Timeline of St. Nicholas


Stained glass

AD c270

Nicholas’ Birth
Nicholas was born around AD 270 in Patara, Lycia, Asia Minor, to Christian parents. As he grew, he flourished physically, mentally and spiritually.

Stained glass: Cathedral of St. Etienne, Bourges, France
Photo: Stuart Whatling, Medieval Art

Nicholas engraving

AD c300

Bishop of Myra
Nicholas was Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, the city now known as Demre, Turkey. Living his whole life centered on Jesus Christ, Nicholas worked for justice and cared for those in need.

Print made by Freancesco Bartolozzi, after Domenichino, from Doctors of the Church (1762)
The British Museum, London

Council of Nicaea

AD 325

Council of Nicaea
Bishop Nicholas, defender of the faith, forcefully argued for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity at the Council of Nicaea. The council’s statement forms part of the Nicene Creed, still said in churches today.

Fresco, Sistine Chapel, The Vatican
Photo: St Nicholas Society/Rosenthal

Myra

AD 343

Death of Nicholas
Bishop Nicholas died on December 6, 343 AD, and was buried in the cathedral in Myra, now Demre, Turkey. Many pilgrims came to his tomb.

Tomb of St. Nicholas, St. Nicholas Church, Myra (Demre, Tureky)
Photo: St Nicholas Society/JMR

Bulgarian Icon

AD 400

Wonderworker
Since the fifth century the Eastern Church has revered St. Nicholas as Wonderworker for the many miracles attributed to him and for his inspiring witness as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Greek Icon
St Nicholas Center Collection

19th C Russian Icon

AD 987

Kiev and beyond
Following his baptism, Grand Prince Vladimir I brought Christianity and St. Nicholas to Kiev. All Kievan Rus were baptized (the area now occupied by  Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Russia). St. Nicholas is Russia’s favorite saint.

19th C Russian Icon
St Nicholas Center Collection

Vintage Italian Print

1087

Saint in Bari
Italian sailors took the bones of St. Nicholas to Bari, Italy. This “translation of the relics” is commemorated in Bari with a fantastic festival each year on May 9th.

Vintage Italian Print
St Nicholas Center Collection

French Holy Card

1100s

Gift-Giver
French nuns began giving candy and gifts to needy children on December 6th, St. Nicholas feast day. Children still eagerly await his treats in French Alsace and Lorraine and in many other parts of Europe.

French Holy Card
St. Nicholas Center Collection

Winchester Cathedral Font

c1150

Winchester Cathedral
Scenes from the life of St. Nicholas decorate this black marble baptismal font which was made in Belgium. St. Nicholas has been a favorite subject for church ornamentation.

Winchester Cathedral Font
Photo: Aidan Simons

13th C English Token

1200s

13th Century Boy Bishop Token
All over Europe boys were selected to be the”Boy Bishop” or “Nicholas Bishop” from December 6th through the Feast of the Holy Innocents (December 28th). Boy bishops and their retinues collected alms for the poor, but sometimes turned into disruptive roving gangs.

13th C English token from Bury St. Edmunds
St Nicholas Center Collection

Metropolitan Museum of Art

c1410

“Saint Nicholas Rescues a Ship at Sea”
Nicholas was a popular subject for illuminated manuscripts; this one is from the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duke of Berry.

Card from Metropolitan Museum of Art
St Nicholas Center Collection

Belgian Lithograph

1560

Saint-Nicolas-de-Port
The Stunning basilica in Saint-Nicolas-de-Port is dedicated to St. Nicholas, the much beloved patron, “Father of the Country, Leader and Defender of Lorraine.”

Belgian Lithograph
St Nicholas Center Collection

Reliquary

1661

Sint-Nicolaaskerk
This silver reliquary is in the beautiful St. Nicholas Church in Sint-Niklaas, Flanders, Belgium.

Detail Sint-Nicolaaskerk Reliquary, 1661 Sint-Nicolaaskerk

1849 Irving-type

1809

Washington Irving’s St. Nicholas
Diedrich Knickerbocker’s History of New York describes St. Nicholas as an elfin Dutch burgher, not a saint, thus beginning the emergence of a dinstinctive American figure.

Illustration by Boyd, A Visit from St. Nicholas, 1849
Facsimile edition, St Nicholas Center Collection

Irving

1823 

A Visit from Saint Nicholas or ‘Twas the Night Before ChristmasFirst publication of the poem that became an American classic—and formed lasting images of an American St. Nicholas.

1862 edition, illustrated by F. O. C. Darley
St Nicholas Center Collection


Jan Schenkman Sint Nikolaas Book

1845

The Netherlands
A new picture book by Jan Schenkman shaped modern Dutch customs by establishing Sint Nicolaas arrival on a steamboat from Spain with a Moorish assistant. Crowds still enthusiastically greet their arrival each year in mid-November.

Sint Nikolaas en Zijn Knecht
Reprint, St Nicholas Center Collection

Thomas Nast

1864—1886

Thomas Nast draws Santa
Harper’s Weekly features Nast’s Santas with flowing beards, rotund shapes, fur suits, and clay pipes.

“Merry Old Santa Claus” by Thomas Nast, Harper’s Weekly, January 1, 1881

St Nicholas Magazine

1873

St. Nicholas Magazine
The first issue of St. Nicholas: Scribner’s Illustrated Magazine for Girls and Boys was published. Editor Mary Mapes Dodge named the magazine for the children’s saint—the epitome of loving and giving. This new magazine offered gifts to children as he did—gifts of fun as well as learning.

St. Nicholas Magazine, August 1975
Click for the story of St. Nicholas from the January 1875 issue.

1904 German Postcard

1904

European Gift Giver
St. Nicholas leaves tasty treats for good little boys and girls.

1904 German Postcard
St Nicholas Center Collection

St Nicholas Mag Dec 1916

1916

St. Nicholas Magazine
This enormously popular magazine named for children’s patron, St. Nicholas, was published from 1873 until 1940. It featured high quality children’s authors and illustrators.

Illustration: Norman Price, St Nicholas, December 1916
St Nicholas Center Collection
Click for the story of St. Nicholas from 1875.


Dutch Postcard

1920s

Dutch Moral Teacher
St. Nicholas visits homes and schools to reward good children who have learned their lessons well.

Dutch Postcard
St Nicholas Center Collection

St. Nicholas Dec 1931

1931

Coca-Cola Santa
Each year from 1931 to 1964 Haddon Sundblom created a new Santa for Coca-Cola’s “thirst knows no season” campaign. His life-size Santas in white fur-trimmed red suits are now the American Santa Claus. Here is the first one.

Courtesy of Coca-Cola Company

1945 Belgian Postcard

1945

Still Gift Giver in Europe
St. Nicholas’ donkey helps bring treats to excited and happy children.

1945 Belgian Postcard
St Nicholas Center Collection

Coke Advert

1950’s

European Advertising
St. Nicholas now rewards all children-whether naughty or nice. Even Coca-Cola once knew the true St. Nicholas.

Store Promotional Piece
St Nicholas Center Collection

Santa Claus Xed out

1994

St. Nicholas Defense
Action committees in the Netherlands and Belgium tell Santa Claus to stay away until after St. Nicholas Day, December 6th.

Symbol used in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium
Photo: Sint-Nicolaasgenootschap Vlaanderen

Photo: Anglican World/

2001

Canterbury, England
Good Bishop Nicholas rides through the town leading happy crowds to the heart of Christmas—the manger where Jesus was born.

Photo: Anglican World

Link

A more detailed Santa Claus/Father Christmas Chronology

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