Town of Demre and Myra Lycia in Antalya Turkey
The modern Demre town appeared in 5 km south of one of the Mediterranean 's most important archaeological sites - the ancient city of Myra in Turkey. This well-known political and cultural center of the ancient world that is often compared in importance to Ephesus was not mentioned in the chronicles till Strabo (I century BC) hence the story of its origin is unknown. However according to the Strabo Myra was the capital of the Lycian Federation and one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean and thus its history goes back ancient times. To the XIV century the Myra Lycia had an unprecedented impact to the life of the entire region. The Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II in the fifth century made it as the capital of Lycia. The religious significance of the city helped it a lot – Myra was considered as one of the centers of Christianity as well as the role of one of its citizens Nicholas from Patara known in the Orthodox tradition as Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus). Son of a sailor (that's why patron of sailors), he got his education in Xanthos and became bishop of Myra Lycia where he preached from 310 AD until his death in 343 AD. Since then the Myra Lycia gradually has lost its influence but fame of St. Nicholas has grown to the world scale even the Turks honor him as Noel Baba (“Father of Christmas" in Turkish). The people from all over the world are gathering for the annual memorial service in his honor (December 6) in Demre.
The ruins of the ancient Myra in Turkey lie within 2 km north of the center of Demre. In addition to a large Roman theater and some of the best examples of the Lycian rock Myra tombs the most of the ancient city still lies underground. The main necropolis is located west of the theater and a second group of tombs called "River cemetery" lies on the slope of the mountain range on the right - there you can see well-known "Painted Tomb".
The Church of St. Nicholas is the main attraction of the city. It is believed that the church was built in the IV century AD as a basilica in the form of a cross but numerous Arab raids have almost completely destroyed the first temple so the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IX Monomachos in 1043 surrounded the church by fortified wall thereby turning it into a monastery. In 1862 by decree of the Russian Emperor Nicholas I the church was renovated - the place of the destroyed dome has been taken by plain ceiling and a side chapel has been crowned with a bell tower. Despite the fact that the relics of the saint were taken by the Italians to Bari the marble sarcophagus of Saint Nichiolas was well preserved as well as the bishop's throne - the only one in the region. In 1963 the significant excavation and restoration of the small side domes was carried out and the remains of colored mosaics and frescoes were discovered.