In the heart of Bari's historic centre, the Basilica of San Nicola is the focal point of the Cittadella nicolaiana and a destination for pilgrims from all over the world, and especially from Eastern Europe.
Considered a prototype of Puglia's Romanesque architecture, the Cathedral was founded in the 11th century. It has been remodelled several times over the centuries, but retains a simple exterior, with two slender towers reaching up to the sky. Inside, a gilded wooden ceiling overlooks beautiful furnishings and 17th century paintings by Carlo Rosa of Bitonto.
A staircase leads down to the crypt where you'll find the tomb of San Nicola (Saint Nicholas), and the entrance to a Russian Orthodox Chapel. Don’t miss the Cattedra di Elia (Elias’ Cathedra, or bishop's throne), the medieval capitals, the ciborium, the silver altar and the golden inlays from the 17th century.
Over the years, the never-ending flow of pilgrims has increased the Basilica’s treasure. Precious votive offerings are kept in the Museum of San Nicola, along with parchments, epigraphs and finely decorated manuscripts.
The Basilica was founded at the end of year 1000 to house the relics of San Nicola, which had been taken from a shrine in Myra. The remains were entrusted to the Benedictine abbot Elia, who was granted land by the Norman King Ruggero Borsa. Construction work began in 1087, and the building was consecrated by Pope Urban II in 1089.
The Basilica of San Nicola represents one of the most important examples of Puglia's Romanesque architecture, which flourished between the end of the 11th century and the early years of the 13th century. The massive structure, typical of Norman architecture, expresses itself in its façade, which is flanked by two towers - the Torre del Catapano and Torre delle Milizie - and which features a striking central door, the Portale dei Leoni (Lions’ Portal). The side walls are finely decorated with elegant capitals, and anthropomorphic and zoomorphic motifs.
Saint Nicholas of Myra is one of the most venerated saints in Orthodox Christianity. Bari's Basilica, a veritable bridge between East and West, is one of the main destinations for religious tourists in Southern Italy and each year welcomes thousands of pilgrims from Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe. Services are celebrated on a regular basis in the Russian Orthodox Chapel in the Crypt.
The Basilica of San Nicola is a massive Romanesque treasure trove. It safeguards the remains of Saint Nicholas in the atmospheric crypt, and its extensive art collection will leave you wonderstruck. Don’t miss the Cattedra di Elia (Elias' Cathedra) in the Presbytery, the splendid medieval capitals, the region's oldest ciborium, a magnificent silver altar with a bust of the saint, and the refined 17th-century gold inlays depicting scenes from the life of San Nicola.
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