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The St Nicholas Mine (La Mine St-Nicholas) was once the most productive mine in the French commune of Steinbach in Alsace. Steinbach has a long mining history, with some dating it back to the Roman period. This activity began to grow from the 15th century and, by the mid-16th century, it was at its peak.
At this time, the St Nicholas Mine was generating high quantities of top quality silver-lead ore, making it one of the most important mines in the area. Its level of productivity rose to a high between 1612 and 1633. However, the outbreak of the Thirty Years War in 1618 marked difficult times for the region, with the Swedish destroying much of Steinbach’s mining operation.
The fortunes of the St Nicholas Mine changed for the positive in 1659, when it was taken over and updated by the Mazarin. However, like other mines in the area, the St Nicholas Mine suffered during the 18th century, especially during the French Revolution.
It experienced resurgence under occupying Prussians in the 19th century, with yet more development of its facilities and mining activities resuming. Nevertheless, a flooding incident in 1902 marked the start of the demise of the St Nicholas Mine. In fact, it would close in 1904, with its miners moving to work at the newly opened potato mines nearby.
Today, the fascinating remains of this mine are open to the public by tour.
St Nicolas Mine - History
The St. Nicholas Breaker, located just out side of Mahanoy City, was constructed in 1931 and began operating in 1932. Half of the village of Suffolk was relocated in order to create room for the largest coal breaker in the world. 20 miles of railroad track were laid, 3,800 tons of steel and more than 10,000 cubic yards of concrete were used. A mile and a half of conveyor lines, 25 miles of conduit, 26,241 square feet of rubber belting, 118 miles of wire and cable and 20 miles of pipe were installed. When they constructed the breaker, they split it into two sides and each side could be operated independently, producing 12,500 tons of coal a day. The coal, once dumped, took just 12 minutes to pass through the entire breaker.
We knew there were still a few more breakers out there other than the Huber. Rather than drive around aimlessly looking for these relics, Chris decided that he could cover more ground flying aimlessly for hours around northeastern/central PA. He finally spotted a breaker, the only problem was he didn't have a clue how to get there. Fortunatly, it was fairly close to I81, so he started counting the exits back to Hazleton. Realizing he was wasting his time, he swooped the airplane down close enough to give motorists a heart attack, and read the exit sign: Mahanoy City Exit 131B. Of course we (Chris and Carissa) had to take a trip down there the next day. We were both impressed by the structural integrity of this breaker. It is in far better shape than the Huber breaker. The St. Nicholas is a fine example of a concrete breaker. Walking around to the back of the building, we stumbled upon a loosely filled in opening to the mine. Chris attempted to burrow into the hole with his bare hands. This, of course, did not work. On a future trip we will be sure to bring along shovels, which will assist us in gaining access. Venturing inside we found that vandalism to this building is virtually non-existant and many neat artifacts still remain. There is a stockroom filled with parts that were used to repair the breaker. Numerous offices still contain original records and manuals. The latest date that we found was 1976, excluding the phone book from 1999. The untouched lathe and drillpress as well as many other tools used in the breaker's working days reside peacefully in the machine shop. The St. Nicholas has more interesting finds and is in better condition than the shabby, vandalized Huber. If a person wanted to see a breaker firsthand, we would definitely recommend checking this one out.
Who Was St. Nicholas?
We know very few historical details about St. Nicholas’s life. Even the year of his death is uncertain, although both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have celebrated December 6—the date of his passing𠅏or more than 1,000 years. Within a century of his death, the much-admired Nicholas had become the center of a series of folk legends. He was credited with stopping a violent storm to save doomed sailors, donating money to a father forced to sell his daughters into prostitution, and even restoring to life a trio of boys who had been dismembered by an unscrupulous butcher. Today, Nicholas is considered the patron saint of sailors, children, wolves and pawnbrokers, among others𠅊s well as the inspiration for the figure of Santa Claus.
