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Is this the elusive face of Santa Claus?


Face Lab LJMU | Twitter | Fair Use

J-P Mauro - published on 12/08/21

An English university used technology to digitally recreate St. Nicholas of Myra's face from his remains.

A facial reconstruction of St. Nicholas of Myra is hailed as the “most realistic” depiction of the Turkish saint. The work was revealed in 2021 on the feast day of St. Nicholas. 

BBC reports that the reconstruction was completed by the Face Lab at Liverpool John Moores University, in England. The project was overseen by Professor Caroline Wilkinson, who noted that the process utilized all available historically related materials to complete. This included the saint’s relics and remains, which are housed in the Italian Bari Cathedral. 

St. Nicholas was born in 270 AD and succeeded his uncle to become Bishop of Myra, located in modern day Turkey. While he is known to be a real person, much of what we know of this early Christian saint is based on writings dating after his death. 

It is said that he was imprisoned and tortured under Emperor Diocletian during the Great Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire in 303. St. Nicholas survived this tumultuous time and was later released when Constantine came into power in 306. 

During his time as bishop, he developed a reputation for giving secret gifts. He was known to wander around town placing coins in shoes that people left outside the house for him.CNA notes that his generosity extended beyond individual coins. In one legend, the saint tossed bags of gold coins through an open window of a house to help keep three sisters from being sold into slavery. 

One of the most remarkable parts of the facial reconstruction is the saint’s asymmetrical nose. At some point in his life, St. Nicholas’s nose was broken towards the right side of his face. The break was still perceptible on his remains, which allowed for an even more accurate image. 

While it is unknown how he broke his nose, some of St. Nicholas’ deeds suggest he could have been a bit of a brawler.Legend has it that, at the Council of Nicea, in 325, St. Nicholas became enraged by the heretic Arius and slapped him in the face. Some accounts of this suggest that St. Nicholas had hit Arius with a closed fist. This instance is a popular subject for Orthodox icons of St. Nicholas.

Read more at BBC.

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