St. Nicholas Church is a museum and an ancient Byzantine Greek Church located in modern-day town of Demre, Antalya Province, Turkey. Its usage is dated from its 6th century construction until its final abandonment in 1923, when the remaining Greek natives of Demre were required to leave by the Population exchange between Greece and Turkey. It is notable for being the burial place of St. Nicholas of Myra, a 4th-century Greek Christian bishop of the ancient city of Myra, an important religious figure for Eastern Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics and the historical inspiration for Santa Claus. The Church is on UNESCO's tentative list to become a World Heritage Site.
The church was built in AD 520[dubious ] on the foundations of an older Christian church where Saint Nicholas served as a bishop. Over time the church was flooded and filled with silt. In 1862 it was restored by Russian Emperor Nicholas I, who added a tower and made other changes to its Byzantine architecture. The church continued to function until the ancient Greek Orthodox community of Demre was forced to leave by the 1923 Population exchange between Greece and Turkey. The church is regarded as the 3rd most important Byzantine structure in Anatolia. It is noted for its remarkable wall frescos, and its architectural and religious significance. The northeast annex arcade contains the only example of St Nicholas's life cycle on ancient frescos in Turkey as well.
Archaeological excavations in the Church started in 1988 directed by Prof. S. Yıldız Ötüken of Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey. The work has revealed some of the northern section of the monastery complex, and also the small chapels around the nave, one of which notably contains vibrant frescoes detailing the life and miracles of the saint, and a desecrated sarcophagus which is thought to be the original burial place from which his remains were forcibly translated to Bari in 1087.
The Orthodox Liturgy is occasionally celebrated in the church on 6 December.
Saint Nicholas (Bishop of Myra) replaced Sabino as the patron saint of the city… A Greek from what is now Turkey, he lived in the early fourth century.
For although he is the patron saint of Russia, and the model for a northern invention such as Santa Claus, Nicholas of Myra was a Greek.