The Basilica of San Nichola in Carcere is dedicated to St. Nicholas of Myra, the patron saint of sailors and children, and the remote ancestor of the modern-day Santa Claus, a syncretic figure composed of various Catholic and Nordic traditions. This church is also the regional church for those from Puglia and Lucania living in Rome. It is unique in that it incorporates the remains of three Republican-era temples dating to the second century BC, located in the ancient Forum Holitorium. It's believed that the originals were dedicated to Janus, Juno Sospita and Spes. There was also a fourth located just to the north of this row of temples, constructed in 191 BC by Manius Acilius Glabrio, but it was demolished to make way for the construction of the nearby Theater of Marcellus, the remains of which still stand (and are inhabited!). It's unclear how these temples became a single church, or even where the curious name originated from. Pliny the Elder reports that the nearby Temple of Piety was built on the site of a prison where the Theater of Marcellus was rebuilt, but if the temple was the same the memory of it would have had to persist for some seven centuries. It is also possible that one of the temples could have been used as a prison in Late Antiquity, but how St. Nicholas came to be associated with it is something of a mystery. In the eleventh century the church was called San Nichola Petrus Leonis. It was remodeled in 1599 when the present fašade was added. It was further restored in the 19th century under Pope Pius IX.
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