Nicholas was born in Patara in the province of Lycia. That area is now part of Turkey but at the time was ruled by the Roman Empire. His parents, Epiphaneos and Noua died in an epidemic when he was very young. His Uncle, who was the Father Superior of a monastery at Xanthos (seven miles away), arranged for him to enter the monastery.
While studying for the priesthood Nicholas made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. On the return trip there was a terrible storm at sea. His prayers are credited with saving the ship and later he became the Patron Saint of sailors. The ship landed in Myra, the capitol of Lycia. At the time the Church was holding a convocation to elect a new Bishop. They couldn't decide who should get the post and legend says that one of them had a vision that they should elect the first person named Nicholas to enter the church. So, when he walked in (still in his tenns) Nicholas was made Bishop.
Nicholas was called the "boy Bishop" and there is a tradition traced back to the 13th century of the churches electing a Boy Bishop on St. Nicholas eve (Dec 6th) and he would stay in power until Dec. 28th. He could appoint his friends as canons and priests and he wore the full episcopal regalia. He did everything the regular Bishop did except say Mass. In Salisbury Cathedral there is a tomb of a chorister who died while he was a Boy Bishop and was buried with the full honors of a real Bishop. It appears that the practice of having a Boy Bishop was most popular in England. Is seems to have stopped there in the 19th Century and I don't know if it is still practiced elesewhere.
In 325 Bishop Nicholas had to make a trip to Nicaea in Asia Minor. There had been a drought in the area he had to travel through and the people were starving. When an inn keeper offered him pot roast for supper he got suspicious about where meat could be found. Nicholas searched the place and found three children who had been killed and pickled in brine. He prayed for the children and brought them back to life. I believe this is the reason he was made a Saint. I have read that this is why he was made Patron Saint of Children. Others have said it was because he spent so much of his vast inheritance on children.
I have also discovered that Nicholas is the Patron Saint of; bankers, apathecaries, bakers, brewers, coopers, haberdashers, judges, merchants, packers, paupers, perfumiers, thieves, woodturners (I don't know about wood carvers) and unmarried girls.
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