Leading various group travels internationally, I do stumble upon mysteries and twisted unexpected encounters that remain deep in my soul. This is certainly one of the most chilling, one that has haunted my mind for many years.
On a recent trip to Ireland, I heard words that would strike fear into the hearts of millions of children all over the world – especially this time of year.
I was out with a group of agricultural specialists touring a sheep farm nestled in the beautiful rolling County Kilkenny. We watched as a farmer had his dog dutifully herd the sheep this way and that, commanded only by a series of whistles. It was impressive. Then the farmer led us to a side corner of his yard.
There we found a large sign telling us about the ruins of a medieval Cisterian Abbey that was visible from this point and out in the farmer’s field. The abbey ruins were known as Jerpoint Abbey. Now, ruins of castles and abbeys are fairly common across Ireland. This one in particular, was beautiful and peaceful but looked long-forgotten and lonely.
Ruins of Jerpoint Abbey ~ Credit: TripAdvisor
The farmer said it was the final resting place of Saint Nicholas of Myra, aka St. Nick.
In that moment you could feel the sudden excitement and sorrow in the group. The body of Santa laid just yards away.
But how and why did he end up in Ireland?
The man known as Saint Nicholas was born in 260 AD in what is now known as Turkey. Through his work with the early Christian church, he became known as the Saint of Generosity. He died in the year 343 AD and was buried in Bari, Turkey. In all of Christianity, Saint Nicholas is the third-most iconic figure.
In the 12th century, Newtown Jerpoint was a thriving Norman settlement in Ireland. The Normans were very active in the Holy Land crusades but were also very fond on “rescuing” Christian artifacts from the lands of the “infidels.” Many religious items, including human remains were relocated to France, England, and Ireland.
Saint Nicholas’s long dead body and bones were brought to Jerpoint Abbey and re-buried “for safe keeping” in Christian soil. A large stone was carved to mark the grave. On the stone are depicted a clerical with two knights at his side. The knights are said to be the two crusaders that brought his bones to Ireland from Turkey.
Grave robbers, others might say.
Just to be clear, both Turkey and Italy claim to also have the remains of Saint Nicholas. As history moved on, Newtown Jerpoint became a ghost town and fell to ruins. By the time the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland, Jerpoint Abbey, the resting place of Saint Nick, had become a livestock pasture.
About 15 years ago, a couple, Joe and Maeve O’Connell, bought the large farm containing the ruins of Jerpoint Abbey. At that point, they literally didn’t know what they had. They set their efforts into restoring the beautiful farm house overlooking the ruins. Joe even confesses his plans to use the abbey grounds as pasture.
But then, visitors began to turn up on their doorstep, asking to visit the tomb of Saint Nicholas. Joe and Maeve had unwittingly bought the grave of Santa.
Joe O’Connell at the tomb of St Nicholas, at Jerpoint Park, in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenney ~ Credit Irish Examiner
Joe O’Connell was quoted by the Irish Examiner: “There has never been a dig here, but nobody, so far, can prove or disprove the bones that are buried [here] are those of Saint Nicholas. The ordinance survey map of 1839 of this area, highlight the tomb ... being here.”
Could this be the final resting place of…
Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas? Father Christmas?
Do you think it would be wise to unearth the remains and confirm what many believe to be true? Perhaps all we need to do is make a haunted journey to this sacred ground for a soulful chat (and confirmation) with jolly St. Nick?
And by the way, Santa is very much alive!
Wikipedia; Jerpoint Abbey
Irish Examiner “Tests proposed to verify Remains of St Nicholoas on Kilkenny Farm”