The Church of St. Nicholas is the cathedral church of the Greek city of Mira. The church, like the whole city, was thoroughly drifted with mudflows of the Miros, so for access to it it was necessary to carry out large-scale excavations.
In 300 A.D. Nicholas of Patara (a city near Fethiye) became the bishop of Mira. Even during his lifetime, they began to call him a miracle-worker. Many of his miracles are described in his legend. He participated in the First Council of Nicaea in 325 and fought the Arian heresy.
After his death in 342 Nicholas was buried in the Mira church of which he was a rector. Soon he was canonized as St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. He is the patron saint of seafarers, travelers and children. He is the most revered Christian saint.
In XI century the Lycian lands were conquered by the Arabs, and the temple was almost destroyed. In this situation, some Italians from Bari decided to steal the relics of St. Nicholas and move them to this city, where, as they thought, they would be safer. This happened in 1087. Since then the relics of St. Nicholas have been kept in the basilica of Bari.
In the Catholic tradition Nicholas is also known as Santa Claus. This is related to the legend of how Nikolay helped to marry three girls. The father of the girls could not gather a dowry for any of them, and so at night Nicholas threw a bag of gold coins through the window of their house. After the eldest daughter were married, he threw another bag for the middle daughter. His father decided to know who threw the bags, which helped him to marry his daughters. When Nicholas threw the third bag, it fell into a stocking, which was hung in front of the fireplace for drying. Since then, on Christmas children in Catholic countries leave a stocking under the Christmas tree, when they are waiting for gifts from Santa Claus.
Of the 4th century church, to our days there survived only fragments of the foundations, as it was destroyed by an earthquake. Later, the basilica was restored, but in VII century it was destroyed by the Arabs. The church of the 8th century survived to this day. There remained frescoes on the walls and the 11th century mosaic on the floor.
Large-scale restoration work took place in XIX century, when Russian Tsar Nicholas I conducted active negotiations on the transfer of the church to the Russian Orthodox Church. Nicholas the Wonderworker is one of the most revered saints, and he ranks first by the number of churches dedicated to him in Russia.
Since now the temple is as if under the ground, the light can not get in through the windows. Because of this it is rather dark in the temple. Unshadowed windows are only in the hall of the altar and the synthronon. There are several tombs in the temple. In one of them the lower part is broken – the Italians from Bari did this when they were stealing the relics of Saint Nicholas.