Medieval Art
  • Nicholas engraving

    AD c300

    Bishop of Myra

    Nicholas was Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, the city now known as Demre, Turkey. Living his whole life centered on Jesus Christ, Nicholas worked for justice and cared for those in need.
    Print made by Freancesco Bartolozzi, after Domenichino, from Doctors of the Church (1762)
    The British Museum, London
  • Council of Nicaea

    AD 325

    Council of Nicaea

    Bishop Nicholas, defender of the faith, forcefully argued for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity at the Council of Nicaea. The council's statement forms part of the Nicene Creed, still said in churches today.
    Fresco, Sistine Chapel, The Vatican
    Photo: St Nicholas Society/Rosenthal
  • Myra

    AD 343

    Death of Nicholas

    Bishop Nicholas died on December 6, 343 AD, and was buried in the cathedral in Myra, now Demre, Turkey. Many pilgrims came to his tomb.
    Tomb of St. Nicholas, St. Nicholas Church, Myra (Demre, Tureky)
    Photo: St Nicholas Society/JMR
  • Bulgarian Icon

    AD 400

    Wonderworker

    Since the fifth century the Eastern Church has revered St. Nicholas for the many miracles attributed to him and for his inspiring witness as a follower of Jesus Christ.
    Greek Icon
    St Nicholas Center Collection
  • 19th C Russian Icon

    AD 987

    Kiev and beyond

    Following his baptism, Grand Prince Vladimir I brought Christianity and St. Nicholas to Kiev. All Kievan Rus were baptized (the area now occupied by Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Russia). St. Nicholas is Russia's favorite saint.
    19th C Russian Icon
    St Nicholas Center Collection
  • Vintage Italian Print

    1087

    Saint in Bari

    Italian sailors took the bones of St. Nicholas to Bari, Italy. This "translation of the relics" is commemorated in Bari with a fantastic festival each year on May 9th.
    Vintage Italian Print
    St Nicholas Center Collection
  • French Holy Card

    1100s

    Gift-Giver

    French nuns began giving candy and gifts to needy children on December 6th, St. Nicholas feast day. Children still eagerly await his treats in French Alsace and Lorraine and in many other parts of Europe.
    French Holy Card
    St. Nicholas Center Collection
  • Winchester Cathedral Font

    c1150

    Winchester Cathedral

    Scenes from the life of St. Nicholas decorate this black marble baptismal font which was made in Belgium. St. Nicholas has been a favorite subject for church ornamentation.
    Winchester Cathedral Font
    Photo: Aidan Simons
  • 13th C English Token

    1200s

    13th Century Boy Bishop Token

    All over Europe boys were selected to be the "Nicholas Bishop" from December 6th through the Feast of the Holy Innocents (December 28th). Boy bishops and their retinues collected alms for the poor, but sometimes turned into disruptive roving gangs.
    13th C English token brom Bury St. Edmunds
    St Nicholas Center Collection
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art

    c1410

    "Saint Nicholas Rescues a Ship at Sea"

    Nicholas was a popular subject for illuminated manuscripts; this one is from the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duke of Berry.
    Card from Metropolitan Museum of Art
    St Nicholas Center Collection
  • Belgian Lithograph

    1560

    Saint-Nicolas-de-Port

    Stunning basilica dedicated to St. Nicholas, the much beloved , "Father of the Country, Leader and Defender of Lorraine."
    Belgian Lithograph
    St Nicholas Center Collection
  • Reliquary

    1661

    Sint-Nicolaaskerk

    This silver >reliquary is in the beautiful St. Nicholas Church in Sint-Niklaas, Flanders, Belgium.
    Detail Sint-Nicolaaskerk Reliquary, 1661 Sint-Nicolaaskerk
  • 1849 Irving-type

    1809

    Washington Irving's St. Nicholas

    Diedrich Knickerbocker's History of New Yorkdescribes St. Nicholas as an elfin Dutch burgher, not a saint, thus beginning the emergence of a distinctive American figure.
    Illustration by Boyd, A Visit from St. Nicholas, 1849
    Facsimile edition, St Nicholas Center Collection
  • Irving

    1823

    A Visit from Saint Nicholas or 'Twas the Night Before ChristmasFirst publication of the poem that became an American classic—and formed lasting images of an American St. Nicholas.
    1862 edition, illustrated by F. O. C. Darley
    St Nicholas Center Collection
  • Jan Schenkman Sint Nikolaas Book

    1845

    The Netherlands

    A new picture book by Jan Schenkman shaped modern Dutch customs by establishing Sint Nicolaasarrival on a steamboat from Spain with a Moorish assistant. Crowds still enthusiastically greet their arrival each year in mid-November.
    Sint Nikolaas en Zijn Knecht
    Reprint, St Nicholas Center Collection
  • Thomas Nast

    1864–1886

    Thomas Nast draws Santa

    Harper's Weekly features Nast's Santas with flowing beards, rotund shapes, fur suits, and clay pipes.
    "Merry Old Santa Claus" by Thomas Nast
    Harper's Weekly, January 1, 1881
  • St Nicholas Magazine

    1873

    St. Nicholas Magazine

    The first issue of St. Nicholas: Scribner's Illustrated Magazine for Girls and Boys was published. Editor Mary Mapes Dodge named the magazine for the children's saint—the epitome of loving and giving. This new magazine offered gifts to children as he did—gifts of fun as well as learning.
    St. Nicholas Magazine, August 1975
  • 1904 German Postcard

    1904

    European Gift Giver

    St. Nicholas leaves tasty treats for good little boys and girls.
    1904 German Postcard
    St Nicholas Center Collection
  • St Nicholas Mag Dec 1916

    1916

    St. Nicholas Magazine

    This enormously popular magazine named for children's patron, St. Nicholas, was published from 1873 until 1940. It featured high quality children's authors and illustrators.
    Illustration: Norman Price, St Nicholas, December 1916
    St Nicholas Center Collection
  • Dutch Postcard

    1920s

    Dutch Moral Teacher

    St. Nicholas visits homes and schools to reward good children who have learned their lessons well.
    Dutch Postcard
    St Nicholas Center Collection
  • St. Nicholas Dec 1931

    1931

    Coca-Cola Santa

    Each year from 1931 to 1964 Haddon Sundblom created a new Santa for Coca-Cola's "thirst knows no season" campaign. His life-size Santas in white fur-trimmed red suits are now the American Santa Claus. Here is the first one.
    Image courtesy of Coca-Cola Company
  • 1945 Belgian Postcard

    1945

    Still Gift Giver in Europe

    St. Nicholas' donkey helps bring treats to excited and happy children.
    1945 Belgian Postcard
    St Nicholas Center Collection
  • Coke Advert

    1950s

    European Advertising

    St. Nicholas now rewards all children-whether naughty or nice. Even Coca-Cola once knew the true St. Nicholas.
    Store Promotional Piece
    St Nicholas Center Collection
  • Santa Claus Xed out

    1994

    St. Nicholas Defense

    Action committees in the Netherlands and Belgium tell Santa Claus to stay away until after St. Nicholas Day, December 6th.
    Symbol used in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium
    Photo: Sint-Nicolaasgenootschap Vlaanderen
  • Photo: Anglican World/

    2001

    Canterbury, England

    Good Bishop Nicholas rides through the town leading happy crowds to the heart of Christmas—the manger where Jesus was born.
    Photo: Anglican World

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