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Demre (District Municipality, Turkey)

Last modified: 2016-11-05 by ivan sache
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[Municipality flag]

Flag of Demre - Image by Jens Pattke, 27 April 2013

See also:

Presentation of Demre

The municipality of Demre (25,489 inhabitants in 2012, 16,299 in the town proper) is located west of the Bay of Antalya.

Ivan Sache, 28 February 2016

Flag of Demre

The flag of Demre (photo) is white with the municipality's emblem. "Belediyesi" means "Municipality".

The emblem of the town features Santa Claus.
Demre is the site of the old town of Myra, whose most famous son is St. Nicholas of Myra, aka St. Nicholas the Bishop. Nicholas' hagiography appears in Jacobus de Voragine's Golden Legend (II, 49-54; Caxton's transalation). How "the kindly Christian saint, good Bishop Nicholas, became a roly-poly red-suited American symbol for merry holiday festivity and commercial activity" is explained on the St. Nicholas Center website.

The St. Nicholas church in Myra (photos), famous for its wall frescos and architectures, is said to keep the tomb of the saint. Excavations have indeed yielded several tombs, two of them being possible candidates for the genuine tomb of the saint.
The bones of St. Nicholas, however, are no longer in Myra/Demre,since they were "transferred" from Demre to Bari in the 11th century.
Quoting Vera Bourenina [St. Mark Orthodox Christian Church website]:

In 1071 the city of Bari, an important trading port and capital of Byzantine Italy, was conquered by the Normans and lost its economical and political role. The people of Bari decided to go to Myra of Lycia in Asia Minor to retrieve the relicts of St. Nicholas. They hoped that the holy relicts of the most venerable saint in Byzantine would help to restore the authority and popularity of the city. In addition, St. Nicholas always was the patron of sailors and merchants. Many Italian historical sources explain that the main reason for this act was to protect the relics from the Turks who were controlling this part of Asia Minor at that time. It is also known that Venice and Bari were competing to be the first to own the relics of St. Nicholas.
In 1087, 62 sailors from Bari headed to Myra. Disguised as pilgrims, they hid their swords and knifes under their cloths, approached the tomb, opened it, and took out the relics which exuded myrrh. Despite the resistance of the monks who were guarding the tomb, the sailors were able to transfer the stolen relics to the ship.
In May 1087 the ship reached the shores of the city of Bari which initially planned to place the relics in the city's cathedral, but later decided to build a special temple. Construction of the new temple started in June 1087. In 1089 the crypt of the basilica was built and the relics were placed in a new tomb where they lay at the present time.

St. Nicholas is, of course, no longer celebrated by the dominant, Muslim population of Demre. Accordingly, the use of the figure of Santa Claus on the town's emblem could appear quite odd. However, "selling images of Demre's most famous son to the hundreds of thousands foreign tourists is a lucrative business. Demre's gratitude is evident in the town's official logo -- which features the familiar bearded face of Santa Claus -- and a bronze statue of a slimmer Saint Nicholas holding hands with two smiling children, which overlooks the central town square." The Santa Claus Museum (Noel Baba Müzesi) has been established in an old Orthodox chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas.
[CNN, 22 December 2010]

Turkey officially required the return of the bones of St. Nicholas from Bari to Demre, to no avail. The demand appears to have been reiterated in 2009, with no success, either.
[Hürriyet Daily News, 28 December 2009]

Tomislav Šipek & Ivan Sache, 28 February 2016


Former municipalities


[Municipality flag]

Flag of Beymelek - Image by Jens Pattke, 27 April 2013

The flag of Beymelek was white with the municipality's emblem. "Belediyesi" means "Municipality".

Tomislav Šipek, 20 December 2012