Nicholas was born in Asia Minor around 270 and was named Bishop of
Myra in Anatolia while still a young man. He suffered much for his faith
until the accession of Emperor Constantine and the proclamation of Christianity
as the official Imperial religion. His charisma and zealous assault on
the Arian heresy made him an exceptional figure. He probably died in 343.
Two episodes from his rich legend stand out: his giving a dowry to three
virgins, thus he saved them from a dishonorable fate of prostitutes, and
resurrection of three children (or students, or soldiers) chopped into
pieces and thrown into a brine tab by an innkeeper, who wanted to serve
them as a meat meal to his guests. Numerous other miracles were attributed
to St. Nicholas, mainly taking place at sea; he became the patron saint
of seamen at an early date before becoming that of travellers generally.
He is also patron of children, unbetrothed virgins, perfumers (a pun on
Myra and myrrh), apothecaries and of Russia. He is shown as a bishop in
the prime of life, often carrying his crozier. His attributes are three
money-bags and occasionally ship's anchor.
See: Dionysius. St. Nicolas.
Gentile da Fabriano. Virgin and Child with St. Nicholas and St. Catherine. St. Mary Magdalene, St. Nicholas of Bari, St. John the Baptist, St. George.
Gentile da Fabriano A Miracle of St. Nicholas. The last surviving work by Gentile da Fabriano documents, in this pilgrimage scene, an interesting chapter in the history of religion. It shows the viewer the pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Nicholas in Bari, the popularity of the pilgrimage site, and also, in the figure of the man front left, an instance of miraculous healing.
Gentile da Fabriano St. Nicholas and the Three Gold Balls. The scene illustrates the episode in which Nicholas saved three impoverished girls from prostitution by tossing three gold balls through their window one night.
Giotto Madonna and Child with St. Nicholas, St. John the Evangelist, St. Peter and St. Benedict.
Benozzo Gozzoli. St. Nicholas of Bari.
Ambrogio Lorenzetti. The Charity of St. Nicholas of Bari, St. Nicholas Offers Three Girls Their Dowry and St. Nicholas is Elected Bishop of Mira.
Masaccio. St. Nicholas Saving Three Sisters From Prostitution.
Piero della Francesca. St. Nicholas of Tolentino.
Ilya Repin St. Nicholas Saves Three Innocents from Death.
Jan Steen. The Feast of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas has just paid his pre-Christmas visit to the household, leaving toys, candy, and cake for the children. Everybody is jolly except the bad boy on the left, who has received only birch rod.
Jacopo Robusti, called Tintoretto. St. Nicolas.
The Book of Saints: The Lives of the Saints According to the Liturgical Calendar by George Angelini, Victor Hoagland (Editor). Regina Press, Malhame & Company, 1986.
365 Saints: Your Daily Guide to the Wisdom and Wonder of Their Lives by Woodeene Koenig-Brick (Author). Harper SanFrancisco, 1995.
Lives of the Saints: From Mary and Francis of Assisi to John XXIII and Mother Teresa by Richard McBrien (Author). Harper San Francisco, 2001.