Archeologists reportedly found the tomb belonging to St. Nicholas, the man who inspired Santa Claus, underneath an ancient Byzantine church in Turkey.
Archeologists uncovered the tomb at the Byzantine church, which is believed to have been first discovered in 2017 after discovering gaps under the church floors using electronic surveys. According to The Daily Mail, the church served as a house of worship for Orthodox Christians from the 5th through 12th century.
The site also includes statues of St. Nicholas, who served as the Bishop of Myra, now Turkey, over 1,600 years ago.
"The first church was submerged with the rise of the Mediterranean Sea, and some centuries later, a new church was built above," Osman Eravsar, chief of the cultural heritage preservation board in Antalya, told the Demirören News Agency last week. "Now we have reached the remains of the first church and the floor on which Saint Nicholas stepped."
"The tiling of the floor of the first church, on which Saint Nicholas walked, has been unearthed," he continued.
Archeologists found the ancient tomb about five feet under slabs of marble, which served as the church's floor, Faithwire reports.
One theory on why it took so long to find St. Nicholas' tomb is that the crypt possibly shifted underground during an earthquake and remained undiscovered until experts were able to scan below the surface using modern techniques.
"There is a grave, and it seems more magnificent, more special, than the ones in the church," one researcher told The Irish Sun. "Other priests' graves were at the corners, but this holy one is in the middle."
"This is a mystery since, although there was an earthquake, these walls look undamaged," The researcher added.
Researchers previously believed St. Nicholas' tomb was inside the church before Italian thieves stole it in the 11th century. Turkey archaeologists, however, now have the bones inside the stolen tomb belonging to an anonymous priest.
Meanwhile, Nicholas' relics were enshrined inside the 11th-century Basilica of San Nicola in Bari, Southern Italy.
St. Nicholas, believed to have been born 270 years after Jesus Christ, lived the majority of his life in the Turkey-based district, Demre, which is in the Antalya Province by the Mediterranean coast. He is best remembered for anonymously giving gifts, which later inspired the modern fictional Christmas character, and for leaving coins in people's shoes.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/MarquesPhotography
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.