The Pontifical 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 di San Nicola was founded in 1087 to receive the relics of this saint, which were brought from Myra in Lycia, and now lie beneath the altar in the crypt. The church is one of the four Palatine churches of Apulia (the others being the cathedrals of Acquaviva delle Fonti and Altamura, and the church of Monte Sant’Angelo sul Gargano)
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.
In the church is the Renaissance tomb of Bona Sforza, 16th 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.
December 6 is Saint Nicholas Day, the main feast day of Saint Nicholas. On this day, it is traditional for the clergy of the basilica to lower a flask into the subterranean tomb of Saint Nicholas to extract some of the myrrh which is believed to exude from the relics. Containers of this myrrh are sent all over the world, and believers have reported numerous miracles as a result of being anointed with it.
May 9 is celebrated annually in the Russian Orthodox Church as the feast day of the “Translation of the Relics of Saint Nicholas from Myra to Bari”.
Pilgrimages to the basilica from Eastern Europe have increased dramatically since the fall of the Iron Curtain, not only for the feast days, but throughout the year
Puglia produces the most grapes, both for eating and for wine making, in Italy and is also the largest producer of olive oil. With it’s extensive coastline fish and seafood feature greatly in regional cuisine and turtles, oysters, mussels, cuttlefish and octopus will be found on most menus. February is the time for eating sea anemones which are served raw with a splash of lemon or cooked into pasta dishes. Desserts from Puglia are mainly almond based, as the region produces vast quantities of almonds.
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