The tomb of St Nicholas of Myra?

Turkish archaeologists have used ground-penetrating equipment and discovered the shrine of St Nicholas of Myra underneath the church of St Nicholas in Demre, ancient Myra, according to the Daily Telegraph.  The report seems rather sketchy, and the claims likewise.  They are also claiming that the bones of St Nicholas, supposed now to be in Bari, have in fact remained in Demre/Myra, although it is hard to see how any electronic equipment could tell that.  But of course the Turks are hoping for a boost to the tourist trade, and understandably so.

Let us wish them good luck in their excavations!

Church of St Nicholas of Myra in modern Demre, ancient Myra, in Turkey.

Proclus of Constantinople, “Encomium on St Nicholas of Myra”, now online in English

I have another piece for you of the ancient literature about St Nicholas of Myra.  This is an encomium which is found in the manuscripts among the sermons of Proclus, the 5th century Patriarch of Constantinople.  Although it has acquired his name, it is really anonymous.  Bryson Sewell completed a draft of the translation, and Andrew Eastbourne revised it and completed it.  Here it is:

As usual I make these public domain – use them for any purpose, personal, educational or commercial.

It’s translated from the Greek text published by G. Anrich.  Apparently there are quite a number of late encomia which merely retread the earlier material, and this is mostly one of them.  Still useful to have, tho!

UPDATE: Dr. E. has drawn my attention to an editorial error with note 14.  I’ve uploaded new versions of the files.

Where St Nicholas lived (if he did) – a paper on the city of Myra

A correspondent draws my attention to a paper by Dr Engin Akyürek, Myra: the city of St. Nicholas, which is online at Academia.edu here.  Those who have followed the posts about Nicholas of Myra may find it interesting and useful, as the author discusses the physical layout of the ancient city.  That is something known to few of us, so useful.

Nicholas of Myra – the story of the generals, and of the three innocents – now online

David Miller has kindly made us a translation of another of the legends of St Nicholas, a.k.a. Santa Claus.  This one is the Praxis de stratelatis, which recounts how Nicholas dealt with three generals and also how the governor tried to execute three innocent men.  The narrative displays considerable knowledge of events of people of the reign of Constantine, so must be late antique.

Here’s the translation:

As ever this is public domain – do whatever you like with it!

Notes on the Life of Nicholas of Myra by John the Deacon

Frequently listed among the important sources for the legends of St Nicholas of Myra is the Life written in Latin by John the Deacon.  This is not printed in Anrich’s collection of Greek sources, which is a nuisance.  Various versions of John’s text were created in the Middle Ages, and there is a translation of something into English online here.  But where to find John’s text?

Today I happened on some useful information.  The old Catholic Encyclopedia article on John the Deacon tells us:

(2) John, deacon of Naples, d. after 910. This deacon, or head of a diaconia at the church of St. Januarius of Naples, flourished towards the end of the ninth and the beginning of the tenth century, …. A biography of St. Nicholas of Mira (ed. Cardinal Mai in “Spicilegium Romanum”, IV, 323 sqq.) is not by this John but by another author of the same name.

The volume of Spicilegium Romanum is here, in a poor-quality scan.  This is indeed a different text to that translated above.  It is on p.323-339.  But surely so widely known a text as John the Deacon has been printed before this?

This leads me, of course, to a text that I have never consulted before: the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina, whose volumes are online here: Vol. 1. A – I and Vol. 2. K – Z, although not to non-US readers because of the greed of German publishers. Thankfully a V1 is here and V2 can be found here.  On p.890 (=p.203 of the PDF), we find an entry for Nicholas of Myra.

In the BHL we find the Life of John the Deacon in first place (BHL 6104-9), and printed by Falconius in Sancti confessoris pontificis … Nicolai acta primigenia (Neapoli, 1751), 112-22, containing chapters 1-13, and also on p.126.  Falconius is here, and the text starts here.

