MOSCOW (AP) — Relics of Saint Nicholas, one of the Russian Orthodox Church's most revered figures and the inspiration for Santa Claus, are headed to Moscow from an Italian church where they have lain for more than 900 years.
The relics are to be displayed in Moscow's Christ the Savior cathedral until mid-June, then moved to St. Petersburg, before being returned to Bari, Italy, on July 12. Both cities are expecting crowds of Orthodox faithful to visit the relics.
The agreement to send the relics to Russia was made in last year's meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, the first meeting of the heads of the Russian and Roman Catholic churches.
Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra, now the Turkish city of Demre. Most of his relics were taken to Bari in 1087.