Forensic experts have done their number on the skull of St. Nicholas of Myra and have reconstructed what this notable 4th century Christian–who slapped Arius at the Council of Nicea and was famous for his generosity to poor children– must have actually looked like:
The thing is, he looks pretty much the way our cultural imagination thought he would look! I mean, dress him in a red suit and put a pointy cap on his head, and you’ve got our notion of Santa Claus!
OK, he lacks the ruddy complexion, but Myra is in present-day Turkey and St. Nicholas was a Middle Easterner. As for the white beard, this is an element in ancient iconography of St. Nicholas, so it is not unlikely that he had one. He also has a broken nose. Maybe Arius hit him back!
Click the link for details about how this research was conducted. Though some of the relics held by Catholic churches are spurious, some, such as the bones of specific saints, are well-attested. I’d like to see more of this sort of thing. Seeing what these folks looked like reminds us of the historicity of the Christian faith through the ages and that the great figures of church history were human beings who were not that much different from us.
HT: Paul McCain