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.


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

  1. I see that St. Nick uses the same clotheshook as St. Brigid and some of the Irish saints. (Of course, the point is that created Nature obeys and is cozy with wonderworking saints, as part of their unity with the New Adam Who is also God.) The bit about throwing the message into the water is also very much along those lines. But I suppose there were a lot of Galatian Gaels around, not to mention that Irish sailors were among those devoted to Nicholas.

    The rest of it definitely seems very Greek.

    I like the fire coming out of his mouth at the Eucharistic prayers, but I can’t think of any direct parallels to that. I wonder if it is supposed to be seraphim-like, or if it is reference to a Bible verse with fire or sparks in it. But I am not familiar with Greek saint stories, so I am probably missing a lot.

  2. Apparently there were a lot of non-Irish saints who also hung their cloaks on sunbeams. Sometimes it is casual, sometimes it saves the saint from trouble with a superior as here, and there are a fair number of bishops who do it (St. Gothard, St. Lucanus of Sabiona, St. Chad).

  3. Thank you! What a vivid, vibrant story!

    Ignorant of how usual or unusual, I was struck by the phrasing of “they invited our holy father to celebrate the liturgy with them, and render them worthy of the precious body and blood of our Lord and God, at his holy hands.”

    I wonder if that “something like a flash of fire [which] came out from his lips” is related to it, and to refining imagery, and whether there is a varied lot of Solar imagery at work, here: the Sun as ripening gold, the Sun of Righteousness as ‘ripening’ hearts, the sunbeam sustaining a ‘protecting veil’, Our Lady being one “clad with the sun” (Rev. 12:1).

  4. Yes! – “composed some time between the 5-10th centuries” is quite a range. Nice that you footnoted “The church of Our Lady at Blachernae”, which provides a terminus a quo for this version (and which not all of us know by heart)!

  5. My breezy readiness to associate the “cloak” [‘mantion’] of St. Nicholas with a “protecting veil” in my earlier comment led me to a fascinating article which makes me realize I am quite out of my depth as to be able to evaluate whether there is anything more than breeziness to such a suggestion!:


    I was struck by footnotes 135 and 173, without knowing if they are in any way relevant!

  6. There is at least one Irish saint who breathed fire, but… um… it was because he was angry at the Britons for invading. So he was gnashing his teeth, and sparks came flying out of his mouth. And they set fire to the spears and forearms of any Britons standing close enough.

    St. Findchu. Had a bit of a temper.

    Here’s another from the “Life of Patrick” in the Book of Lismore:

    “At that time Miliuc [Patrick’s master during his enslavement in Ireland] beheld a vision… that [Patrick] came to him with a flame of fire out of his mouth… Then [Patrick] interpreted the vision, and said that it was
    the fire of the Divine grace….”

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