Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Sunday 01 August |
Saint of the Day: St. Alphonsus Liguori
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

In Images: The real face of Santa Claus

SAINT NICHOLAS ICONS

Public Domain | Face Lab at Liverpool John Moores University | Marian C | Shutterstock

Philip Kosloski - published on 12/06/18

New facial reconstruction technology reveals the most realistic portrait of St. Nicholas.

Many are familiar with the image of jolly old St. Nick, popularized by the Coca-Cola company, but modern-day legends have obscured the reality of who Santa Claus was and what he really looked like.

In the past few years, researchers in Liverpool have been able to reconstruct the actual face of 4th-century bishop St. Nicholas using modern technology. The result is fascinating and surprisingly similar to early icons of the man who would inspire the mythic figure of Santa Claus.

St. Nicholas is currently buried in the crypt of the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy. Most of his bones were moved there in the 11th century when a group of sailors took his remains from Myra during a time of confusion. When the crypt was repaired in the 1950s, Nicholas’ bones were taken out and examined by a team of professors. Thousands of measurements and x-ray photographs were taken of his skull and bones and archived for future study.

Then in 2004 Professor Caroline Wilkinson at the University of Manchester used facial reconstruction technology to visualize what St. Nicholas would have looked like based on the data previously recorded. Her findings were updated in 2014 and according to the BBC, this latest image “was based on ‘all the skeletal and historical material’ available” and “uses ‘the most up-to-date anatomical standards, Turkish tissue depth data and CGI techniques.’” The reconstruction was developed by the University of Dundee and Liverpool John Moores University.

Based on the findings St. Nicholas is described as “a Greek man, living in Asia Minor … about 60 years old, 5 feet 6 inches tall, who had a heavy jaw and a broken nose.”

What’s even more fascinating is how similar St. Nicholas’ face is to early icons of him. The St. Nicholas Center offers a comparative picture of the digital reconstruction alongside various icons of the 4th-century saint. The similarities are striking.

While he may not look like the jolly old St. Nick that the world is accustomed to, there do exist some features that are recognizable in popular representations and one could almost sense a twinkle in his eyes.




Read more:
The bones of St. Nicholas still exude a mysterious oil, with a mixed reputation


SANTA CLAUS,COCA COLA

Read more:
Did Coca-Cola invent the look of modern-day Santa Claus?

Tags:
ChristmasSaints
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
SIMONE BILES
Cerith Gardiner
Simone Biles leaves the Olympics with an important lesson for her...
2
Ignacio María Doñoro
Francisco Veneto
The military chaplain who pretended to be a criminal to rescue a ...
3
HIDILYN DIAZ
Cerith Gardiner
Gold-winning Filipina Olympian shares her Miraculous Medal for th...
4
JEDZENIE
Theresa Civantos Barber
The one thing we all should do before this summer ends
5
Zelda Caldwell
German women’s gymnastics teams modest dress protests sport’s ...
6
CARLO ACUTIS
Violeta Tejera
Carlo Acutis’ first stained glass window in jeans and sneak...
7
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.