Imprisoned for his faith during the time of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, Nicholas was released when Constantine assumed power. He continued his many deeds of kindness and generosity. Legend has it that he also performed many miracles.
As Bishop of Myra, Nicholas was invited to attend the famous Council of Nicea (the town is now called Iznik). Many important issues were discussed at that Council, including a statement of religious belief known today as the Nicene Creed.
The earliest surviving writings about this famous saint are from the 6th century. Brother Michael, who lived and worked at the Stadium Monastery in ancient Byzantium (later called Constantinople and today Istanbul) also provides an early description.
But, as with most saints and legends, the fame of Nicholas grew after his death. Because he had been kind to children, protected sailors, and gave generously of himself and his material possessions, he became the patron saint of many cities. He even was the Patron Saint of Russia where fabulous icons were created in the 12th and 13th centuries.
When Nicholas died he was approximately 65 years old. Wearing the robes of a bishop, and presumably a white beard, his likeness has been imagined by artists for thousands of years. It is said that only Mary, the mother of Jesus, has been painted more often.