By the Middle Ages, Nicholas’ fame had spread to much of Europe, thanks in large part to the dissemination of parts of his skeleton to churches in Italy, where they were venerated as relics. St. Nicholas’ popularity eventually spread to northern Europe, where stories of the monk mingled with Teutonic folktales of elves and sky-chariots. In the Netherlands, St. Nicholas took on the Dutch-friendly spelling Sinterklaas. He was depicted as a tall, white-bearded man in red clerical robes who arrived every December 6 on a boat to leave gifts or coal-lumps at children’s homes.
Stories of Sinterklaas were likely brought to the New World by Dutch settlers in the Hudson River valley. In his satirical 1809 “History of New-York,” Washington Irving portrayed St. Nicholas as a portly Dutchman who flew the skies in a wagon, dropping gifts down chimneys. In 1823 another New Yorker, Clement Clarke Moore, penned the poem 𠇊 Visit from Saint Nicholas,” which traded the wagon for a sleigh drawn by 𠇎ight tiny reindeer.” Beginning during the Civil War, cartoonist Thomas Nast published the first of a series of popular depictions of a rotund and jolly St. Nicholas. In 1879 Nast was the first to suggest that St. Nicholas lived not in Turkey, Spain or Holland but at the North Pole.
One Of The Deadliest Accidents In U.S. History Happened Right Here In Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania’s rich coal mining history features both heart-wrenching tragedy and unexpected miracles. Tragedy was not uncommon in the coal mining industry in the early 20th century. But, December 1907 proved the deadliest month in coal mining history in the United States.
More than 700 men and boys perished in coal mine accidents that December. Among them was the Darr Mine Disaster, the second deadliest coal mining accident in United States history. The first took place only days before when the Monongah Mine Disaster in West Virginia claimed 362 lives.
Just 13 days later, the town of Van Meter would be mourning the loss of 239 coal miners. (It would become the worst coal mining accident in Pennsylvania history.) But, with that loss also came what many at the time, and since, have called a miracle.
Did you know the story behind the deadliest coal mining accident in Pennsylvania history? Did it affect you or someone you know? Share your story in the comments! Want learn more about PA’s rich history? Click here to read about Three Mile Island.
Pennsylvania's last massive coal breaker comes down, ending an era
Until March 15, the St. Nicholas Breaker was the only relic of the historic era of anthracite mining that remained standing. After being shuttered for more than 50 years, the old breaker -- situated between Mahanoy City and Shenandoah in Schuylkill County -- came down Thursday in a controlled implosion.
It marks the end of an era for a region responsible at one point for nearly all of the country’s anthracite production.
Here’s a story about the breaker and its history from 2015 by Associated Press reporter Michael Rubinkam, when it was reported that the breaker was slated to come down:
MAHANOY CITY — When coal was king, its castle was the breaker — an imposing fortress that crushed, washed and sized billions of tons of Pennsylvania anthracite for use in factories, foundries and homes up and down the East Coast.
Nearly 300 breakers loomed over the coal patch more than a century ago, playing a key role in the nation's rapid economic expansion and symbolizing the might of an industry that drew hordes of European immigrants who toiled, and often died, underground.
The breakers gradually disappeared as anthracite production began a long, steady decline after World War I. Today, only one breaker built during the historic era of anthracite mining remains standing — and now that, too, is coming down.
The St. Nicholas Breaker once held the distinction as the largest in the world, the size of a city block and capable of processing more than 12,000 tons of anthracite each day. Shuttered for more than 50 years, it now blights an area whose economy never fully recovered after anthracite's reign came to an end.
The old breaker is between Mahanoy City and Shenandoah in Schuylkill County, the southern part of a region that holds nearly all of the nation's anthracite, a pure grade of coal that spawned the railroads, powered America's Industrial Revolution and dominated home heating in the East. At its peak, the anthracite industry employed more than 180,000 people in just a few counties of northeastern Pennsylvania.
