6 December is the Feast of St. Nicholas, patron saint of numerous groups, including sailors, merchants, and children. Though Greek, Nicholas is widely revered in Italy because of the translation of his relics from his original tomb in Myra, where he was bishop in the 4th century, to Bari in the late 11th century.
Numerous Italian artists have portrayed events from the saint’s legend, including his provision of a dowry for three poor girls, throwing money through their window as they slept, Another story relates how he saved three innocent youths from beheading by a corrupt Roman consul.
Nicholas is typically shown wearing his bishop’s mitre and ecclesiastical robes and often holds gold balls as a symbol of the dowry he provided to the poor girls (the Golden Legend says he left a “mass of gold” but artists typically show spheres). His reputation for secret gift-giving, Nicholas serves as the model for Santa Claus, and many mark the beginning of the Christmas season with his feast day.
Palmerino di Guido, St Nicholas Saving Three Innocents from Decapitation, 1300-01. Fresco. Chapel of St Nicholas, Lower Church, San Francesco, Assisi
Cecco di Pietro, St Nicholas, c. 1386. Poplar panel, gold ground, Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon
Fra Angelico, St Nicholas of Bari, 1423-24. Tempera on wood. Private collection (originally part of the San Domenico di Fiesole Altarpiece).
Gentile da Fabriano, Quaratesi Polyptych: Pilgrims at the Tomb of St Nicholas of Bari, 1425. Panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fra Angelico, Stories of St Nicholas, altarpiece predella, 1447-48. Tempera and gold on panel, Pinacoteca, Vatican
Bartolomeo Vivarini, St Nicholas of Bari, bef. 1499. Panel, Santo Stefano, Venice
Tintoretto, St Nicholas, before 1594. Oil on canvas, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Leonardo Corona, St Nicholas Aiding Shipwrecked Sailors in a Storm, bef. 1605. Oil on canvas. San Nicolò dei Mendicoli, Venice
A short series of photographs from my recent travels in central Romania.
Top to bottom, left to right: Mausoleum in Cluj-Napoca Cemetery, Church of Saint Nicholas in Brasov, Clock Tower of Sighisoara Citadel, Chandelier in The Dormiton of the Theotokos Cathedral, A corridor to a study in Pelisor Castle, The Church on the Hill in Sighisoara, two interiors - the grand entry, and a sitting room, in Peles Castle, Sinaia.
Saint Nicholas Armenian Monastery - Jaffa, Palestine
The monastery dates back to the first century. According to Armenian tradition, it is located on the site of the house of Simon the Tanner, which Saint Peter resided in during his visit to Jaffa. It was in this house that Saint Peter had a dream of preaching the gospel to gentiles, changing the history of Christianity & changing it from a mainly Jewish religion to a gentile one.
The monastery includes an Armenian church & some living quarters. The building is under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem which rents out parts of the building for residential & commercial use.
Bernt Notke’s famous statue of Saint George and the Dragon at the Storkyrkan (Stockholm domkyrka/ Church of Saint Nicholas), quite possibly the most imaginative treatment of the subject I’ve encountered.
The church of St. Nicholas in Mavrovo, Macedonia was built in 1850 and stood for a 153 years until it was decided an artificial lake was needed in the village. At one point the church was fully submerged, but it resurfaces in summer droughts.