Saint Nicholas Of Bari Is Loved In Russia | Valentina Cirasola | Designer

Last year part of the Saint Nicholas relics, a fragment of about 7″ of his left ribs to be exact, was packed up in a glass case, enveloped in a fabric decorated with precious embroidered reliefs and shipped to Russia with a pompous ceremony. Orthodox chants, the sound of church’s bells and an escort of high ranking Italian state police saluted the relics on the Italian side. The fragment boarded a private Russian plane and was received on the Russian side with the same formality and high government officials. The relics went to Moscow then to St.Petersburg and remained until the end of July. The guests of my trip visiting Bari last year didn’t get to see it in the Basilica.
(Click on each photo to view it larger).

Photo property Artem Geodakian / TASS


Photo taken by Valentina Cirasola, from a private lithograph.

930 years ago mariners from Bari took Saint Nicholas’s remaining and transferred it from Turkey to Bari, where it reposed in the Basilica of old Bari.
Saint Nicholas is one of the most venerated saint in the Catholic, Orthodox Churches and in the Christian world.

The Venetians, during the first Crusade in 1099, also subtracted the rest of the bones from Saint Nicholas’s tomb, that the mariners from Bari missed to take and are are now kept in San Nicolo’ Abbey of Lido. Saint Nicholas became the protector of Venice’s fleet.

Why Saint Nicholas is so important to so many religions? He was born in 270 a.C. in Patara of Licia in Turkey from a wealthy Greek family. The plague struck both of his parents and he was left with an enormous patrimony at a very young age, which he distributed among the poor. He moved to Myra in Turkey, became a priest and later bishop of Myra. He lived his life as the benefactor of the poor and defrauded. Due to his commitment he was  persecuted and imprisoned under Emperor Diocletian, freed years later under Emperor Constantine.

One of the many legends says that Nicholas heard about a rich man who lost all his wealth and could not marry his three daughters anymore with a decent dowry Due to the new social status, the man wanted to start his three daughters to prostitution. Saint Nicholas took a good amount of money, wrapped it in a cloth and, on three consecutive nights, when nobody was watching, threw the money into the man’s house. Nicholas made sure the three daughters had the dowry for marriage.

(Above: Russian Orthodox praying in the Saint Nicholas’s Crypt – Bari, Italy)

Bari – Vaults at San Nicholas, Bari

(Above; Exterior façade of Saint Nicholas Basilica, Bari, Italy)

The city of Bari, by lending the relic to Russia and through many previous actions, has demonstrated through the centuries to be a good bridge between the East and the West. With this gesture Bari is sending a message of peace between the religions.
Today Saint Nicholas Basilica in the old Bari welcomes the Orthodox pilgrims that want to venerate its relics, both Orthodox and Catholics share prayers in the crypt and the space in the Basilica with various ceremonies.

Photo property of Bari Today

May 8th will be a huge Saint Nicholas celebration in Bari, it will go on for 2-3 days and the statue of Saint Nicholas will be taken on the boat at sea.
Many fishermen will compete in a hard city selection to determine which will be the best boat that will take the statue at sea. It’s an impressive celebration, a long suggestive historic procession to celebrate the patron of Bari. Pilgrims come from far away places, some even on foot and a year of preparation for concerts, vending kiosks, organization of city traffic, processions and street prayers will be finally over.

When I was 5 or 6 years old, my brother and I lost our parents in the heavy crowd of this festivity. A policeman found us and took us in the police station, propped us in front of a TV, gave us some munchies and waited for our parents to claim us. Two hours later, maybe earlier, it sure seemed a long time, our parents came all distraught and preoccupied. We were disappointed to see them, we had to go home and no more TV, but on the way home, inside of us, we felt safe and loved. That night nothing was going to bother us.  I will always remember that San Nicholas’s Day.

If you are in Puglia at this time, do not miss this May 8th historical event. Ciao.

Copyright © 2018 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

As a writer and cultural promoter of Puglia, her native land, Valentina’s intention is to let readers feel and experience a new ”wheel of emotions”. She wants to encourage them to visit areas of Italy not beaten by massive tourism. Through stories of local customs, art, architecture, fashion, food-wines, shopping, she wants them to create their special adventures and live it up in Puglia! Check out her books on



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. beachamfineart
    May 04, 2018 @ 16:52:12

    I appreciate your personal insights…thank you, Valentina!

    Liked by 1 person


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