Saint Nicholas Bishop of Myra
Saint Nicholas was born in 260ad in Patara, a coastal town in what is now Turkey. The poor knew him throughout the land for his generosity, his love for children and being associated with ships, the sea and sailors. He was eventually consecrated Bishop of Myra, just miles from his hometown. The beloved Bishop died in 343ad.
Many Christian churches and many countries observe December 6th his feast day with great celebrations, processions, services and gift giving.
Images of St. Nicholas in paintings, icons, statues, collectibles, and stained glass often show him alongside three young men in a barrel that he brought back to life after an innkeeper murdered them. He is almost always seen with three bags or balls as well, symbolising the three bags of gold he tossed through the chimney of the home of a poor man in his village for the daughters dowry, so they would not be sold as slaves. Thus he is also seen as the “gift giver”. A ship and the sea are also common symbols of the saint. Western and Eastern depictions of blessed Nicholas differ in style and costume.
Saint Nicholas is a patron of many places and people. He is closely associated with Russia, Greece, Holland, Austria, Belgium, Aberdeen and New York. Pawnbrokers, travellers, unwed persons, children, sailors and many others claim a special relationship to the saintly figure. Many churches are dedicated to him as well. Saint Nicholas is third most popular subject of icons in the church, with only Jesus Christ and the blessed Virgin Mary having more representations.
Tradition in these parts tell that the earthly remains of St. Nicholas were secretly removed from Bari by returning crusader knights, who brought them back to Newtown Jerpoint for safe keeping. They buried those remains with all due reverence in the church that to this day bears the Saint’s name. The grave of St. Nicholas is marked by beautifully carved grave slab just outside the church, the tall figure of the Saint dominates the carving, and flanking him on both sides are the heads of the two crusader knights who brought his remains here.