Roman Empire (27 BC - AD 1453)
St Nicholas and the Golden Dowry : Nicholas used his inheritance to help three vulnerable girls escape a life of exploitation.
St Nicholas and the Golden Dowry

Based on The Life and Miracles of St Nicholas, on the website of the Parish church of St Nicholas in Kato Polemidion, Cyprus.

St Nicholas (d. 330) came from Patara in Lycia, now in south east Turkey. The following story is the basis of the ‘Santa Claus’ legend, but there is nothing whatever improbable about it; on the contrary, it fits perfectly with the society and values of pagan Rome at the time.

IN Nicholas’s hometown of Patara there lived a man who had once been very wealthy, but had now fallen into desperate poverty.

He had three daughters, but they had already had to move away to find work, and as they were all remarkably beautiful he was increasingly anxious that a brothel was their most likely fate.

When he heard of this, Nicholas, who had inherited his own parents’ considerable property, slipped a purse filled with gold coins into the dingy room where the man now lived.

The grateful father used it to see his eldest daughter safely married, and Nicholas, satisfied of the man’s good intentions, returned the next night with another purse of gold, and again the next.

On the third night, the girls’ father lay in wait to see who his mysterious benefactor was. But Nicholas, caught in his act of secret charity, waved away all thanks. ‘Tell no one about this’ he urged him ‘so long as I live’.

Based on The Life and Miracles of St Nicholas, on the website of the Parish church of St Nicholas in Kato Polemidion, Cyprus.

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Picture: By Kamil Isik, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. View original
Looking across the ruins of Patara, from the theatre. These are the streets walked by St Nicholas, and where the bankrupt father and his daughters once had a villa.

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