Nicholas' birthplace and childhood home

Detail map Patara
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Gateway to sea
Opening between hills forms gateway to the sea
Photo: H Haskell
Used by permission

Around AD 275 Nicholas was born in Patara, on the south east Lycian coast. At that time Patara's population was about 15,000. It enjoyed some sea trade, but probably relied primarily on cottage craft industry—labor intensive food processing, textile and pottery making, woodworking, glass, metalwork, leather, bone and shell craft, brick, tile and stone work—for local use. Located in a valley surrounded by hills, a stone arch formed the entrance from the north and a narrow notch in the hills to the south gave access to the Mediterranean Sea. Patara's acropolis, a temple dedicated to Artemis, was on a hill overlooking the city. The outdoor amphitheatre, made of local stone with twenty-five tiers of seats, is below the acropolis.

During Nicholas' lifetime, the harbor filled with silt and the city gradually lost importance. Sand dunes have since gradually covered much of the town. The prominent Roman ruins are from structures that would have been familiar to Nicholas. The Christian community his family belonged to may have been started by the Apostle Paul, who boarded a ship in Patara on his third missionary journey to Tyre. Remains of the harbor church can be seen in the water.

Roman arches
Roman arches marked the entrance to Patara from the north, built AD 100 by Roman governor Mettius Modestus; arch was also part of the aqueduct Photo: Kevin O'Rourke Journeys Used by permission
Roman baths
Ruins of Roman Date Baths, named for nearby date trees
Photo: The Kalkan Website Used by permission
Patara Amphitheatre
Patara's amphitheatre with 25 tiers of seats, built AD 147
Photo: The Kalkan Website Used by permission
Patara Amphitheatre
Ampitheatre seating
Photo: Kevin O'Rourke Journeys Used by permission
Patara beach
Patara's beach in the distance
Photo: Turkey - Happy Hotel Kalkan Used by permission
Hilll of the Acropolis
Looking towards the hill of the acropolis
Photo: H Haskell
Used by permission
Patara beach
The beach as seen from the acropolis
Photo: H Haskell
Used by permission
Patara beach
Patara's 18 kilometer beach closes at sunset so endangered Loggerhead turtles may lay their eggs Photo: A Canbolat, Sea Turtle Research Team Used by permission

More information

Who is St. Nicholas?


Saint Nicholas Bishop of Myra: The Life and Times of the Original Father Christmas by D. L. Cann, Novalis/Twenty-Third Publications, 2002
Describes the culture and places of the Graeco-Roman Empire that was home to St Nicholas
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