Tuesday, May. 10, 2011

Santa Claus' Bones

During the Middle Ages, the body parts of saints attracted pilgrims from all over Christendom with their supposed abilities to perform miracles. Because few towns would willingly part with such an obvious cash cow, villages would hire gangs of thieves to steal relics from others. One of the most famous capers involved the theft of St. Nicholas, the model for Santa Claus. St. Nick's remains were said to exude myrrh, making him a particularly valuable bag of bones. In 1087, the Italian town of Bari hired men — some accounts call them pirates while others refer to them as "privileged mariners" — to steal St. Nicholas from Myra, a town in present-day Turkey. The theft of Santa's bones is still celebrated in Bari with an annual parade and fireworks.