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St Nicholas and the Empty Granary : The saintly Bishop helped the captain of a merchant ship to cut through the red tape, and save his town from starvation.
St Nicholas and the Empty Granary

Based on The Life of St Nicholas by Archimandrite Michael (early 9th century), on the St Nicholas Center website.

St Nicholas (d. 343) was Bishop of Myra, a town in the Roman Province of Lycia, on the southwest coast of Asia Minor (see Google maps). According to his 9th-century biographer, Michael, one miracle in particular gained him a reputation in the Imperial capital itself.

IN 333, Lycia suffered one of the worst famines anyone could remember.* It was especially bad in Myra, where St Nicholas was bishop, and the granary at the port of Andriake, built by the Emperor Hadrian, stood empty.

Grain ships would often sail past Myra on their way from Alexandria to Constantinople, and one day a captain put into Andriake.* Nicholas went to beg a little wheat, but the captain shook his head. The cargo was government property, measured to the last grain, and must be accounted for.

However, Nicholas persuaded him to spare two hundred gallons from each ship, promising the captain would not lose by it.*

When the ships reached Constantinople, the cargo was checked against the manifest. The captain, bracing himself for uncomfortable questions, was astonished to hear the Treasury man declare ‘That’s fine. It’s all here.’

Meanwhile, the grain Nicholas stored in Hadrian’s granary lasted for two whole years, and there was enough to sow in the fields too.

* Two famines are known, in 311-312, and again in 333. Michael says the ships were bound for Constantinople, founded in 330, so 333 seems to be the right date.

* Another Alexandrian ship, bound for Italy, was boarded at Andriake by St Paul and his companions. See Acts 27:5-6.

* Michael gives the amount as 100 measures, where a measure is the Roman modius. A modius was a dry measure equivalent to roughly 2 gallons, or an imperial peck. For grain, 200 gallons works out to approximately two thirds of an imperial ton in weight. Michael’s account does not say how many ships there were.

Based on The Life of St Nicholas by Archimandrite Michael (early 9th century), on the St Nicholas Center website.

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Picture: © Babbsack, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-SA 3.0. View original
Gulets - traditional sailing vessels now mostly used for tourist trips, and often diesel-powered - in the harbour at Andriake near Demre in Antalya, modern-day Turkey. In Nicholas’s day, when it was the port of Myra in Roman Lycia, the port was larger and busier, but over the years it silted up and became less attractive.

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