Amsterdam Church Receives St. Nicholas Relic

St Nicholas icon and relic
St. Nicholas relic in special glass box beneath St. Nicholas icon

On Saint Nicholas Eve, December 5, 2021, the Bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam installed a relic of Saint Nicholas in the Basiliek van de Heilige Nicolaas in Amsterdam. The prominent church is across from Central Station and was known as the Sint-Nicolaaskerk before being designated as a basilica in 2012.

The relic is a gift from Egmond Abbey. The Abbey received four St. Nicholas relics in 1087 from Bari, Italy, following the translation of St. Nicholas bones from Myra (Demre) in what is now Turkey. The relic is said to be a piece of a rib. The Egmond relics have been documented since 1087. Egmond Abbey, a Benedictine monastery of the Congregation of the Annuncition, is located between Egmond aan den Hoef and Bakkum in Egmond-Binnen. It was founded in 920-925.

"They have owned it for a thousand years," said Rob Polet, St. Nicholas Basilica deacon. "We had it examined by an anatomist and it is certainly older than a thousand years. Much older, he says, but we don't know exactly."

St. Nicholas is the patron saint of Amsterdam. His feast day has been celebrated in the Netherlands for 700 years. The form of the current celebration began in the 1930s.

St. Nicholas "is the patron saint of prostitutes, which is very appropriate here with all the sex workers around us," explained deacon Rob Polet. The basilica is in Amsterdam's red light district. "He is also the patron saint of seafarers," Polet continued, "It has to do with an old story that sailors were in danger of perishing at sea. Nicholas prays and the storm subsides. So through his prayer they are saved."

Mgr processing relic
Mgr. Dr. J. Hendriks processing the relic
Photo: Bisdom Haarlem-Amsterdam
Mgr processing relic
Mgr. Dr. J. Hendriks processing the relic
Relic case
The relic in it's special reliquary
Nicolaasjaar logo
Logo, designed by Henk Schiffmacher, for the St. Nicholas Year

The relic is placed in a special glass box below the basilica's St. Nicholas icon. "We think it's beautiful and have given that relic a place here under the icon of Nicholas," said the deacon. "It is visible and with that Nicolaas is present in the city again in a special way."

The celebration inaugurates a special St. Nicholas Year (Nicolaasjaar) honoring the saint. The year will feature lectures and concerts. In addition there will be a walking tour of three nearby Amsterdam churches that have served the St. Nicholas parish: the Basiliek van de H. Nicolaas, the Oude Kerk (the pre-Reformation St. Nicholas church), and Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder (Statie van St. NIcolaas in de Vestel, 1663-1887, when Catholics worshipped in hidden conventicles).

The Eucharistic Mass, video in Dutch, 1:55


Sources
  • Amsterdam church receives Saint Nicholas bone fragment for Sinterklaas, NL Times, December 5, 2021
  • Stuk bot van Sint-Nicolaas bijgezet in basiliek: 'Geneigd om het te gelovenl' by Jimmy Miltenburg, NH Nieuws, December 5, 2021
  • Nicolaasreliek in de Amsterdamse basiliek geplaatst, Arsacal, December 5, 2021
    with the sermon by Monsignor Hendriks for the occasion
  • Photos: courtesy of Fr. Marcus Vankan, used by permission

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