St Nicholas Hospital, Salisbury  St Nicholas

St Nicholas Hospital, Salisbury  St Nicholas Statue
St. Nicholas on
west front of
Salisbury Cathedral
St Nicholas was born in the third century in the village of Patara, which at the time was part of Greece but is now on the southern coast of Turkey.
Born into a wealthy family, Nicholas was raised as a devout Christian. Such that when an epidemic brought the death of his parents, Nicholas sold all of his inheritance and used the money to assist those in need, as instructed by the words of Jesus to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor". He spent the rest of his life administering to those in need and in servicing God.
Nicholas was made Bishop of Myra and established himself as a man renowned for his generosity to those in need, for his love of children and for his support of sailors and their ships.
Under the reign of the Roman Emporer Diocletian, Christians were persecuted, abused and many imprisoned. Nicholas himself spent time in prison but was released when Emperor Constantine took over.
Nicholas died on 6th December 343 in Myra and he was buried in the cathedral there. In 1087, his relics were translated to Bari in Italy, hence why Nicholas is sometimes referred to as Nicholas of Bari. The anniversary of his death is celebrated throughout the Christian world on 6th December and is called St. Nicholas Day.
Many stories have been told of Nicholas and his life. These have secured his position as a protector and helper of those in need.

One such story tells of the changing fortunes of the daughters of a poor man. At the time, when daughters married, the husband was provided with a dowry. The size of the dowry influenced the chance of finding a husband, so the daughters of this poor man did not have a high chance of marrying well and may well be sold into slavery.

Unexpectedly, a bag of gold for each daughter was thrown through the window of their house. The bags of gold landed in stockings or shoes left out. People believe that the gold was a gift from St. Nicholas and so this led to the custom of children hanging out stockings or putting out shoes, hopefully to receive a gift from St. Nicholas.
There is a variation to the story which states that instead of gold pieces, the gifts were golden balls. Hence why three gold balls are used as the symbol associated with St. Nicholas.