st.nicholas church (demre/ antalya)
It is supposed that St. Nicholas Church in Myra-Demre has been built on a Lycian Temple of Apollon.
The St. Nicholas Church which is partially intact today had been damaged by floods for several times during centuries and had been damaged badly by the earthquake in 529 AD. After this earthquake Myra had been covered with soil and the church had become invisible with the alluvion filling.
The situation of the St. Nicholas Church in those days, is best explained in one of the chapters of a book called “Karabibik” written by Nabizade Nazım in 1890. The chapter about the church is as follows:
“As the villagers asserted that the Church was a construction from the first days of Christianity, sly and cunning businessman Sarısimyanoğlu had claimed that it was much older. He had acquired this knowledge from and English Lord who came to visit the era. The church used to be an Apollon Temple in Lycian period in Demre called Myra in ancient times when Myra used to be a very important and famous city. The temple used to be in the centre of Myra but the city of Myra came under masses of soil after a flood centuries ago and consequentially the Apollon temple (St. Nicholas Church) became invisible.”
In another chapter from Nabizade Nazım’s book “Karabibik” according to Sarısimyanoğlu, “the priest’s son Ligor and Andanoğlu came from the island of Meis and settled in Temre (Demre). They have discovered the cupola of the Apollon Temple in Temre and then unearthed the cupola section by section. Then other parts of the church are unearthed and renovated. But they were unable to excavate the bottom floor of the church.” This part of the story in Nabizade Nazım’s book was also confirmed in detail in a book called “Description de L’Asia Mineurre” written and described by the drawings by the famous French traveller Charles Texier in 1849.
Russian Tsar Nikola the 1st had the honours of having the church mended and renovated in 1853 after Ligor and Andanoğlu of Meis managed to unearth the cupola of the St. Nicholas church. The historical process and the time of the renovation of the church is unveiled with the story in Nabizade Nazım’s book. A group led by the architect Salzenberg from the Russian Archeology Instute had studied and restored the building in 1878-1903. Today’s framework and the gallery had been also rebuilt in the same period.
The first construction period is dated to the 6th century. After the big earthquake while the city was being rebuilt the church also has been restored. In the 6th century Byzantine Emperor Justinianus the 1st offered golden and silver objects to St. Nicholas Church in Myra. From this century on the church had become a cult center visited for pilgrimage.
The church had been occupied by the armies of Harun El Reşid in the beginning of the 9th century and badly damaged. During the 9th century the church has been rebuilt in the domed basilica form.
During the occupation of Zirids coming from Northern Africa by boats, the church again has been damaged in 1034.
In 1087 St. Nicholas’ tomb has been plundered and his relics have been taken to Bari.
During the 11th and 12th centuries additional constructions have been built in the northern and southern parts of the church.
After the flood in 1195, most of the building has been covered by the alluvion filling.
By the financial support of the Russian Tsar Nikola the 1st, the ceiling of the church has been excavated. By the end of the 19th century the framework and the gallery were restorated by the Russian Archeology Institute.
In 1963-64 east and south parts were cleaned from the alluvion filling by Antalya Archeology Museum