St. Nicholas in the Antalya Museum

The Antalya Museum has a vast collection of archeological artifacts that tell the history of the Mediterranean and the Pamphylia regions. It is one of the most important Turkish museums with over 5,000 artifacts on display and more than 20,000 in storage. Many of the best artifacts from important ancient Hellenic and Roman cities and towns in the province are exhibited here.

Antalya Musuem
Antalya Museum, Antalya, Turkey>
Photo: PhotoGammetry
Permission pending
Brown map
Wall map showing area represented in the museum
Photo: C Myers, St Nicholas Center

The museum was founded following World War II to secure archeological treasures from being removed by occupying Italian forces. Opened in a mosque in 1922, the museum moved to its present building in 1972. Closed in 1982 for significant modifications and reorganization, the museum reopened in 1985.

Map detail
Wall map detail
Photo: C Myers, St Nicholas Center

The thirteen exhibition halls and an outdoor gallery cover 75,000 square feet, displaying objects from natural history and covering the period from pre-history up until the present. Artifacts include ancient statuary, sarcophagi, ceramics, mosaics, coins, and other ethnographic objects.

Byzantine exhibit
Saint Nicholas and Byzantine icons Display
Photo: C Myers, St Nicholas Center

The Santa Claus (St. Nicholaos) exhibit contains an 19th century icon and a box containing relics purported to be from Saint Nicholas. The box was discovered in the 1920s and identified as containing relics (bones) of Saint Nicholas. The theory was that they were missed when the relics were taken to Bari, Italy, in 1087.

Enthroned figure, red and blue vestments
19th Century icon
Photo: C Myers, St Nicholas Center
Red-lined box with icon painted in lid
Bones claimed to belong to Saint Nicholas
Photo: C Myers, St Nicholas Center

In 2004 Francesco Introna, professor of forensic pathology at the University of Bari, Italy, came to the Antalya Museum to examine the bones. However, upon forensic examination, the bones turned out to be duplicates of intact bones found in the Bari skeleton. (The Bari relics are kept buried in the crypt tomb in the Basilica di San Nicola. However, they were removed and carefully measured and cataloged when the crypt was repaired in the 1950s.) Unlike the fragments in the Church of S. Nicolò in the Lido of Venice that do fill in missing pieces of the skeleton, the Antalya bone fragments are from a different, and much younger, person.*

Case with icon and relic box
"Santa Claus (St. Nicholas) Exhibit"
Photo: C Myers, St Nicholas Center
Nicholas enthroned
Byzantine icon of Jesus Christ
Photo: C Myers, St Nicholas Center
Standing marble figure
Statue of Artemis, 2nd Century, from Perge, Lycia
Photo: J Rosenthal, St Nicholas Center
Artemis was the most prominent Greek goddess in Lycia, where she was recognized as a particularly powerful fertility goddess. Saint Nicholas attacked the great temple of Artemis in Myra. The statue from Perge is probably very like statues that would have been found in Artemis' temple in Myra.

* This discovery was filmed and reported in the BBC2 documentary "The Real Face of Santa," December 18, 2004. It was also shown on the Discovery Channel.

The Real Face of St. Nicholas
Developed using data from the 1957 examination and modern forensic science
Anatomical Examination of the Bari Relics
The only thorough identification and cataloging of the relics
Is St. Nicholas in Venice, too?
Examination of relics in the Lido of Venice
How Saint Nicholas May Have Looked
Several interpretations based on data and digital techniques
St. Nicholas: The Great Adventure (The Story of a Man and His Remains)
A history of the anatomical investigations of the skeletal remains of St. Nicholas of Myra
by lead investigator Luigi Martino

In another section

Relics of St. Nicholas—Where are They?
Many places claim a piece of St. Nicholas

"The Real Face of Santa," BBC2 documentary (Atlantic Productions), December 18, 2004
Talking Point: Now do you believe in Santa Claus? by Richard Girling, TimesOnLine, from The Sunday Times, December 12, 2004. Lengthy article reports on the BBC2 documentary, "The Real Face of Santa."

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