Coal breakers made it possible
Invented in the 1840s, breakers transformed large, hard-to-ignite chunks of raw anthracite into a variety of smaller sizes suitable for smelting iron, propelling a locomotive, running a machine or heating a building. A conveyor carried raw coal from the top floor through a variety of crushing devices and screens to the bottom, where the finished product — given names like egg, stove, chestnut and pea, according to size — was loaded onto rail cars and taken to cities like New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
"Outside of the mine, the breaker was the linchpin of the coal operation," said John Fielding, a curator with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. "Without the breaker, anthracite coal wouldn't have been marketable. It wouldn't have been able to be used."
The breakers were as hazardous as they were indispensable to an industry that saw more than 30,000 men and boys die in mine collapses, explosions and other accidents. In the 1800s and early 1900s, so-called "breaker boys" as young as 8 picked out sharp pieces of slate and other impurities with their bare hands, working for dimes a day in the dust-choked gloom.
On: July 25, 2010
Mahanoy was settled in 1859 and was a major center of anthracite coal production. From Wikipedia: “The Old St. Nicholas Breaker, located just outside of Mahanoy City, was constructed in 1930 and began operating in 1932. Half of the village of Suffolk was relocated in order to create room for Reading Anthracite’s Old St. Nicholas Breaker, the largest coal breaker in the world. 20 miles of railroad track were laid, 3,800 tons of steel and more than 10,000 cubic yards of concrete were used. A mile and a half of conveyor lines, 25 miles of conduit, 26,241 square feet of rubber belting, 118 miles of wire and cable and 20 miles of pipe were installed. When the breaker was constructed it was divided into two sides. Each side could be operated independently, producing 12,500 tons of coal a day. Once the raw coal enters the production process within the breaker it took just 12 minutes to pass through the entire breaker. For 31 years, the Old St. Nicholas Breaker prepared all sizes of famous Reading Anthracite for the markets of the world.”
Fellow photographers, Will, Andy, Dave, and I set out to capture this massive structure on the 4th of July, 2010. From our base camp located in Elmira NY we drove 3 hours into the coal mining town of Mahanoy PA. The town was little more than one long main street lined with row houses. Each house had a ‘coal door’ located on the front where, at one time, coal was dumped down a chute into a basement bin then shoveled into the furnace to burn off the cold of the long winters.
We passed through town and easily located the monstrosity just outside the city limits. We parked and lugged our equipment and an ample supply of water out into the coal fields and down towards the ominous ten story structure. It was 96 degrees, and the coal blacked earth below our feet radiated the heat of the sun back towards us at an unbearable temperature.
The path we were on narrowed and suddenly came to an end. A small abandoned structure sat on the edge of a steep cliff. We were less than 50 yards from the coal breaker but due to the cliff in front of us and the heaping walls of coal and rocks on either side of the path, we were unable to go any further. We begrudgingly turned around and walked the half mile back to the car mumbling under our breath. We chose to walk back down the road we drove in on and just enter the building through the front. We would be wide open for anyone to see us, but we had no other choice. We were all drenched in sweat as we approached the building.
As we entered the first floor the temperature dropped and cool breeze breathed new life into us. The ground floor we entered on was just that… Bare earth, cracked, parched mud. Old machines and rows of windows lined either side of the massive ground floor we were on.
We manned our walkie talkies and flashlights and split up to explore the leviathan that awaited us. Will and I headed up a rusty staircase comprised of metal grating surrounded by decaying chunks of concrete. We carefully poked our heads into a few rooms on the lower levels before deciding to head straight up to the top and start from there.
We wound our way up six or seven floors on the stairwell, cut across a few rooms and made our way up more stairs to the tenth floor, all the while wondering how stable the staircases were. We gazed in awe at the remnants of the old machines on each floor. Massive gear wheels lay prone in the dust. Thousands of pounds of old dormant metal weighed heavily on each floor. Each ton of steel seemed to bide its time, awaiting the epic moment when its weight would collapse the exhausted floor beneath it, and come crashing down in a cascade of twisted metal and debris.
