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Islamic Emirate
Via Trainana
Roger II of Sicily
William I of Sicily
William the Wicked
Frederick II
Urban II
Saint Nicholas
Basilica di San Nicola

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Bari - Basilica di San Nicola

Bari - Basilica di San Nicola
Bari was an early settlement and passed under Roman rule in the 3rd century BC. It developed strategic significance as the point of junction between the coast road and the Via Traiana and as a port for eastward trade. The first bishop of Bari was Gervasius who is known from the Council of Sardica in 347.

After the decline of the Roman Empire, the town was devasted and taken by Alaric´s Visigothic troops, then was under Lombardian rule, before the Byzantines took over. In 755 it was conquered by Pepin the Short (Charlemagne´s father) and from 847 on it was an Islamic Emirate. The Byzantine fleet returned in 871 and since 885 Bari was the residence of the local Byzantine governor.

Following a three-year siege, Bari was captured by Robert Guiscard in 1071. After the relics of Saint Nicholas, which were brought from Myra in Lycia, arrived in Bari, the Basilica di San Nicola was founded in 1087. This attracted pilgrims, whose encouragement and care became central to the economy of Bari.

After the murder of archbishop Griso in 1117 a civil war broke our and the control was seized by Grimoald Alferanites, a native Lombard, in opposition to the Normans. He later did homage to Roger II of Sicily, but rebelled and was defeated in 1132.

The Castello Normanno-Svevo (aka "Castello di Bari") was probably built around 1132 by Norman King Roger II. When in 1155 the Baresi rebelled against the Normans, the castle got destroyed, so as a retaliatory action, William I of Sicily (aka "William the Wicked") had the city destroyed except for the cathedral and the Basilica of St. Nicola.

Bari recovered and had its heydays under Frederick II. When he returned from his crusade after 1229, the city gates were locked so he had to use force to gain entry. Therefore, he probably had the fort built in 1233 to keep the city in check. On the other hand, he granted the city generous trade privileges and left it the leading role in the region.


The most important day in Bari´s medieval history was May 09. 1087. At that day seamen sailed into the harbour, carrying the remains of Saint Nicholas. They had stolen (or recovered) them from the saint’s original shrine in Myra, and following the legend, the saint, passing by the city on his way to Rome, had chosen Bari as his burial place.

So the basilica was built between 1087 and 1197 on the area previously occupied by the Byzantine Catapan. The whole cathedral was constructed as a shrine. The crypt got consecrated in 1089 in presence of Pope Urban II.

The Basilica di San Nicola clearly influenced the Romanesque style in Southern Italy. It still is a place of pilgrimage for Catholic and Orthodox Christians. Frederick II called the basilica "nostra specialis capella" and for the House of Anjou it was a "basilica palatina".

Marco F. Delminho has particularly liked this photo

 Jaap van 't Veen
Jaap van 't Veen club
BVeautiful church; well captured Martin.
6 weeks ago.

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