The Ever Popular St. Nick

It’s becoming a tradition with me to post a photo from our travels for the holidays – a blog Christmas Card as it were to all my followers. This year it is a photograph of a mid-13th century portrait of Agios Nikolaos (St. Nicholas) which is now in the Kastoria Byzantine Museum. This is yet another icon of Agios Nikolaos from the same Museum as I posted a few years ago: Saint Nick for 2017.

The number of Byzantine portraits of Agios Nikolaos in the Museum may reflect the fact that there are twelve Byzantine churches in the northern Greek town of Kastoria dedicated to Agios Nikolaos. That’s about 22% of the 54 surviving Byzantine churches in the town. He is a very popular saint in this part of the world. As in most Orthodox portraits of him, he is wearing the omophorion (the vestment with crosses) that shows him as a bishop. Little scenes from his life surround him, although only a few still remain on this painting.

No doubt those scenes would have shown Nikolaos performing some of the many miracles he is said to have performed. Because of this, he is known as Nikolaos θαυματουργός (miraculous or miracle-worker). His feast day here in Greece is the 6th of December. Some sources indicate that this date in December is a way of blending the saint’s cult with pagan winter. In fact, we get our winter tradition of Santa Claus from Nikolaos‘ reputation as a secret gift-giving. Probably quite unrelated to the saint, I’ve been told that you get all your cleaned rugs out of storage and put back them on your floors for the winter months on his feast day.

I’ll be back in the New Year, but in the meanwhile, wishing everyone a safe winter and happy holidays!


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