We finally made our way to the summit. The view from the top was breath-taking. We stared in awe out of the broken and shattered tenth story windows and witnessed a sprawling countryside comprised of mountains of carved, plundered land. Through broken shards of glass and rusted metal we could make out the silhouettes of old cranes, machinery, and abandoned coal buildings that dotted the overgrown landscape. Trees and underbrush had grown up over the mountains of coal and torn lands surrounding the breaker. The lush green landscape hid years of excavation and abuse.
We felt warm wind through the broken windows, and I took in the overwhelming scale of this structure with its thousands of tons of abandoned and derelict machinery.
A labyrinth of grated catwalks presented themselves, their integrity in question. We tested their strength, gingerly putting weight onto them and walking on the seemly more solid I-beams below them. Gaping holes in the grating dotted the passageways at every turn. We tried our best not to look down.
While exploring the accessible parts of the top floor, we located the primary conveyor belt that at one point carried the raw coal out of the mines far below, and into the top of the coal breaker for initial processing. The dark and broken shaft, seemed to go down into infinity. We peered out of broken windows to get a better view of the conveyor shaft and the incredible distance it traveled up from the subterranean mines below.
While on the tenth floor, I explored a very dark room with lockers and old breaker switches that at one time housed the primary electrical systems that ran the coal breakers.
We then began our slow decent back down the stairs stopping off at each floor along the way to explore and discover what decaying treasures it had in store for us.
In the center of one of the upper floors, we came across one of two central control units. These seven foot rectangular obelisks appeared to control many functions of the breaker. Old valves, dials, and gauges covered the face of the ominous structure which was conspicuously set apart in an open area, away from the other machines.
We continued our decent, level by level, amazed by new sights on each floor. The second floor contained many rooms of interest, and was filled with objects and items that gave a human element to the coal breaker. We found the old changing room where the miners would suit up for the work day. Rows of benches lined the room which still contained many old work boots from years past.
Another room on the second level was the old offices. Filing cabinets, flat files, books, ledgers dating back to the 60’s, and other remnants of the breaker’s day to day operations littered the rooms. Each faded piece of paper told a bit of the story of the massive undertaking it had to have been running an operation such as this.
After shooting the second floor we headed down to ground level and met back up with Andy and Dave. As if to satisfy our curiosity about how polluted such a place might be, we discovered a room near the center of the structure where beads of liquid mercury dotted the filthy floor. Some, the size of silver dollars, glimmered brightly in the afternoon sun that drifted in through the shattered windows. We speculated that the breaker had used Mercury Vapor Bulbs which were used for their bright white light. When the bulbs were broken the vaporized mercury condensed and collected on the floor.
In the same room as the mercury an old work bench with a circular saw caught my eye as the sun bent its rays around the rusted teeth of the ancient saw blade.
At this point we had been shooting for about three hours, so we agreed to pack up and head back to Mahanoy for a late lunch. We ate at a local pizza joint which appeared to be the only place open on a Sunday that was also a national holiday. After grubbing up and re-hydrating, we headed back to shoot some more of the building in the late afternoon and evening light.
We once again ventured through the building, shooting the endless number of scenes that lurked around every tetanus laden corner. After another few hours of sweat drenched exploring we exited back outside and took some exterior shots.
It was early evening and we were completely wiped out and exhausted from our shoot. We packed up our coal dust blackened equipment, and bid farewell to the hulking beast that is the St. Nicholas Coal Breaker.
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St. Nicholas, also called Nicholas of Bari or Nicholas of Myra, (flourished 4th century, Myra, Lycia, Asia Minor [near modern Demre, Turkey] Western feast day December 6 Eastern feast day December 19), one of the most popular minor saints commemorated in the Eastern and Western churches and now traditionally associated with the festival of Christmas. In many countries children receive gifts on December 6, St. Nicholas Day. He is one of the patron saints of children and of sailors.
Who is Saint Nicholas?
