Bishop of Myra in south-western Turkey and renowned as a miracle worker and patron saint of sailors, unmarried girls, merchants, chemists and perfumiers. Legend has it that he gave three bags of gold to three girls as marriage dowries in order to save them from prostitution. This is seen as the basis for the three golden balls as the pawnbroker’s sign. But the most popular result of his cult is the institution of Santa Claus, based on his patronage of children with its attendant custom in the Low Countries of giving presents on his feast day.
Picture: The dowry for the three virgins (Gentile da Fabriano, c. 1425, Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome).