Catholic Saints

Saint Nicholas

  • Short, concise biography of Saint Nicholas
  • History, Life, Biography, Facts and Information about Saint Nicholas
  • Fast, concise facts and information about Saint Nicholas
  • What is Saint Nicholas the patron of?
  • How Saint Nicholas is represented in Christian Art
  • Feast Day

The Patron Saint Nicholas (aka Nicholas of Bari and Nicholas of Myra)

What is the definition and the meaning of the Patron Saints and why were these people chosen to become patrons of causes, professions and countries?

The term 'Patron' is used in Christian religions, including the Roman Catholic religion, to describe holy and virtuous men and women who are considered to be a defender of a specific group of people or of a country.

There is a patron for virtually every cause, country, profession or special interest.

There are two categories of saints: martyrs and confessors.

Fast, concise facts and information about Saint Nicholas
The following provides fast and concise facts and information:

  • Memorial Day / Feast Day: December 6th
  • Also referred to as Saint Nicholas of Bari as in n 1087, his relics were translated to Bari, in southern Italy
  • Another name he is known by is Nicholas of Myra as he was the Bishop of Myra
  • Born: c. 270, Patara, Lycia, Turkey
  • Date of Death: Saint Nicholas died 6 December 346
  • Cause of Death: Natural Causes
  • Commonly identified with Santa Claus due to his reputation for secret gift-giving

The Story and History of Saint Nicholas
The story and history of Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was born c270 at Patara, Lycia on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. It was the site of a Greek colony which became a province of the Roman Empire. He was the son of wealthy Christian parents whose names were Theophanes and Nonna. The parents of Nicholas died when he was young and he was raised by an uncle, also called Nicholas, who was the bishop of Patara. Nicholas lived in Patara a Roman province under the rule of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (r.284-305). Emperor Diocletian mounted some of the fiercest persecutions of the early Church especially in the East of the Empire. Nicholas had become a priest but during this dangerous time for Christians he also worked on the family's fishing fleet. The persecution of Christians eased in 311 when the general edict of toleration was issued. Nicholas became the Bishop of Myra and spoke out against the pagan gods of the Romans in favor of Christianity. He went as far as initiating the destruction of the Temple of Artemis.

Who or what is Saint Nicholas the patron saint of? The Legends of Saint Nicholas
Meanings, definition and origins - a patron is considered to be a defender of a specific group of people or of a nation. There is a patron for virtually every cause, profession or special interest. Prayers are considered more likely to be answered by asking a patron for intercession on their behalf. Saint Nicholas is the patron of serfdom and of Russia. Because he protected the weak against the strong, the oppressed against the oppressor, the poor against the rich; of travellers, sailors, and merchants, because he on several occasions allayed a tempest at sea when invoked by the mariners; of poor maidens, because, out of compassion for a distressed nobleman about to sacrifice his three daughters to a life of infamy, he cast three purses of gold through his chamber window under cover of night, to enable the girls to marry honourably; of boys, especially scholars, from the astounding miracle related in the legend, to the effect that he restored to life three school-boys whom a wicked innkeeper had murdered and salted in a tub; of parish clerks, because of scholars, who were formerly styled clerks; and of thieves, for having once prevailed upon a gang of robbers to restore their plunder. In the Middle Ages robbers and thieves always called themselves Knights or Clerks of St. Nicholas.

Why is Saint Nicholas associated with Santa Claus?
Why is Saint Nicholas associated with Santa Claus? Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor, such as the three purses of gold as detailed above. He is also associated with kindness towards children. The images of Saint Nicholas usually show an old man with long, grey hair and a beard.   

How Saint Nicholas is represented in Christian Art
It is helpful to be able to recognise Saint Nicholas in paintings, stained glass windows, illuminated manuscripts, architecture and other forms of Christian art. The artistic representations reflect the life or death of saints, or an aspect of life with which the person is most closely associated. Saint Nicholas is represented in Christian Art with an anchor by his side, or a ship in the background; of scholars, with three naked boys rising out of a tub; of marriageable girls, by three golden balls embroidered on his cope, or placed on a copy of the Gospels in his hand. In all cases he appears in Episcopal robes, with mitre and crosier, and beardless, in allusion to his youth when consecrated Bishop of Myra.

Feast Day of Saint Nicholas
The Feast Day of Saint Nicholas is December 6th. The origin of Feast Days: most saints have specially designated feast days and are associated with a specific day of the year and these are referred to as the saint's feast day. The feast days first arose from the very early Christian custom of the annual commemoration of martyrs on the dates of their deaths at the same time celebrating their birth into heaven.

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