Saint Nicholas is one of the most popular saints commemorated in the Eastern and Western churches, and he is now traditionally associated with the festival of Christmas. Nothing certain is known of his life, but he was probably bishop of Myra in the 4th century. He is also known as Nicholas of Myra or Nicholas of Bari.
What was Saint Nicholas known for?
Saint Nicholas was known for his generosity and kindness, which gave rise to legends of miracles he performed for the poor and unhappy. As a result of this reputation, devotion to Nicholas extended to all parts of Europe. He became the patron saint of multiple countries, of charitable fraternities and guilds, and of children, sailors, unmarried girls, merchants, and pawnbrokers.
Where was Saint Nicholas from?
According to tradition, Saint Nicholas was born in the ancient Lycian seaport city of Patara and, while still young, traveled to Palestine and Egypt. He became bishop of Myra soon after returning to Lycia.
How did Saint Nicholas inspire the creation of Santa Claus?
Dutch families took the tradition of celebrating the feast day of Saint Nicholas with them to New Amsterdam in the American colonies, beginning as early as the 17th century. They referred to him as Sinterklaas. That name became Santa Claus to the early United States’ English-speaking majority. The legend of a kindly old man was united with old Nordic folktales of a magician who punished naughty children and rewarded good children with presents to form the pop-cultural figure of Santa Claus.
Do the relics of Saint Nicholas really emit a holy substance?
The relics of Saint Nicholas have been reported to emit a sweet-smelling substance ever since they were transferred from Turkey during the 11th century to a tomb in Bari, Italy. The holy liquid has been known as the manna of Saint Nicholas for hundreds of years, and it has been bottled and sold to pilgrims as a purported cure-all salve. Learn more.
Nicholas’s existence is not attested by any historical document, so nothing certain is known of his life except that he was probably bishop of Myra in the 4th century. According to tradition, he was born in the ancient Lycian seaport city of Patara, and, when young, traveled to Palestine and Egypt. He became bishop of Myra soon after returning to Lycia. He was imprisoned and likely tortured during the persecution of Christians by the Roman emperor Diocletianbut was released under the rule of Constantine the Great. He may have attended the first Council of Nicaea (325), where he allegedly struck the heretic Arius in the face. He was buried in his church at Myra, and by the 6th century his shrine there had become well known. In 1087 Italian sailors or merchants stole his alleged remains from Myra and took them to Bari, Italy this removal greatly increased the saint’s popularity in Europe, and Bari became one of the most crowded of all pilgrimage centres. Nicholas’s relics remain enshrined in the 11th-century basilica of San Nicola at Bari, though fragments have been acquired by churches around the world. In 2017 researchers dated one such relic fragment, a piece of hip bone, from a church in the United States and confirmed it to be from the 4th century.
Nicholas’s reputation for generosity and kindness gave rise to legends of miracles he performed for the poor and unhappy. He was reputed to have given marriage dowries of gold to three girls whom poverty would otherwise have forced into lives of prostitution and to have restored to life three children who had been chopped up by a butcher and put in a tub of brine. In the Middle Ages, devotion to Nicholas extended to all parts of Europe. He became the patron saint of Russia and Greece of charitable fraternities and guilds of children, sailors, unmarried girls, merchants, and pawnbrokers and of such cities as Fribourg, in Switzerland, and Moscow. Thousands of European churches were dedicated to him—one, built by the Roman emperor Justinian I at Constantinople (now Istanbul), as early as the 6th century. Nicholas’s miracles were a favourite subject for medieval artists and liturgical plays, and his traditional feast day was the occasion for the ceremonies of the Boy Bishop, a widespread European custom in which a boy was elected bishop and reigned until Holy Innocents’ Day (December 28).
After the Reformation, devotion to Nicholas disappeared in all the Protestant countries of Europe except Holland, where his legend persisted as Sinterklaas (a Dutch variant of the name St. Nicholas). Dutch colonists took this tradition with them to New Amsterdam (now New York City) in the American colonies in the 17th century. Sinterklaas was adopted by the country’s English-speaking majority under the name Santa Claus, and his legend of a kindly old man was united with old Nordic folktales of a magician who punished naughty children and rewarded good children with presents. The resulting image of Santa Claus in the United States crystallized in the 19th century, and he has ever since remained the patron of the gift-giving festival of Christmas.
