Saint Nicholas: Bearer of the Gift to the Nations

Updated: Mar 25



Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, is shown wearing the gold spun vestments of Christmas accented by red, symbolizing how he was a martyr to charity. He is wearing the precious miter which displays three gems that symbolize the three martyrdoms of Christmas:

  • Ruby, St. Stephen, Dec. 26th Martyrdom of will and fact. He desired martyrdom and was the first martyr of the Church.


  • Pearl, St. John the Divine, Dec. 27th Martyrdom of will. St. John lived a "white martyrdom", that is he desired martyrdom but despite the attempts to kill him and being banned on the Island of Patmos he was the only one of the apostles to die a natural death.


  • Hematite, The Holy Innocents, Dec. 28th Martyrdom of fact. They shed their blood and were martyred before the age of reason for Christ their new-born King.

As shepherd of the Church, Nicholas tends his flock, and carries the gold staff. In his hands he is holding the Gift to The Nations, the Gospels. He is a defender of the faith as his right hand is depicted slightly bruised referencing the altercation he had with Arius at the council of Nicea. He is shown against a diapered background; the violet squares are the color of Advent. Nicholas is actually a Saint of Advent whose feast day is December 6th. Advent is a penitential time or "mini-Lent" in preparation for Christmas. The green squares are the color of regeneration and renewal that comes from the graces of Advent in preparation for he coming of The Light into the world symbolized by the gold squares.


All around him are signs and symbols of Christmas and charitable giving and the miracles associated with him that come from his living out the Gospel message:

  • The Three Dowries: Three bags of gold coins for the three maidens at the bottom of the miniature. In those days if a girl had no dowry - a sum of money to contribute to her intended husband - she could not marry into a respectable family. Normally either slavery or prostitution might be her only means of support. When Nicholas heard of their plight, he came sneaking up to the house after all were asleep and tossed sufficient dowry money through the windows so that the girls could each wait for a proper marriage.


  • The Miracle of the Wheat: A drought had overtaken the country of Myra and the king would not part with a shipment of wheat coming from overseas, so Nicholas appeared to the captain of the ship in a dream guaranteeing him not only payment for the wheat but also that none of the wheat would be missed by the king. When the captain awoke the money was in his hands and the country was fed with the wheat until the drought lifted.


  • The Candy Cane: Forming a border around Nicholas, it was designed as a symbol of the True Christmas: The shape is that of a shepherd's staff, representing the shepherds who were the first to hear of te birth of Christ the Good Shepherd. Turned upside down it is a "J" for Jesus. The candy was made hard as Christ is our rock. The white symbolizes that he was born of a virgin, the stripes reference Isaiah's "by His stripes we are healed." The wide red stripe symbolizes His Passion, the three small red stripes symbolize uniting our suffering to His. The candy cane was flavored with Peppermint as it is said to be very close to the flavor of Hyssop. King David appealed to God's mercy crying, "Purge me with Hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow."


Illumination: Jed Gibbons, 2008 A.D.

#JedGibbons #icons #illumination #art

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