After John’s work there follows in the BHL a mass of other Latin versions of the Life, too many to be of any interest.  But it might be interesting to translate John’s Life of Nicholas into English.

Nicholas of Myra in the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca

The Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca (3rd ed) gives a list of hagiographical texts about St Nicholas of Myra, the origin of our Santa Claus.

As I am commissioning translations, I thought that I would run through this, in an abbreviated way, and see just what there is listed.  Nothing like typing it out, to get a feel for the material!  But of course it may be rather boring to read!

  • BHG 1347. Vita. Printed in G. Anrich, Hagios Nikolaos I (Leipzig, 1913), 3-55; cf. 56-59. Also in N.C. Falconius, Sancti Nicolai … acta primigenia (Neapoli, 1751), 1-29. (Falconius is online here). But … this work is actually the Vita of Nicholas of Sion, not of Nicholas of Myra.
  • 1348. Vita by Michael the Archimandrite. Anrich I, 113-139.
  • 1348b. Vita praemetaphrastica. Inc. aceph. Anrich I, 268-275, but omitting most of a speech. Cf. Anrich II, 127-128.
  • 1348c. “Vita compilata”. Anrich I, 211-233, but with significant omissions.
  • 1348d. Miraculum de tribus filiabus. Chapters 25-28 of the “Vita compilata”.
  • 1348e. Miraculum. De muliere sanata. Chapter 47 of the “Vita compilata”.
  • 1348f. Nativitas. Chapters 1-13 of the “Vita compilata”.
  • 1349. Vita by Simeon Metaphrastes. Anrich I, 235-267; Falconius t. c. 86-108; PG 116, 317-356.
  • 1349a. Vita “Lycio-Alexandrina”. Anrich I, 301-311.
  • 1349b. Vita. Mentioned in Anrich II, 566; not printed but a manuscript given.
  • 1349c. Vita or Periodoi. Anrich I, 312-332.
  • 1349d. A related text, somehow printed in the same place in Anrich.
  • 1349e. Vita, like c and d. Not printed.
  • 1349k. Vita, inc. aceph. Not printed.
  • 1349s. Synaxarium et miracula. Anrich I, 205-209.
  • 1349t. Synaxarium brevius. Anrich II, 300, ann. 1.
  • 1349u. Epitome. Anrich I, 277-288.
  • 1349z. Acta seu Praxis de stratelatis. Anrich I, 67-77.
  • 1350. Second version of the same. Anrich I, 77-83; Falconius t.c. 30-34.
  • 1350a. Another version again. Anrich I, 83-91.
  • 1350b-k. The same story in various other forms, none available in printed form, and so of no immediate interest here.
  • 1351. Praxis de tributo. Anrich I, 98-102; Falconius 34-38.
  • 1351a. Second version of same. Anrich I, 102-110.
  • 1351s. Unpublished version of same.
  • 1352. Miraculum de imagine. Anrich I, 339-342; Falconius 82-86.
  • 1352a. Miracula sex. Anrich I, 168-197.
  • 1352b. Miracula duo. Anrich I, 361-363.
  • 1352c. Miraculum de navibus frumentariis. Anrich I, 288-299.
  • 1352d. Miraculum de arbore. Anrich I, 333-330.
  • 1352e. Miraculum de presbytero Siculo. Anrich I, 343.
  • 1352f. Another version. Anrich I, 344-345.
  • 1352g. Miraculum Catanense. Anrich I, 345-347.
  • 1352h. Same again. Anrich I, 347-349.
  • 1352i. Miraculum de Nicolao claudo. Anrich I, 349-352 ; cf. II, 567.
  • 1352j. Miraculum de Leone paralytico. Anrich I, 353.
  • 1352k. Miraculum Euripense. Anrich I, 354-357.
