St Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra, Asia Minor, during the 4th century and is the patron saint of sailors and of children. He is widely known as Santa Claus and many legends have arisen as a result of his kindness and generosity to others.
The legend of the murdered boys
On the left side of the East Window in the chancel, St Nicholas is depicted standing in front of a ship’s sail on which you can see a basket containing three boys praying. Legend has it that an evil shopkeeper murdered the boys and pickled them in a barrel. On hearing the news, St Nicholas prayed fervently to the Lord and the boys were brought back to life.
The legend of the three bags of gold
Another legend describes St Nicholas’ kindness to a poor nobleman who could not afford dowries for his three daughters. In those days a young woman’s family had to have something of value, a dowry, to offer to prospective bridegrooms. Without this, a women was unlikely to marry and was destined to be sold into slavery or worse. St Nicholas heard about the family’s misfortune and decided to help.
On three separate nights, he secretly threw a heavy bag of gold through an open window so that the man’s daughters were saved and made good marriages. Legend has it that the first bag landed in a stocking drying by the fire. This is the origin of the custom of hanging a stocking for Santa Claus. In some versions the story has a shoe, leading to the European custom of leaving shoes for St. Nicholas.
The story of the three bags of gold also forms the basis of the saint’s symbol which is three golden balls. Pawnbrokers adopted the emblem and used it as a trade sign. Some examples are still in existence today.