Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Perhaps not as
fanciful as first thought...

St. Nicholas' remains were removed from his burial place at Myra and reinterred at Bari, in Italy in 1087 AD. There are conflicting stories of how this came to be.

In one story, the mortal remains of the Saint were rescued by heroic "sailors" fearing the tomb at Myra would be desecrated by Alp Arslan and the Seljuk Turks following their victory over the Byzantine forces in the Battle of Manzikert.

In another, it was "pirates" from Bari who took advantage of the confused political situation, beat the monks and stole from them what amounted to highly portable goods designed for later resale in the west. In either case - rescue or theft - the bones came back to Bari and a basilica was built over them.

In the 1950's the crypt where they were interred required considerable repairs. The bones were removed for a short period of time during the work and Luigi Martino, a professor of anatomy at the University of Bari, was asked to catalogue the remains and to take a series of detailed photographs and measurements of the skull.

One of his successors at the University in more recent years handed the photographs and measurements to an anthropologist at Manchester University who, using the latest forensic technology, reconstructed the face in the same way that she would have done for the police searching out the identity of a person following the discovery of physical remains.

Such close scientific work is presumably necessary because, as we all know, the eye of faith is a fanciful thing.

And yet the results (above) bear a remarkable resemblence to one of the 11th Century depictions of St Nicholas.

One which they'd had on the wall all along.

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