We didn’t want to upset everyone before Christmas, but Santa Claus we can confirm is well and truly dead for some 800 years. But not to worry children thankfully his spirit still lives on and be assured, providing you are of the very best behaviour, come Christmas Eve night next he will be doing his rounds as usual, unless of course our government or the European Union (EU) (Who presently run this country) raise difficulties surrounding Santa Claus’s permit to travel in Irish airspace.
Saint Nicholas is buried in the ruined Church of St Nicholas, Jerpoint, across the Tipperary border in Co. Kilkenny, just 67.4 km (42mls) from Thurles.
Today the church itself is all that remains of the medieval village of Newtown Jerpoint, (Name Jerpoint means ‘Nore Bridge). The village had been surrounded by the Cistercian Jerpoint Abbey, founded in 1183 before slowly falling into ruins in the 17th century.
The original Abbey had been originally located on some 1,880 acres; boasting its own gardens, watermills, a cemetery, granary, and kitchens and had served as a launching point in the past for Irish-Norman Crusaders from Kilkenny, before being dissolved in 1540.
A now ruined church can be found on privately held farm land, located to the west of the abbey. This ruin contains an unusual grave slab with a carved image of a cleric and two other carved heads. These images are understood to be that of St Nicholas and the two crusaders who brought the remains of Santa Claus (St. Nicholas) back to Ireland. Though the church dates from 1170, the grave slab itself appears to be dated back to the early 1300’s.
According to legend a band of Irish-Norman knights from Jerpoint, travelled to the Holy Land to take part in the Crusades. However on heading back to Ireland, they seized the remains St. Nicholas, and brought him back to Kilkenny, and to where his bones are now buried. What lends some credence to this legend is the fact that firstly Norman knights from Kilkenny did participate in the Holy Land Crusades and secondly, Normans knights were keen collectors of religious relics. Relics placed on public show encouraged annual pilgrimages, in turn creating revenues, which in turn paid the logistical costs associated with Crusade participation.
Of course human memory is short lived and often recounted recollections in history vary somewhat. Thus another version of this story tells of the de Frainet family, who removed Santa’s remains from Myra to Bari, Italy, in 1169, while Bari remained under the Norman control. The de Frainet family were crusaders to the Holy Land and when the Normans lost power in France, Nicholas de Frainet finally settled in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny; taking with him the relic; buring Santa Claus in Jerpoint around the year 1200.
Whatever the real truth; a poem, ‘The Bones of Santa Claus’ commemorates this legend today.
‘The Bones of Santa Claus’ (Author Bill Watkins)
Where lie the bones of Santa Claus, to what holy spot each pilgrim draws
Which crypt conceals his pious remains, safe from the wild wind, snows and rains.
It’s not in Rome his body lies, or under Egypt’s azure skies
Constantinople or Madrid, his reliquary and bones are hid.
That saint protector of the child, whose relics pure lie undefiled
His casket safe within its shrine, where the shamrocks grow and rose entwine.
Devout wayfarer, cease your search, for in Kilkenny’s ancient church
Saint Nicholas’ sepulchre is found, enshrined in Ireland’s holy ground.
So traveller rest and pray a while, to the patron saint of orphaned child
Whose bones were brought to Ireland’s shore, safe from the Vandal, Hun and Moor.
Here lie the bones of Santa Claus, secure beneath these marble floors
So gentle pilgrim, hear the call, and may Saint Nicholas bless you all!