Under various guises, St. Nicholas was transformed into a similar benevolent gift-giving figure in the Netherlands, Belgium, and other northern European countries. In the United Kingdom, Santa Claus is known as Father Christmas.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Melissa Petruzzello, Assistant Editor.
Who is St. Nicholas?
The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara in Asia Minor. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th (December 19 on the Julian Calendar).
Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.
| St. Nicholas giving dowry gold |
© Elisabeth Ivanovsky
| St. Nicholas in prison|
© Elisabeth Ivanovsky
One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas . Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.
One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death. The townspeople of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Arab pirates from Crete came into the district. They stole treasures from the Church of Saint Nicholas to take away as booty. As they were leaving town, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into a slave. The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personal cupbearer, as not knowing the language, Basilios would not understand what the king said to those around him. So, for the next year Basilios waited on the king, bringing his wine in a beautiful golden cup. For Basilios’ parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, filled with grief. As the next St. Nicholas’ feast day approached, Basilios’ mother would not join in the festivity, as it was now a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios’ safekeeping. Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulfilling his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked up and away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terrified boy, blessed him, and set him down at his home back in Myra. Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king’s golden cup. This is the first story told of St. Nicholas protecting children—which became his primary role in the West.
| St. Nicholas rescuing murdered children |
© Elisabeth Ivanovsky
| St. Nicholas’ prayer calming seas|
© Elisabeth Ivanovsky
Another story tells of three theological students, traveling on their way to study in Athens. A wicked innkeeper robbed and murdered them, hiding their remains in a large pickling tub. It so happened that Bishop Nicholas, traveling along the same route, stopped at this very inn. In the night he dreamed of the crime, got up, and summoned the innkeeper. As Nicholas prayed earnestly to God the three boys were restored to life and wholeness. In France the story is told of three small children, wandering in their play until lost, lured, and captured by an evil butcher. St. Nicholas appears and appeals to God to return them to life and to their families. And so St. Nicholas is the patron and protector of children.
| St. Nicholas providing food during famine |
© Elisabeth Ivanovsky
| St. Nicholas saving innocents|
© Elisabeth Ivanovsky
Several stories tell of Nicholas and the sea. When he was young, Nicholas sought the holy by making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There as he walked where Jesus walked, he sought to more deeply experience Jesus’ life, passion, and resurrection. Returning by sea, a mighty storm threatened to wreck the ship. Nicholas calmly prayed. The terrified sailors were amazed when the wind and waves suddenly calmed, sparing them all. And so St. Nicholas is the patron of sailors and voyagers.
Other stories tell of Nicholas saving his people from famine, sparing the lives of those innocently accused, and much more. He did many kind and generous deeds in secret, expecting nothing in return. Within a century of his death he was celebrated as a saint. Today he is venerated in the East as wonder, or miracle worker and in the West as patron of a great variety of persons-children, mariners, bankers, pawn-brokers, scholars, orphans, laborers, travelers, merchants, judges, paupers, marriageable maidens, students, children, sailors, victims of judicial mistakes, captives, perfumers, even thieves and murderers! He is known as the friend and protector of all in trouble or need ( see list ).
| St. Nicholas blessing ships |
© Elisabeth Ivanovsky
| Saint Nicholas|
© Elisabeth Ivanovsky
Sailors, claiming St. Nicholas as patron, carried stories of his favor and protection far and wide. St. Nicholas chapels were built in many seaports. As his popularity spread during the Middle Ages, he became the patron saint of Apulia (Italy), Sicily, Greece, and Lorraine (France), and many cities in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Belgium, and the Netherlands (s ee list). Following his baptism, Grand Prince Vladimir I brought St. Nicholas’ stories and devotion to St. Nicholas to his homeland where Nicholas became the most beloved saint. Nicholas was so widely revered that thousands of churches were named for him, including three hundred in Belgium, thirty-four in Rome, twenty-three in the Netherlands and more than four hundred in England.
