Church of St Nicholas

Turquoise Coast

Demre's Church of St Nicholas, where the eponymous saint was laid upon his death in AD 343, is a star attraction for pilgrims and tourists (particularly Russians). Although St Nicholas is no longer in situ (Italian merchants smashed open the sarcophagus in 1087 and supposedly carted his bones to Bari), the church features interesting Byzantine frescoes and mosaic floors. Expect crowds and a lot of trinket sellers.

The church was made a basilica when it was restored in 1043. Later restorations in 1862 were sponsored by Tsar Nicholas I of Russia (St Nicholas is the patron saint of Russia) and changed the church by constructing a vaulted ceiling and a belfry. More recent work by Turkish archaeologists is aiming to protect it from deterioration.

There are a couple of statues of the saint – one of them the height of kitsch as Santa Claus – in the square in front of the church. Souvenir shops opposite the church sell faux icons to Russian tourists; St Nick's feast day (6 December) is a very big event here.

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