Nicholas Explains the Trinity

Nicholas at Nicaea
Detail: St. Nicholas with the miraculous brick
Nicholas at Nicaea
St. Nicholas, Constantine, & Arius at the Council of Nicaea
Print by Vincenzo Catalano, Bari, Italy, 2008

In AD 325 Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea, the very first ecumenical council. More than 300 bishops, including Nicholas,1 came from all over the Christian world to debate the divine nature of Jesus Cbrist as the Son of God meaning 1) that he was the same nature as God the Father, or 2) that God later elevated him, a human creature, to divine status.

It was one of the early church's most intense theological questions. Arius, from Egypt, was teaching that Jesus the Son was not equal to God the Father. Arius forcefully argued his position at length. The bishops listened respectfully.

To show how the Trinity could be three, yet one, Bishop Nicholas picked up a brick. He said that while it was made of earth, water, and fire, yet it was one brick, just as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one God. 

As he held the brick, it burst into flame, drops of water fell to the ground, until all that remained was a handful of dry dust.

This miracle proved the rightousness of Nicholas' position: that God is three in one.


  1. Nicholas is one of the attendees at the Council of Nicaea as listed by Theodore the Lector. His list in Historia Tripartita, dated around AD 515, is regarded as the most important authentic source for determining those present at the Council. back
  2. This legends dates from the 1500s.
  • Cioffari, P. Gerardo, O.P., "The Truth About Saint Nicholas: The Most Ancient Texts in the Light of Recent Historical Criticism," Bollettino di San Nicola, November-December 1997
  • Cioffari, P. Gerardo, O.P., Saint Nicholas: His Life, Miracles and Legends, translated by Victoria Sportelli, Centro Studi Nicolaiani, Bari, Italy, 2008

Two more stories of Nicholas at the Council of Nicaea

Bishop Nicholas Loses His Cool
Where was Nicholas?

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