Seek out the City of Santa Claus on a Tour to the Magical, Mystical Myra

Myra in central Lycia is located on the southern coast of Turkey. Myra is a spectacularly beautiful and fertile area you can see on daily tours to Myra, abundant with fauna and flora and is full of magical history. This was also once the home of St Nicolas. To some, St Nicolas appears to be a figment of fanciful imagination, and indeed is a man who has been mixed with magic and invention. Part of his mythical status comes from his popularisation in America by the Dutch Protestants of New Amsterdam who converted the saint into a Nordic magician (Santa Claus). From this, he has developed into the jolly bearded man on a supernatural sleigh who dutifully delivers dolls and fizzy drinks each Christmas.  Read More...

Seek out the City of Santa Claus on a Tour to the Magical, Mystical Myra

St Nicolas of Lycia was a bishop in the time of Emperor Constantine (AD 324-337), and as the first Christian emperor, he presided over an era of tolerance for the religion.

The original St Nicolas was known as the patron of children, sailors, scientists and merchants and was famous for his miracles including protecting and pleasing children and the poor, saving sailors and foreseeing the future.

However, in his work to rid the area of such paganism, St Nicolas ordered the destruction of some other temples at Myra including the ‘most beautiful temple of Artemis Eleuthera’. His resting place was to be a lonely church, known as the Church of St Nicolas on the outskirts of Demre which you can visit on on best tours in Myra. But in 1087, some Italian merchants who claimed to have been sent by the Pope broke open the tomb that was thought to contain the saint and discovered a Roman-era sarcophagus within it and then they stole the bones that had been preserved in fragrant myrrh.

There is much more to Myra than St Nicolas’ church. Each year, some 600,000 people visit Myra on a Myra tour to pay homage not just to Santa, but to Myra’s wonderful archaeology, notably its vast theatre and numerous rock-cut tombs. The Theatre of Myra is the most magnificent theatre in the whole of Lycia and contains the highest quality decorations.

Its stage building includes rich reliefs of the Goddess Eleuthera, Ganymede, The Eagle of Zeus, and Medusa. The outer facade of the stage building is also decorated with reliefs which are the only known such example in all Lycia. Tour the Lycian tombs of Myra and discover the Seven tombs are particularly highly decorated, with two containing the most impressive rock-cut reliefs yet found in Lycia. The Lion Tomb has a magnificent temple façade. Dominated by the distinctive depiction of a lion overpowering a bull, at its centre is a portrait of the grave owner’s family.

Around this are reliefs of a goddess sprouting from vegetation who is identical to Artemis/Myrrh, who was associated with prairies, nature and vegetation, and also appears on Myrian coins. In addition to the theatre and the tombs, though lesser known to the general public, is a Roman bathhouse dating to the 2nd or 3rd century AD. Most of its rooms are easily identifiable as they follow the traditional plan of Lycian baths: the central bathing units (frigidarium-tepidarium-caldarium) are lined side by side. The masonry is mainly brick-mortar and inscriptions note the presence of two other bathhouses in the city.

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