Turkish archaeologists believe they have unearthed the remains of the Christian saint who inspired the legend of Santa Claus.
An official on Thursday said that St. Nicholas’ remains may reside beneath a church at his birthplace in Demre, a town in southern Turkey.
“This is an important find both culturally and for Turkey’s tourism,” said Cemil Karabayram, the head of the nearby city of Antalya’s Reliefs and Monuments authority.
Nicholas was widely known for his generosity during his life, and the saint has since become closely associated with Santa Claus.
Santa Claus is a folkloric figure in Western Christian tradition that travels the world delivering presents to well-behaved children on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Some Twitter users on Thursday reacted to the news that researchers had found the man behind the Claus myth.
Nicholas was born in the 4th century and eventually served as the bishop of Demre, which is in Turkey’s Mediterranean region.
The saint was buried in an area formerly known as Myra, but his bones were thought to have been stolen and relocated to the southern Italian town of Bari.
Karabayram said, however, that archaeologists recently found what they think is a temple beneath the 11th-century Church of St. Nicholas in Demre.
Archaeologists are now looking for a way to enter the temple without hurting the church, he continued.
Karabayram added that the temple was discovered during geo-radar surveys of the church as part of a restoration project there.
“It is a temple that is intact, has not been touched but may have been affected by an earthquake,” he said.
Karabayram added that the bones that were taken to Bari may have been the remains of another priest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.