Hearts Through History Romance Writers

St. Nicholas – Patron Saint of Spinsters

by | December 14, 2012 | 7 comments

Nicholas of Myra (circa 270 – 343 AD) was a Greek bishop hailing from an ancient province in what is modern-day Turkey. The acts attributed to him are so random and secretive, he has bedeviled many a hagiographer. 

St. Nicholas Smiting the Heretic

He attended the Council of Nicaea and punched a heretic, only to be recorded as absent and without his mitre.

The people were starving from famine yet he resurrected three children who had been butchered and pickled to be sold as ham.

He was the patron saint of pawnbrokers–always showing up to make good on the debts of others.

Thieves were in his special care, not because he would aid them in their endeavors, but because he kept appearing at the most inopportune times, foiling their heists and cajoling them to repent.

Spinsters were his special province, for there was a time they would be destined to become prostitutes:

Once upon a time, there were three daughters without dowries. They were to be sold into prostitution to earn their bread.

St. Nicholas gave them dowries for marriage, throwing a purse of gold into their house for three nights in a row. The story was altered to account for their varying ages, whereupon the saint threw each purse over a period of three years, as each came of age. Locked doors? Bags can be thrown down chimneys. Intercepted by another? Stockings washed and hung up to dry insure the gold arrives to its proper owner.

What about the father of the girls? He has a role as well, lying in wait to discover who would be so generous to three lowly daughters. He provides the moral of the story–the witness who confirms St. Nicholas is not the benefactor, but God alone.


Dowry for three – de Fabriano

Does their story sound quaint, even unimportant?

It’s a good thing St. Nicholas, like Love, requires no dignity, nor ostentation, to give of Itself.

I think that is why the Christmas Season holds a particular irony. Random acts of kindness from strangers puzzle one so. They remind me of a quote from the Roman Emperor Tiberius who struggled to reconcile the actions of a lowly slave to his brutal mistreatment:

“There is a strange inconsistency in this man, who tries to kill my governor, yet saves the life of my Consul.” —   Ben Hur



  1. Kirsten Lynn

    This is so interesting, Angelyn! I have never heard about the dowry for the three. Isn’t it so sad that random acts of kindness are so rare they puzzle us?

    Thanks for sharing this information.

    • Angelyn

      It is sad. Maybe that’s why I fall in love with the embittered old Scrooge when he lifts Tiny Tim on his shoulder. Now I’m being really random. Thanks for commenting, Kirsten!

  2. Ella Quinn

    That was wonderful. I’d never heard any of it. In Germany there were stories of acts of kindness, but not the rest. Of course no one hangs stockings. On Dec 6th shoes are left out for the Christchild.

  3. Gerri Bowen

    I love to read stories like this. Thanks for the post, Angelyn.

    • Angelyn

      I’m glad you liked that, Gerri. He might have been a saint, but Nicholas was also a Romantic.

  4. Angelyn

    Christmas in Germany would be wonderful. Makes me think of a snowy Bavarian marketplace. Thanks for stopping by, Ella!

  5. Ally Broadfield

    Lovely post, Angelyn. I’ve always been fascinated by the stories surrounding St. Nicholas.



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