Dec. 6 (UPI) – Scientists at the University of Oxford are considering the possibility that St. Nicholas, the inspiration of Santa Claus, has been a real person. A new analysis suggests the remains of the saint's date to the appropriate historical period.
The bones supposedly belonging to the historical Saint Nicholas, one of the most famous and beloved Christian saints, were buried for the first time in 1087 in a crypt below the Basilica of Saint Nicholas, a church in Bari, in southern Italy .
Since its initial burial, several churches have claimed to have acquired the remains of the saint. The Oxford scientists wanted to know if the bones could all be from the same person. And if so, could that person really be St. Nicholas?
Scientists conducted tests on samples of microfragments collected from one of the many bones believed to have belonged to San Nicolás. The results suggest that the remains are actually from the time of the saint's death, approximately 343 AD. The tested bone belongs to Father Dennis O & # 39; Neill, of the Church of Santa Marta de Bethany, Sanctuary of All Saints in Morton Grove, Illinois.
"Many of the relics that we study are so far in a period a little after the historical one, the attestation would suggest," Oxford professor Tom Higham said in a press release. "This fragment of bone, in contrast, suggests that we could be looking at remains of San Nicolás himself."
The legend of Saint Nicholas dates back to the city of Myra in Asia Minor, now Turkey. There, a rich man earned a reputation for great generosity and surprise gift. Some believe that he was persecuted by the Emperor Diocletian.
The saint became a figure of devotion for the first Christians. After his death, Italian merchants took his remains to Bari. Throughout the centuries, the legend of Saint Nick grew. He became the patron saint of sailors and fishermen, as well as the patron of many cities in Italy and Greece. In the sixteenth century, the popularity of the saint and his history in the Netherlands inspired the legend of Santa Claus.
Although most of the saint's bones remain inside the Bari crypt, the skeleton is not complete. Missing bones include bone, a portion of the left pelvis, owned by Father O'Neill, which suggests that the remains might belong to the same person.
"These results encourage us to resort to the relics of Bari and Venice to try to show that the skeletal remains are of the same individual," said Oxford researcher Georges Kazan. "We can do this using ancient paleogenomics or DNA testing, and it's exciting to think that these relics, which date back to such an ancient time, could in fact be genuine."
Until recently, the holders of the relics resisted the tests. But technology has made procedures less invasive, allowing scientists to test only tiny fragments of bones.
No matter how advanced the technology is, scientists will not know for sure if the bones belonged to the original Saint. Nicholas.
"Science can not definitively prove that it is, it can only prove that it is not, however," said Kazan.