| St. Nicholas’ death |
© Elisabeth Ivanovsky
| St. Nicholas bringing gifts|
© Elisabeth Ivanovsky
Nicholas’ tomb in Myra became a popular place of pilgrimage. Because of the many wars and attacks in the region, some Christians were concerned that access to the tomb might become difficult. For both the religious and commercial advantages of a major pilgrimage site, the Italian cities of Venice and Bari vied to get the Nicholas relics. In the spring of 1087, sailors from Bari succeeded in spiriting away the bones, bringing them to Bari, a seaport on the southeast coast of Italy. An impressive church was built over St. Nicholas’ crypt and many faithful journeyed to honor the saint who had rescued children, prisoners, sailors, famine victims, and many others through his compassion, generosity, and the countless miracles attributed to his intercession. The Nicholas shrine in Bari was one of medieval Europe’s great pilgrimage centers and Nicholas became known as “Saint in Bari.” To this day pilgrims and tourists visit Bari’s great Basilica di San Nicola.
Through the centuries St. Nicholas has continued to be venerated by Catholics and Orthodox and honored by Protestants. By his example of generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life.
| Celebrating St. Nicholas |
© Elisabeth Ivanovsky
| Celebrating St. Nicholas|
© Elisabeth Ivanovsky
Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas’ feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes for themselves! In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint’s horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child.
Who is St. Nicholas? a word cloud developed from the text on this page
Click for larger image
Image created on Wordle.net
Illustrations by Elisabeth Ivanovsky from Saint Nicholas by Henri Gheon, Sheed and Ward, 1936.
Copyright © Elisabeth Ivanovsky, with kind permission for use by St. Nicholas Center only.
Family History and Genealogy in Cornwall
Cornish families can be identified by their surnames: Borlase Tonkin Killigrew, Trelawney Davey Trevithick Arundell Boscawen Bray Carew Godolphin Vivian Penrose Hocking Polwhele are some of the famous ones. By Tre, Pol and Pen you shall know the Cornishmen. Chances are that if your family name is something like this then you have Cornish ancestors.
Researching your family tree and discovering your ancestors can be a fascinating pastime and captures the imagination of many.
Many families left Cornwall during the 19th century. The depression in the mining industry meant that as mines closed in Cornwall and families found themselves without the ability to make a living, they sought new employment opportunities, heading for a new life in the United States, Canada, Australia, South America, Africa.
Skilled workers such as Cornish miners and engineers were eagerly prized around the world for their skill and knowledge, to the point that it is often said that wherever there is a hole being dug in the ground you will find a Cornishman in the bottom of it.
Men and women of Cornish descent can now be found across the world. In may of these places there are active Cornish Associations (see our Cornish Culture page for a list of Cornish Associations).
The links below will help you whether you are tracing your Cornish ancestry or if you are generally wanting to uncover your family history.
Parish churches can often be the first step in tracing your family history. Visit our Churches in Cornwall page to view the list of Parish churches.
Cornish Family History Links
Cornwall Record Office
Address and contact details:
The County Archivist
Cornwall County Council
Old County Hall
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +44 (0)1872 323127
Fax: +44 (0)1872 322292
To view the Online Catalogues of the Cornwall Record Office please click on the following links:
The Cornwall Record Office(CRO) contains a wealth of information including the following archives:
- Public Records including Court Records pre 1858
- Mining Records from the Stannary Court
- Shipping Registers from 1786
- Census Returns from 1801
- Local Government records including Parish Council and administrative records
- Church of England records including Parish Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths for parishes around Cornwall with some records still available from 1538. The majority of records are for the period from 1837 onwards.
