A general information

Open hours: 7,30 – 13,00, 16-19,30; distance from the harbour: five minutes walking.



The Basilica of St Nicholas has no ecclesiastical origins. The structure existed already a century before (around the year 1000). At that time it was the residence of the governor of the byzantine (greek) governor of Italy, called “Catepan”.

In 1071 Bari (Apulia) and all southern Italy were conquered by the Normans (exactly the same years they conquered England), who moved the capital city to Salerno and from 1130 to Palermo. Losing political importance and therefore commercial trading, the Barians in 1087 organized an expedition to southern Asia Minor, bringing back to their city the relics of St Nicholas. An event that rapidly became known throughout Europe. As a church in his honour they dedicated this ancient Catepan’s palace. To this purpose they demolished other buildings and chapels, leaving in the area only the Church of St. Gregory (X century).

The Basilica of St. Nicholas safeguards the Saint’s relics and stands imposing in the Old Town of Bari overlooking the Adriatic Sea. It is within a five-minute walk from the Harbour and fifteen from the Central Railway Station. The Romanesque architecture of the Basilica is characterized by a massive, masonry-wall construction and a sombre, austere style. It is worth remembering that the church was built on what was previously the residence of the Byzantine Governor (Catepan’s Court) and, thus, much of the pre-existing building materials were re-utilized. For this reason, it has been difficult for even accredited art historians to agree on the building phases. In any case, the wall structure, which is somewhat irregular (the north side is about 2 metres longer than the south side), can be attributed to the Abbot Elias (+1105 A.D.), whilst the decorations are prevalently attributable to his successor, the Abbot Eustatius (+1123 A.D.). The sculptures are true works of art and it is believed that the three classical pieces, that is, the Bishop’s Throne of the Abbot Elias, the Lions’ Portal and the Ciborium with its capitals, may have been commenced by Elias and completed by Eustatius.

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