Santa Claus wasn’t even his real name. But thanks to the good folks at Great Britain’s Liverpool John Moores University’s (LJMU) Face Lab, we now know what the real St. Nicholas of Myra actually looked like.
Describing themselves on their Twitter site as a “research group completing forensic/archaeological research & consultancy work, including craniofacial analysis & facial depiction,” the Christo-centric Crux Now news portal is reporting the specifics on LJMU’s facial reconstruction of the 4th century Greek saint;
Scientists at a university in Liverpool recently unveiled what they say is the most realistic portrait ever created of St. Nicholas of Myra, the popular 4th Century bishop best known as the inspiration for the modern-day figure of Santa Claus.
Researchers at Liverpool John Moores University’s Face Lab used a facial reconstruction system and 3D interactive technology to create the portrait, which was unveiled on December 6, the feast day of St. Nicholas.
University Professor Caroline Wilkinson said the reconstruction relied on “all the skeletal and historical material” available, the BBC reports. A university spokeswoman said the new image uses “the most up-to-date anatomical standards, Turkish tissue depth data and CGI techniques.”
Among the features depicted in the saint’s image is a broken nose, which Wilkinson said had “healed asymmetrically, giving him a characteristic nose and rugged facial appearance.”
While the Bishop of Myra had no extraordinary connection to the Nativity, his feast day on the Catholic liturgical calendar as December 6 was undoubtedly celebrated by the early Dutch Catholic settlers to the American colonies.
The Dutch Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) was eventually Anglicized to Santa Claus, and with his feast day so close to Christmas, it wasn’t much of a stretch that the patron saint of children would be associated with the Christmastide tradition of gift giving, especially to the little ones.
Other pious legends associated with St. Nicholas/Santa Claus include his being the patron of unmarried women as well as pawn brokers.
As the story does, an impoverished father was given the choice to either pay his outstanding debts forthwith, or see his three maiden daughters sold into prostitution.
Having pity on the family, it was His Excellency that dropped three bags of gold through an open window late one night so the man could pay his debts, and more importantly, save his daughters.
According to some, it wasn’t three bags of gold thrown through an open window, but three socks filled with the gifts dropped down an unlit chimney.
To this day, unmarried women visit the Cathedral de San Nicolo in Italy on December 6 to petition the saint to pray for them that they may receive a good husband. According to the custom, the saint will ignore their wish for prayerful intervention unless three coins are dropped in the Poor Box.