  • 1352m. Miraculum de pastore fure. Inc. aceph. Anrich I, 359-361, omissa clausula; cf. II, 133, 145.
  • 1352n. Miraculum de thesauro imperatorio. Anrich I, 365-368.
  • 1352p. Miraculum de colybis. Anrich I, 368-371.
  • 1352q. Miraculum de tribus pueris Cretensibus. Anrich II, 557-563, omisso prologo.
  • 1352r. Miraculum de Arnabandensibus. Anrich I, 59-61.
  • 1352s. Miraculum de Nicolao Presbeiensi. Anrich I, 61-62.
  • 1352t-x. Various excerpts and unpublished items.
  • 1352y. Vita a. Methodio (postea patr. CP.). Inc. prol. ad Theodorum. Anrich I, 140-150 ; iterum II, 546-556. — Emend. A. Brinkmann in Rheinisches Museum 69 (1914), 424-426.
  • 1352z. Laudatio a. Methodio patr. CP. (vel Basileo ep. Lacedaem.). Anrich I, 153-182. Insunt miracula tria illa de tribus filiabus, de navibus frumentariis et de stratelatis, deinde miracula tria post mortem patrata (= 1357-1360).
  • 1353-6. Thaumata tria, including prologue. Falconius t. c. 56-66; Anrich I, 185-197.
  • 1356y-z. Miracula tria post mortem patrata a. Methodio patr. CP. B. 7 (b) (vel Basileo ep. Lacedaem.). Anrich I, 167-168. Cf. II, 87-88.
  • 1357-60. I. De Ioanne auctoris patre. II. De sacerdote. III. De Petro scholario. Epilogus. Falconius t. c. 66-74; Anrich I, 169-182 (altera pars laudationis 6z = 1352z).
  • 1360a. Miracula VII. Not printed. See Anrich II, 91.
  • 1360b. Miracula VII post mortem patrata. Excerpts in Anrich I, 357-358 (de Antonio monacho naufrago). — Cf. Anrich II, 94-95.
  • 1360c,de, f. g. k and m. More unpublished miracles.
  • 1361. Miracula metrica a. Nicephoro Callisto. Inc. prol. Papadopoulos-Kerameus, Analecta Hieros. stachy. IV, 357-366. — Excerpts in Anrich I, 352-353, 363-364, 456-457.
  • 1361b. Translatio Barim sub Alexio Comneno. Anrich I, 435-449.  English translation here.[1]
  • 1361z. Prologus metricus in sequentem orationem a. Manuele Phila. E. Miller, Manuelis Philae carmina II (Parisiis, 1857), 337-339.
  • 1362. Laudatio a. Andrea Cretensi. Combefis, S. Andreae Cret. orationes 188-196; Falconius t. c. 75-81 (ubi Leoni VI imp. adscribitur); P.G. 97, 1192-1205 ; Anrich I, 419-428.
  • 1362b-c. Two more unpublished versions of the Laudatio of Andrew of Crete.
  • 1362z. Prologus metricus in sequentem orationem (a. Manuele Phila). Unprinted.
  • 1363. Laudatio a. Leone VI imp. P. Possinus, Leonis Augusti oratio in laudem S. Nicolai (Tolosae, 1644), 7-40; P.G. 107, 203-228 ; Akakios 145-159. — an except in Anrich II, 165-166.
  • 1364. Laudatio a. Neophyto incluso. Anrich I, 392-417, omissa maiore perorationis parte.
  • 1364a. Oratio a. « Theophane Cerameo». Scorsi 347-353; Palamas 218-222; P.G. 132, 905-917.
  • 1364b. Laudatio a. Georgio chartophylace. Excerpts: Anrich I,92-96.
  • 1364c. Laudatio a. Proclo ep. CP. Anrich I, 429-433.
  • 1364d. Laudatio a. Niceta Paphlagone. Unpublished. See Anrich II, 163-165.
  • 1364e. Laudatio. Unpublished. See Anrich II, 166-167, 568.
  • 1364f. Laudatio. Anrich II, 167-168.
  • 1364g. Laudatio a. Nicolao Cabasila. Unpublished. See Anrich II, 168-169.
  • 1364h. Laudatio. Anrich II, 568.
  • 1364i, k, and m. Various Laudationes. Unpublished. See Anrich II, 169, 568.
  • 1364n. Homilia. Unpublished.

