Bishop of Myra. Patron saint of Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, the Republic of Macedonia, Slovakia, Serbia, Montenegro, sailors, unmarried women, merchants, archers, children, judges, murderers, pawnbrokers, thieves, merchants, paupers, scholars, bakers, and travelers. He was probably born of wealthy Christian parents in Patara, Lycia in what is present day Turkey. He was reportedly very devout from an early age, and as a youth he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Upon his return, he apparently became a priest in the early church, possibly under the rule of Emperor Diocletian who, in 303, had instituted a systematic persecution of Christians across the Empire. Some relate Nicholas' imprisonment at that time. A more tolerant atmosphere under Emperor Licinius, however, allowed the Christian church to develop. Apparently well respected, Nicholas was elected Bishop of Myra. Numerous legends of Nicholas' acts have been recorded over the centuries; the best-known story involves a man with three unmarried daughters, and not enough money to provide them with dowries. Nicholas is said to have walked by the man's house on three successive nights, and each time threw a bag of gold in through a window – or alternately, down the chimney. The daughters were thereby saved from a life of spinsterhood. Because of this and similar stories, Nicholas became a symbol of anonymous gift-giving, and the basis in many countries for Santa Claus. Unusually for his era, Nicholas lived to an old age and died peacefully at home. After his death, veneration of Nicholas as a saint seems to have started relatively early. Emperor Justinian I reportedly built a church in Nicholas's honor in Constantinople. In 1071, the Eastern Empire was lost to the invading Islamic Turks. Nicholas' tomb at Myra was emptied by Italian sailors and the contents moved to the city of Bari, Italy where they remain.
Bio by: Iola