- Family and Estate records including manorial records, personal papers and records for more than 40 Cornish gentry families
- Nonconformist records for church records for Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists, Roman Catholics, Society of Friends(Quakars) and Jews.
- Records of Voluntary Organisations including Charities, Hospitals, Schools and Societies.
Cornwall Centre (Kresenn Kernow) houses the Cornish Studies Library.
Address and contact details:
Alma Place, Redruth, TR15 2AT
The Cornwall Centre in Redruth and The Cornwall Library Service contains an archive of newspapers and periodicals dating from as early as 1737.
- Camborne Redruth Packet from 1955 onwards Cornish & Devon Post from 1877 to date
- Cornish Echo (formerly Falmouth & Penryn Weekly Times) 1895 to 1952 Cornish Guardian 1901 to date
- Cornish Post and Mining News 1889 to 1944
- Cornish Telegraph 1851 to 1915
- Cornish Times 1857 to date
- Cornish Times (Launceston edition) 1857 to 1859
- Cornishman 1878 to date Cornubian (formerly Redruth Times) 1850 to 1925
- East Cornwall Times 1859 to 1877
- Falmouth & Penryn Weekly Times (Cornish Echo) 1861 to 1895
- Falmouth Packet & Cornish Herald 1829 to 1848
- Lake's Falmouth Packet 1858 to date
- Launceston Weekly News 1856 to 1931
- Newquay Express 1905 to 1945
- Newquay Guardian (formerly Newquay Express) 1946 to 1955
- Penzance Gazette 1839 to 1858
- Penzance Journal 1847 to 1850
- Redruth Independent 1879 to 1895
- Redruth Times (continued as the Cornubian) 1867 to 1879
- Royal Cornwall Gazette 1801 to 1951
- St Austell Star 1889 to 1915
- St Ives Times 1913 to 1971
- St Ives Weekly Summary 1893 to 1918
- Sherborne Mercury 1737 to 1867
- West Briton 1810 to date
- Western Echo 1899 to 1957
- Western Star 1894 to 1895
More Cornish Family History Links
The Cornwall Family History Society provides information and an access point to Parish Registers
Cornwall Online Parish Clerks provide information and an access point to Parish Registers
Cornwall Registration Service has records for the eleven registration districts in Cornwall including marraiage records for all religious denominations.
The Royal Cornwall Museum houses a fine library and archive of information of interest for family tree researchers
Death and Legacy
Several sources state Saint Nicholas is believed to have died on December 6, 343. Over the years, stories of his miracles and work for the poor spread to other parts of the world. He became known as the protector of children and sailors and was associated with gift-giving. He was a popular saint in Europe until the time of the Reformation in the 1500s, a religious movement that led to the creation of Protestantism, which turned away from the practice of honoring saints. Saint Nicholas, however, remained an important figure in Holland.
The Dutch continued to celebrate the feast day of Saint Nicholas, December 6. It was a common practice for children to put out their shoes the night before. In the morning, they would discover the gifts that Saint Nicholas had left there for them. Dutch immigrants brought the legend of Saint Nicholas, known to them as Sint Nikolaas or by his nickname, Sinterklaas, to America in thes.
Saint Nicholas went through many transformations in America: Sinterklaasme Santa Claus, and instead of giving gifts on December 6, he became a part of the Christmas holiday. In the 1820 poem "An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicholas" by Clement Clarke Moore, he is described as a jolly, heavy man who comes down the chimney to leave presents for deserving children and drives a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. The cartoonist Thomas Nast added to the Saint Nicholas legend with an 1881 drawing of Santa as wearing a red suit with white fur trim. Once a kind, charitable bishop, Saint Nicholas had become the Santa Claus we know today.
In 2017, a team from the University of Oxford radiocarbon tested a fragment of a pelvic bone said to be from Saint Nicholas. The test confirmed that the bone fragment, owned by an American priest, dated from the saint&aposs era.
Archaeologists then hoped to match the bone to others purportedly belonging to Saint Nicholas, including those housed in a crypt in Bari, Italy, since the 11th century.