Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Tradition Mixed With Archaeology

The sterling cuff links in the Cosmati style using authentic green porphyry are back from the jeweler. I think they turned out well, and I’ll be giving them as a gift for one of my stone suppliers. Before giving them away, I have to confess that I wore them out to dinner one night recently. I might have to hire Wendy Brandes to come up with a more inventive design so I can have my own pair?

All this talk about gifts makes me stop for a moment and consider the real meanings of the holiday season. Of course there is obviously a religious reason for Christmas, so here I will awkwardly bridge a gap between the secular and traditional.

St. Nicholas (aka Santa), was a bishop in 3rd century Roman controlled Myra (in modern southeastern Turkey). Legend has it that he was the son of a wealthy family who gave gifts to help the poor. He’s not my favorite though, because he is reputed to have destroyed the Temple of Artemis rather than converting it to a church as they did with so many other pre-existing structures back then. In a recent Archaeology magazine, they had a good write up on him and the town of Myra.

Here are some old photos of Santa.

Santa living in southeastern Turkey in the third century actually raises more questions than it answers. Might it be possible that the North Pole was actually located in Turkey instead? Has the earth’s axis changed in a mere 1700 years?
Could this beautiful church have been Santa’s workshop, an astounding 1700 years ago???

Well, at least we can answer the age old question of whether St. Nick is real, as attested by these bones lying in the Archaeological Museum of Antalya. Apparently, his remains were stolen out of the Myra church and taken to southern Italy. Later, in the eleventh century, these bones were returned to Turkey.

Maybe it takes quite a bit to frighten you all, but I think I might be terrified if a skeleton were to climb down my chimney, either with toys for me or not.

More interesting reading on St. Nick:


  1. Are those his bones? It looks like a game of operation.

    Interesting background. I thought he was Swedish.

  2. I think you could really market the cuff links like crazy if they were made from Santa bones instead. That's cool work.

  3. I'm always up for doing a fun pair of cufflinks!

  4. I am sure that St. Nicholas never said "ho ho ho" - he looks quite serious and scholarly!

  5. It seems as though Santa has gained quite a bit of weight since that picture; what fun is there in hugging a skeleton anyway?
    It's nice reading you again, Eric, and thanks for the lesson in Christmas history :)

  6. Can't believe you wore the present out to dinner. That's on parr with watching a DVD you bought for someone before placing it back in the case and wrapping it up, which let's face it, no decent and *ahem* self-respecting individual would ever do.

  7. Can you take a clearer picture of your work?? I remember you said I had given you an idea for a new project based on the bathtub,...remember? (I do) are we talking about another project?Whatever that is, I think they look smashing..looking forward to a better pic though..

    The Roman Catholic church have "dubbed" him as Santa Claus. For the Orthodox church he is just St.Nicholas. He was a man that helped the poor he is mostly known as the patron saint for those at sea.

    here is an interesting story that associates St.Nicholas with his evolution in the West as "Santa Claus":

    There was a time that a very poor man had no choice but to offer one of his 3 daughters as a prostitute to raise money in order to be able to give his daughters to marriage. St.Nicholas wanted to prevent this from happening and he secretly went to the man's house and left bags with money so that his daughters could all be married.

    The relics ended up in Bari in Italy following the circumstances that followed the Manzikert fight in 1071. That area in Asia Minor was temporarily left uncontrolled by the Roman Eastern Empire (aka Byzantine Empire) after Emperor Romanus was defeated at Manzikert. There was a climate of confusion from invading forces of Seljuk Turks and sailors from Bari (not a coincidence that in Bari, Italy St.Nicholas is the patron saint) seized the remains of the saint over the objections of the Orthodox monks.*session*id*key*=*session*id*val*

  8. Nikki,
    More than likely, they are indeed his bones. Museum quality provenance was a bit sketchy back that far, but as the magic eight ball would say 'all signs point to yes'.

    Thanks, yeah, but I'll leave the saintly relic artwork to the church.

    Let me sketch some ideas, do you have that 'silver clay' for forming? I was in a hurry for these as it was a gift, but for mine, I had in mind 'arm bezel' type shapes that reach around (no jokes) the stone.

    Yes, St. Nicholas (unlike me) was a very serious individual. :)

    Hey! Good to see you are still out there and presumably doing well. Holiday cheers to you!

    Haha, yes *ahem*, that would be awful wouldn't it?

    Mosaicista, :)
    Sorry, I was just using my phone camera so the picture was poor. I have so many projects (in addition to my professional job), it is hard to remember which one I'm speaking of sometimes.
    The gift cuff links project was finally finished. In Italian, do you call cuff links as 'twins' or 'gemelli'? I used rare green stone from Sparta set in silver, but cut in triangles as the Cosmati would have done. I'll get to the 'bathtub sized project' soon enough...

    My current big project is a recreation of a section of the Curia Iulia floor using authentic materials and techniques. I'll probably hang that on the wall as art after I'm finished with it because I like opus sectile work.

    Thanks for the story on St. Nicholas and more detailed background history. Also, please know that I was joking just a little bit in this post (I always make jokes). History and religion have serious components that I respect.

  9. Sheesh! Not sure I'd want someone who looks like that sneaking into my house ... even if he does come bearing gifts! I feel a restraining order coming on ...

    Hope you're well, Eric :) thought I'd drop by and say thank you for the nice little comment you left ... Merry Christmas x

  10. Of course I know you are joking! I like your humour! I think it is best if you say gemelli/cufflinks together..I look forward to all your projects. I have a student in mosaic by the way and she will soon surprise with her work. I should get down to my planned projects soon.Cant wait!All the best buddy!

  11. I'm not sure I'd be that scared by an animated skeleton, as I have one of my own.

    I would, however, be quite interested in how it moved, and don't know whether or not it's allowed to start poking around.

    It'd take some pretty special toys in a sack to fend me off, I can tell you.

    Merry chrimbo!

  12. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, GI!

    Oh good, sometimes humor is subtle (but usually is not my case, purtroppo). You have students? Where do you teach again? :)

    The Jules,
    Merry Christmas and best for the new year!