The Basilica of St. Nicholas is located in the center of the old city of Bari. In 1087, the relics of Saint Nicholas were removed from the Turkish city of Mira. The underground Crypt where they were placed was consecrated in 1089, but the construction of the Basilica itself took more than a hundred years. In General, the Church was built by 1105, but it was consecrated only on June 22, 1197. Since then, the relics of the most revered Christian Saint have been preserved in this Basilica.
In 300 AD, Nicholas of Patara (near Fethiye, Turkey), became Bishop of Mira. Even during his life, he was called a Wonderworker, and many miracles that he performed are described in his hagiography. He participated in the Nicene Ecumenical Council of 325 and fought the Arian heresy.
After his death in 342, Nicholas was buried in the Church of the city of Mira, where he was bishop. Soon he was canonized as Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker. He is the patron Saint of seafarers, travelers, and children. He is the most revered Christian Saint. In Europe, he is called Santa Claus.
In the 11th century, the Lycian lands were conquered by the Arabs, and the temple was almost destroyed. In this situation, the Italians from the city of Bari decided to steal the relics of St. Nicholas, and move them to their home. In their opinion, they would be safer there. This happened in 1087. Since then, the relics of Saint Nicholas are located in the Basilica of Bari.
The people of Bari decided to do this in order to raise the status of their city again. In Byzantine times, a Governor palace was located in Bari. From here, he ruled all the lands that the Byzantines were able to capture in Western Europe. But after the Byzantines were driven out by the Normans, the status of Bari fell sharply.
The site of the present Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Bari has been the site of the Governor`s Palace since Ancient Rome. Later, the site was occupied by the palaces of the Lombard ruler, and then the Byzantine Governor. The remaining parts of the Palace were used in the construction of the Basilica of St. Nicholas.
That is why the facade of the Basilica of St. Nicholas does not have symmetry. On the right side is the bell tower, which is more often called the Norman tower. It was built in the 9th century. The left side of the Cathedral is called the "Byzantine tower". It was built in the 10th century.
In General, the Basilica of St. Nicholas has obvious features of the Romanesque style. All the walls of the Cathedral are very massive, more like a castle than a Cathedral. The Central entrance portal is decorated with carvings, and on each side of it are sculptures of bulls. The Basilica has a similar facade on the other side, and there the sculptures of bulls and other mythological animals are much better preserved.
Inside the Basilica looks as ascetic as outside. The nave of the Cathedral is 39 meters long. The ceiling is decorated with frescoes depicting scenes from the life of Saint Nicholas. The relics of St. Nicholas are stored in the underground crypt of the Basilica. The sarcophagus is located in a small chapel, separated from the general space by a lattice. Saint Nicholas is equally revered by Catholics and Orthodox, so since the 20th century, Orthodox clergy are also allowed to hold services here.
Near the altar is the ciborium of Eustachius (1115). Next to the kivorium is the throne of Elijah. This is a marble throne supported by figures of people and lions. It was built for Abbot Elijah in 1105. In the right part of the transept is a silver altar. It was presented to the Basilica of St. Nicholas by the Serbian king Milutin in 1319.