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Myra

Myra

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Myra is an ancient town in Lycia
Lycia
Lycia Lycian: Trm̃mis; ) was a region in Anatolia in what are now the provinces of Antalya and Muğla on the southern coast of Turkey. It was a federation of ancient cities in the region and later a province of the Roman Empire...

, where the small town of Kale (Demre
Demre
Demre is a town and a district of Antalya Province on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, named after the river Demre.Demre is the Lycian town of Myra, the home of Saint Nicholas of Myra, the original Santa Claus. The district was known as Kale until it was renamed in 2005...

) is situated today in present day Antalya Province
Antalya Province
Antalya Province is located on the Mediterranean coast of south-west Turkey, between the Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean sea.Antalya Province is the centre of Turkey's tourism industry, attracting 30% of foreign tourists visiting Turkey. The province of Antalya corresponds to the lands of...

 of Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

. It was located on the river Myros (Demre Çay), in the fertile alluvial plain
Alluvial plain
An alluvial plain is a relatively flat landform created by the deposition of sediment over a long period of time by one or more rivers coming from highland regions, from which alluvial soil forms...

 between Alaca Dağ, the Massikytos range and the Aegean Sea
Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...

.

Historical evidence


Although some scholars equate Myra with the town Mira in Arzawa
Arzawa
Arzawa in the second half of the second millennium BC was the name of a region and a political entity in Western Anatolia, the core area of which was centered on the Hermos and Maeander river valleys, corresponding with the Late Bronze Age kingdoms of the...

, there is no proof for the connection. There is no substantiated written reference for Myra before it was listed as a member of the Lycian alliance (168 BC
168 BC
Year 168 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Macedonicus and Crassus...

 – AD 43); according to Strabo
Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

 (14:665) it was one of the largest towns of the alliance.

The Greek citizens worshipped Artemis
Artemis
Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name and indeed the goddess herself was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: "Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals"...

 Eleutheria
Eleutheria
Eleutheria is an ancient and modern Greek term for, and personification of, liberty. Eleutheria personified had a brief career on coins of Alexandria.I.F...

, who was the protective goddess of the town. Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

, Athena
Athena
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

 and Tyche
Tyche
In ancient Greek city cults, Tyche was the presiding tutelary deity that governed the fortune and prosperity of a city, its destiny....

 were venerated as well.

The ruins of the Lycian and Roman town are mostly covered by alluvial silts. The Acropolis
Acropolis
Acropolis means "high city" in Greek, literally city on the extremity and is usually translated into English as Citadel . For purposes of defense, early people naturally chose elevated ground to build a new settlement, frequently a hill with precipitous sides...

 on the Demre-plateau, the Roman theatre
Theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

 and the Roman baths
Roman Baths
The Roman Baths complex is a site of historical interest in the English city of Bath. The house is a well-preserved Roman site for public bathing....

 (eski hamam) have been partly excavated. The semi-circular theater was destroyed in an earthquake
Earthquake
An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. The seismicity, seismism or seismic activity of an area refers to the frequency, type and size of earthquakes experienced over a period of time...

 in 141, but rebuilt afterwards.
There are two necropoli
Necropolis
A necropolis is a large cemetery or burial ground, usually including structural tombs. The word comes from the Greek νεκρόπολις - nekropolis, literally meaning "city of the dead"...

 of Lycian
Lycian
Lycian may refer to:* Anything related to Lycia* Apollo Lyceus, a type of ancient Greek statuary* Lycian language, the language of Lycia* Lycian script, the writing system of Lycian language* Lycian Way, a footpath in Turkey...

 rock-cut tombs
Rock-cut tombs
A rock-cut tomb or Koka is a burial chamber that is cut into the living rock usually along the side of a hill. It was a common form of burial for the wealthy in ancient times in several parts of the world....

 in the form of temple-fronts carved into the vertical faces of cliffs at Myra: the river-necropolis and the ocean-necropolis. The ocean necropolis is just northwest of the theater. The best known tomb in the river-necropolis (located 1.5 km up the Demre Cayi from the theater) is the "Lion's tomb,"also called the "Painted Tomb." When the traveller Charles Fellows
Charles Fellows
Sir Charles Fellows was a British archaeologist.-Bigography:Fellows was born at Nottingham, where his family had an estate. When fourteen he drew sketches to illustrate a trip to the ruins of Newstead Abbey, which afterwards appeared on the title-page of Moore's Life of Lord Byron...

 saw the tombs in 1840 he found them still colorfully painted red, yellow and blue.

Andriake was the harbour of Myra in classical times, but silted up later on. The main structure there surviving to the present day is a granary built during the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian (117–138 CE). Beside this granary is a large heap of Murex shells, evidence that Andriake had an ongoing operation for the production of purple dye.

In early Christian times, Myra was the metropolis
Metropolis (religious jurisdiction)
A metropolis is a see or city whose bishop is the metropolitan of a province. Metropolises, historically, have been important cities in their provinces....

 of Lycia
Lycia
Lycia Lycian: Trm̃mis; ) was a region in Anatolia in what are now the provinces of Antalya and Muğla on the southern coast of Turkey. It was a federation of ancient cities in the region and later a province of the Roman Empire...

