Antalya St. Nicholas Memorial Museum
In the middle of the 5th century, during the reign of Emperor Theodosius II (408 450), Myra became the capital of the province of Lycia. During these years, the existence of the memory structure of Nicholas in Myra is known. After the great earthquake in the region in 529, Emperor Justinianus I (527-65) repaired this structure. In the sources of the period, the grave structure of the saint or the church in Myra in 530 is mentioned. Although the first construction period of the St. Nicholas Church is not known for certain, it is considered to be a basilica built in the 6th century based on historical and architectural data. After the first structure was damaged either as a result of an earthquake in the 8th century or as a result of attacks from the south, the church was rebuilt in the 9th or 10th century in the plan of a domed basilica. After this period, the church of St. Nicholas went through many repairs and additional construction periods. In the 11th century, the inner narthex is decorated with murals. These paintings contain important “consul” (religious meetings where religious decisions are made with the participation of emperors and bishops) scenes reflecting the stylistic characteristics of the period in the development of Byzantine painting.
The most important restoration in the history of the church is the repairs made by the emperor Constantine IX. Monomachos (1042-1055) and his wife Zoe. The renovation work of the emperor and his wife in Myra is documented in an inscription dated September 1, 1042, found in the church today. Myra was a port visited by pilgrims going to Jerusalem by sea in the middle Ages, and the church of St. Nicholas became one of the pilgrimage places of the faithful. When the merchants from Bari, who went to Jerusalem from Italy by the sea in 1087, stopped by Myra, they opened the tomb of St. Nicholas and kidnapped his bones. The holy relics are preserved today in the Church of San Nicola, built in the name of the saint in Bari. The 12th-century wall paintings depicting scenes from the life story of St. Nicholas in the burial chamber in the south of the church are the only examples of the Saint's Cycle in Türkiye. In the dome of the "Prothesis" (liturgy preparation room) in the northeast of the church, the "Communion" (Christ's offering of bread and wine to his disciples) scene dates back to 12.-13th. centuries; The wall paintings of the 13th-century Deesis scene in the south chapel and the marble panels in the opus sectile technique made with fine workmanship on the floor of the church are important examples of Byzantine art. According to the architectural and archaeological data, it is accepted that the annexes and the episcopate structure (episkopeion) to the north of the church were built in the 11th-12th centuries. As a result of a natural disaster at the end of the 12th century, the bed of the Myros Stream changed and the muddy flood waters from the north filled the city of Myra, the church, and the additional structures in the north with alluvial soil. Today, the urban fabric is located approximately 6.00 meters above the ground level of the church. The building continued to maintain its importance in the 19th century. A new bell tower was built during the excavation and repair works of the Russian Archaeological Institute in the church in 1862-63 under the auspices of the Russian Tsar Nicholas I. After the cleaning and repair works of the Antalya Museum in the church in 1963-64, the architecture, architectural elements, and opus sectile panels of the church were examined within the framework of the Myra project of the German Archaeological Institute in 1965. In the 1980s, the southern part of the building was covered with a steel and plastic roof by the Antalya Museum due to the problems in the covering system of the church. During the excavations conducted under the direction of Prof. Dr. Yıldız Ötüken from Hacettepe University between 1989 and 2009, monastic structures, Episkopeion (bishopric structure), places related to the daily life of monks, and tombs were found in the northern area of the church. Excavation, conservation, and repair works are still continuing in the building under the presidency of Professor Doctor Sema Doğan by Hacettepe University.