Church of St Nicholas, Demre

Myra was a historic Greek town, where the small town of Demre stands today, in the province of Antalya.

An assortment of mainly Roman ruins await visitors to give an insight into the lively centre that is thought to have been founded up to 2,500 years ago. Ambling through the Acropolis, the amphitheatre and the Roman baths, you can get a real and tangible feel for what daily life was like. According to Strabo, a Greek historian, Myra was once a huge and influential city, having self-rule and semi-independence under permission from Rome.

Among the most striking buildings of the ancient city are two necropoli of rock-cut tombs carved into the cliffs. The most notable is known as the ‘Lion’s Tomb’ or the ‘Painted Tomb’, which has eleven life-size people carved into its wall.

Painting, St Nicholas Church

Yet, Myra is possibly better known for its Byzantine-era Church of St Nicholas (often associated with Santa Claus), who was bishop of Myra in the 4th century AD. Situated on the periphery of Myra, the church has is a popular site of pilgrimage and persists as a captivating site of historical and religious fascination today.

However Myra’s importance wasn’t to last and in 808 AD Myra was laid siege to by Abbasid Caliph Harun ar-Rashid, after which it fell into decay. In the 11th century, Myra was invaded by the Seljuk Turks and the relics of St Nicholas were stolen.

St Nicholas Church, Demre
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In ancient times, Myra had a harbour called Andriake, the main structure surviving today is a granary built under the sovereignty of the Roman emperor Hadrian.

The granary was turned into a museum, where you can see artefacts and recovered structures, in addition to an impressive 16-metre long Roman boat which has been positioned outside of the museum for your pleasure.

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