. The town is traditionally associated with Saint Paul
Paul of Tarsus
Paul the Apostle , also known as Saul of Tarsus, is described in the Christian New Testament as one of the most influential early Christian missionaries, with the writings ascribed to him by the church forming a considerable portion of the New Testament...

, who changed ships in its harbor. Saint
Saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

 Nicholas of Myra was the bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 of Myra in the 4th century, is said to have been an ardent opponent of Arianism
Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

 at the First Council of Nicaea
First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325...

 in 325, although his name does not appear among the signatories of that council. Myra became the capital of the Byzantine Eparchy
Eparchy
Eparchy is an anglicized Greek word , authentically Latinized as eparchia and loosely translating as 'rule over something,' like province, prefecture, or territory, to have the jurisdiction over, it has specific meanings both in politics, history and in the hierarchy of the Eastern Christian...

 of Lycia under Theodosius II
Theodosius II
Theodosius II , commonly surnamed Theodosius the Younger, or Theodosius the Calligrapher, was Byzantine Emperor from 408 to 450. He is mostly known for promulgating the Theodosian law code, and for the construction of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople...

, who reigned from 408 to 450.

Siege of 809


After a siege
Siege
A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition or assault. The term derives from sedere, Latin for "to sit". Generally speaking, siege warfare is a form of constant, low intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static...

 in 809, Myra fell to Abbasid
Abbasid
The Abbasid Caliphate or, more simply, the Abbasids , was the third of the Islamic caliphates. It was ruled by the Abbasid dynasty of caliphs, who built their capital in Baghdad after overthrowing the Umayyad caliphate from all but the al-Andalus region....

 troops under Caliph
Caliph
The Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word   which means "successor" or "representative"...

 Harun al-Rashid
Harun al-Rashid
Hārūn al-Rashīd was the fifth Arab Abbasid Caliph in Iraq. He was born in Rey, Iran, close to modern Tehran. His birth date remains a point of discussion, though, as various sources give the dates from 763 to 766)....

. The town went into a decline afterwards. Early in the reign of Alexius I Comnenus (ruled between 1081 and 1118), Myra was again overtaken by Islamic invaders, this time the Seljuk Turks. In the confusion, sailors from Bari
Bari
Bari is the capital city of the province of Bari and of the Apulia region, on the Adriatic Sea, in Italy. It is the second most important economic centre of mainland Southern Italy after Naples, and is well known as a port and university city, as well as the city of Saint Nicholas...

 in Italy seized the relic
Relic
In religion, a relic is a part of the body of a saint or a venerated person, or else another type of ancient religious object, carefully preserved for purposes of veneration or as a tangible memorial...

s of Saint Nicholas, over the objections of the monk
Monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

s caring for them, and spirited the remains away to Bari, where they arrived on May 9, 1087, and soon brought that city visitors making pilgrimage
Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

 to Saint Nicholas.

The church of St. Nicholas at Myra


The earliest church of St. Nicholas at Myra was built in the 6th century. The present-day church was constructed mainly from the 8th century onward; a monastery
Monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 was added in the second half of the 11th century.

In 1863, Tsar
Tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

 Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II , also known as Alexander the Liberator was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March 1855 until his assassination in 1881...

 purchased the building and began restoration, but the work was never finished. In 1963 the eastern and southern sides of the church were excavated. In 1968 the former confessio (tomb) of St. Nicholas was roofed over.

The floor of the church is made of opus sectile
Opus sectile
Opus sectile refers to an art technique popularized in the ancient and medieval Roman world where materials were cut and inlaid into walls and floors to make a picture or pattern. Common materials were marble, mother of pearl, and glass. The materials were cut in thin pieces, polished, then trimmed...

, a mosaic
Mosaic
Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It may be a technique of decorative art, an aspect of interior decoration, or of cultural and spiritual significance as in a cathedral...

 of coloured marble, and there are some remains of fresco
Fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

es on the walls. An ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 marble
Marble
Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite.Geologists use the term "marble" to refer to metamorphosed limestone; however stonemasons use the term more broadly to encompass unmetamorphosed limestone.Marble is commonly used for...

 sarcophagus
Sarcophagus
A sarcophagus is a funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved or cut from stone. The word "sarcophagus" comes from the Greek σαρξ sarx meaning "flesh", and φαγειν phagein meaning "to eat", hence sarkophagus means "flesh-eating"; from the phrase lithos sarkophagos...

 had been reused to bury the Saint; but his bones were stolen in 1087 by merchants from Bari
Bari
Bari is the capital city of the province of Bari and of the Apulia region, on the Adriatic Sea, in Italy. It is the second most important economic centre of mainland Southern Italy after Naples, and is well known as a port and university city, as well as the city of Saint Nicholas...

, and are now held in the cathedral of that city
Basilica di San Nicola (Bari)
The Basilica di San Nicola is a church in Bari, southern Italy, that holds wide religious significance throughout Europe and the Christian world...

.

The church is currently undergoing restoration. In 2007 the Turkish Ministry of Culture gave permission for the Divine Liturgy
Divine Liturgy
Divine Liturgy is the common term for the Eucharistic service of the Byzantine tradition of Christian liturgy. As such, it is used in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. Armenian Christians, both of the Armenian Apostolic Church and of the Armenian Catholic Church, use the same term...

to be celebrated in the church for the first time in centuries.

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