The Dishonest Man From Bavaria

Traditional story from Bavaria

Man and horse by St Nicholas altar
Scene from the altarpiece by Cranach the Elder, Grimma, Germany

There was a very rich man in Bavaria, although he became rich through dishonest means. To salve his conscience, the he made regular donations to the church.

Eventually, as the authorities became aware of his dishonest, illegal activities, the man needed to hide and stay out of sight. As the constable and officers were finally closing in on him along the Danube, the man saw a St. Nicholas chapel across the river. He vowed that if he were able to escape over the river, he would give the value of his horse to the chapel.

He and his horse crossed the river, escaping just as he'd hoped. As they came near the St. Nicholas chapel he knew it was time to fulfill his promise.

The man entered the chapel with his horse. They went up to the altar and he counted out the money, placing gold coin after gold coin on the altar. Then he nodded to the saint, indicating he'd fulfilled his vow.

Bowing, the man took the horse's reins and tried to lead the horse out of the chapel. The horse didn't budge. So the man returned to the altar, took out his bag, and counted out many more gold coins, sighing as he put them on the altar.

As soon as all the gold coins were on the alter, the horse moved towards the door. Seeing the horse move, the man looked at the Saint, and said, "O Saint Nicholas, you are the best expert horse dealer I have ever known!"

Gerardo Cioffari, o.p., Centro Studi Nicolaiani, Basilica di San Nicola, Bari, Italy.

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