There’s quite a lot there, but probably much of it is the same stuff again and again.  Good to see the full extent of it, tho.

  1. [1]“An anonymous Greek account of the transfer of the Body of Saint Nicholas from Myra in Lycia to Bari in Italy.” Translated by J. McGinley and H. Mursurillo in: Bolletino di S, Nicola, N. 10, Studi e testi, Bari: October 1980), 3-17

Legends of St Nicholas of Myra: the miracle of the tax (Praxis de tributo, recension 1) now online in English

Considering how important Santa Claus is to our culture, it has always seemed remarkable to me that the medieval sources for whatever stories we tell about him – or rather St Nicholas of Myra, his prototype – remained untranslated.  I’ve had a few translations made, and here is another.  This is a short medieval story about how St Nicholas got an unfair tax remitted.  David J. D. Miller kindly did the translation for us all.  This exists in four manuscripts, in two different versions.  This is the shorter first recension.

  • Nicholas_of_Myra_Praxis_De_Tributo_rec1_2015 (PDF)
  • Nicholas_of_Myra_Praxis_De_Tributo_rec1_2015 (Word .doc file)

As usual this translation is public domain – do whatever you like with it.

I have commissions out for two other short texts at the moment, so there will be more of these.

UPDATE (10 Feb 2016): updated version with numbering.

From my diary

Two long works of Methodius of Olympus (d.311 AD) are preserved only in Old Slavonic: De Autexusio (=On Free-Will) and De Resurrectione.  Yesterday I applied for some grant money to get these translated and put online.  Wish me luck!

I’ve never applied for grant funding before.  The price is just beyond my means to do; but on the other hand, who knows when someone with the skills to create such a translation will be available again?  Not for a century, that we know.

I find the process rather intimidating.  The online application is straightforward enough.  But the regulations impose barriers to normal people.  For instance, the grant body require that more than one source of funds is used – presumably to avoid them being blamed alone for a daft grant.  But I actually don’t know any other body that might fund translations.  Indeed I only discovered that they did so by accident!  So this policy excludes people other than those with access to databases of grant-making bodies.  It’s one more way in which the charitable sector exists for itself, rather than the public.    However I have offered to put in some money myself, and with luck that will be enough for them.  I must say that they have been reasonable enough to deal with so far.

I’ve also commissioned a translation today of Proclus’ Encomium on St Nicholas of Myra.  It’s another source of the legends which became Santa Claus.  If this is really by Proclus of Constantinople, then it will be a 5th century source.  Frankly I doubt that it is, despite my negligible knowledge of that author!  It’s bound to be later.  It’s only 5 pages of Anrich’s edition, tho.

Andrew of Crete, Encomium on St Nicholas of Myra – now online in English

Happy new year to you all!  Here’s a belated Christmas present – a translation of Andrew of Crete’s Encomium on St Nicholas of Myra, otherwise known as Santa Claus!  It would have appeared for Christmas, except for email communication difficulties (and believe me, we had a few!).  It was kindly translated for us all by Dr Jaakko Olkinuora of the University of Eastern Finland.[1]

As I’ve remarked before, considering all the talk about Santa throughout the world every year, it is remarkable that the legends of Nicholas of Myra – the basis for it all – do not exist in English.  Last year we managed to get a couple online, so this is another addition.

I’ve also placed copies of these files at Archive.org.

As usual I make these files and their contents public domain – make whatever use of them you like, personal, educational or commercial.

  1. [1]Dr O. asked me to revise it for English style, so any errors are probably down to me. I also added a lot of the notes from our email discussions.