Minister unveils ’real’ Santa statue

DEMRE, Antalya - The third Saint Nicholas statue built in the last decade was inaugurated in the resort town of Demre yesterday by the culture minister who said the first two were not right.

All three statues of Saint Nicholas were placed in the town square of Demre, where the original Saint Nicholas is believed to have lived in the third century BC. He was the bishop of Myra, which later became Demre.

The first statue was bronze, made by Russian sculptor Gregory Potosky and inaugurated Dec. 6, 2000, in a state ceremony. Potosky’s display of Saint Nicholas as a religious icon wearing the appropriate gear was criticized by locals and the mayor eventually moved it to a churchyard near the town square.

The replacement was made of bakelite and featured the overweight old man with long hair and the red coat known all over the world as Santa, as created by Coca Cola early last century.

Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay inaugurating the third statue as the "authentic Santa of Likia," said the first two statues had both been inappropriate for different reasons.

The new statue, made from fiberglass over an iron skeleton, is 3.45 meters tall and features two children with Saint Nicholas. It was commissioned by the Culture Ministry from Ankara State Fine Art Gallery Director and sculptor, Necdet Can. It cost YTL 50,000 and is hoped to be an attraction for the 500,000 people who come to Demre annually to see where Saint Nicholas lived.

Günay wished people a Merry Christmas before stating that Antalya had received around 9 million tourists this year, approximately the same amount as Egypt with its pyramids had received.

He said they believed the total visitors to Turkey would be close to 26 million for 2008.

Saint Nicholas is revered around the world as the patron saint of Russia, the guardian of sailors, protector of pawnbrokers, and the defender of children.
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