Church of St. Nicholas
A larger church in the basilica style was built at the site of the first church, after it was ruined by an earthquake in 529. Peschlow assumes that two small residences on the southern part of the large wall and some parts of the northern wall are remnants of the original building. That church also suffered extensive damage through either an earthquake or at the hands of Arabian raiders in the eighth century and was subsequently rebuilt, but then, in 1034, was completely destroyed in the attacks of the Arabian navy. An inscription on the church tells us that the building remained in ruins for a decade, before restoration in 1042, under the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IX Monomachus and his wife Zoë. In the twelfth century, the building was enlarged with some additions and rebuilt once again.
The Turks began to govern Myra in the 13th century and in that period, people worshipped freely at the church and the building was repaired. In 1738, the chapel near the main building was also repaired. C. Texier, a traveler who toured Anatolia in 1833-1837, visited Myra and mentioned the historical church in his books. Then in March of 1842, a soldier named Lt. Spratt and a professor named Forbes came to Myra and drew a sketch of the church. They were able to discern that a monastery had once stood near it.
During the Crimean War in 1853, a group of Russians became interested in the church and they purchased land in the name of Countess Golici, intending to found a Russian colony there. The Ottoman state recognized the political dimension of this initiative and took the land back, but they relented to demands that the church be restored. In 1862, a Frenchman named August Salzmann was hired to do the restoration. However, his work was badly planned and it violated the church's original design. Under Salzmann's watch, a bell tower was added to building in 1876, which has survived to our day.
Nearly 2,000 churches were consecrated to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of many cities. His life story and his miracles are recorded in many books, the earliest written by a friar named Michael from the Byzantiumis Stadion Monastery in 750-800. Let's take a stroll together through this beautiful site, the church of St. Nicholas.
After coming through the entrance, you walk along a path and can see a statue of Santa Claus in the green area.
A cross-shaped chapel was built on the south of this church, which was the only church with a dome that existed here in the fourth century. The church was also enlarged towards the north.
Additionally, in 1862-63, a narthex and some adjacent structures were added to the building both inside and outside.In fact, the main entrance of the building is on the west side, but let's keep going in the same direction. From the courtyard, of which two pillars still remain, taking a few steps down will bring you to the southern section, which was added to the main building during the Byzantine era. This part is shaped like a cross, and there is found an apse with three arches. You can see the original stylobate, or column foundation, at the front and the alter pedestal in the middle of the apse. In the apse's niche, figures of several saints are visible, their coloring is now faded. In the small niche below them there is a fresco of St. Nicholas. In this section and on the floor of the main church's southeastern chapel, there are mosaics in various styles. In the niche, which stands against the western stairs, there are frescoes of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
The well-preserved door leads us to the long side of the cross-shaped chapel, where sarcophagi stand. This is the longer side of the cross in the chapel. The frescoes of the niches which contain sarcophagi are decorated with many illustrations of saints, but time has almost completely faded them away. Two niches on the northern wall and the Virgin Mary fresco on the column are interesting specimens. Inscriptions on the column which bears the St. Nicholas fresco tell us that it was placed upside down.The first Roman-style sarcophagus with acanthus leaves in the first niche belongs to St.Nicholas. It is said that the decoration of the sarcophagus with fish squamae designs symbolizes his protection over sailors. The sarcophagus was broken by the pirates from Bari on April 20, 1087, when they stole some parts of his skeleton and took them to Bari.
The other two sarcophagi are rather unadorned. Apart from the sarcophagi in the niches, there are also two more tombs on the ground. From here, you can go through the main courtyard furnished with big panels via a door. In the courtyard, there are two empty tombs in a niche. The motifs of cross and hoe must have been done in the memory of St. Nicholas. On the left, there is a tomb placed in the wall inscribed with the date 1118. Through the courtyard, you can go first to the outer narthex, and then to the inner narthex which leads you to the main area after passing through three doors. This place is full of bishops' illustrations. This main area opens to side naves with three arches. There are two naves on the southern part of the main building. Some say that the sarcophagus of the second nave belongs to St. Nicholas, but reliefs of a man and woman on the sarcophagus prove otherwise. There's another tomb in the niche of the side nave. On the dome of the northern nave, there are frescoes of Jesus and his 12 apostles. Excavations on the side nave are continuing. On the western part of the excavation area, there are three chambers. There should be a dome with windows and rims in the middle of the building, but during Salzmann's restoration, the area was covered with a large skeletal stone rib.