The Basilica di San Nicola
(Basilica of Saint Nicholas) is a church in Bari
, southern Italy
, that holds wide religious significance throughout Europe
and the Christian World
. The basilica is an important pilgrimage destination both for Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians from Eastern Europe.
The basilica was built between 1087 and 1197, during the Italo-Norman domination of Apulia
, the area previously occupied by the Byzantine Catapan of which Bari was the seat. Its foundation is related to the stealing of some of the relics of St. Nicholas from the saint’s original shrine in Myra, in what is now Turkey
The church has a rather square appearance, seemingly more suited to a castle than to a church. This impression is strengthened by the presence of two low massive towers framing the façade. It was indeed used several times as castle during its history.
The interior has a nave and two aisles, divided by granite columns and pilasters. The presbytery is separated from the rest of the edifice by mean of three arches supported by columns of Byzantine influence. Above the aisles is the matronaeum, a tribune gallery for women, opening into the nave. The basilica was the first church of this design, setting a precedent which was later imitated in numerous other constructions in the region.
The Basilica houses one of the most noteworthy Romanesque sculptural works of Southern Italy
, a cathedra (bishop's throne) finished in the late eleventh century for Elias. There are precious mosaic pavements in the crypt and presbytery. The ciborium, the most ancient in the region, is also decorated with mosaic; it has four columns with foliage, animals and mythological figures. The crypt, with 26 columns sporting capitals in Byzantine and Romanesque style, houses the relics of St. Nicholas.
In the church is the Renaissance tomb of Bona Sforza, (sixteenth century), in marble. The museum of the Basilica has precious works of art, including a collection of twelfth-century candlesticks donated by King Charles I of Anjou.