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Bible Dictionaries

A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Nicolaus, Bishop of Myra

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Nicolaus (1), bp. of Myra in Lycia at the time of Diocletian's persecution, and one of the most popular saints both in the East and West. His Acts, which may embody some historical elements, are filled with well-known legends and miracles. He is said to have been present at the council of Nice, where he waxed so indignant with Arius that he inflicted a box on the heretic's ear. Dean Stanley ( Eastern. Church, pp. 110, 132) represents Nicolaus as occupying the central place in all traditional pictures of the council. Tozer in his notes to Finlay's Hist. of Greece, t. i. p. 124, observes that Nicolaus has taken the place of Poseidon in Oriental Christianity. Thus, in the island of Eleüssa, a temple of Poseidon has been changed into the church of St. Nicolaus. In England 376 churches are dedicated to him. His feast-day was formerly connected in Salisbury Cathedral, Eton, and elsewhere with the curious ceremonial of choosing a boy-bishop, who presided till the following Innocents' Day over his fellow-choristers, arrayed in full episcopal attire (cf. Antiq. of Cath. Church of Salisbury, A.D. 1723, pp. 72–80, where the ritual of the feast is given). We can trace his fame back to the 6th cent., when Justinian built a church in his honour at Constantinople (Procop. de Aedif. i. 6). His relics were translated in the middle ages to Barri in Italy, whence he is often styled Nicolaus of Barri. His Acts are given at length in Surii, Hist. Sanct. , and his legends and treatment in art in Jameson's Sacred Art, t. ii. p. 450. The figure of St. Nicolaus is a leading one in the celebrated Blenheim Raphael in the National Gallery.


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Nicolaus, Bishop of Myra'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. 1911.

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