Construction on the Basilica di San Nicola, in the historic center of Bari, was started in 1087 to house the remains of San Nicola, or Saint Nicholas, now the patron saint of seafarers and more commonly known as the Saint Nicholas associated with Christmas. In the crypt where the relics are housed there are mosaics and columns with Byzantine and Romanesque capitals. An 11th century Romanesque bishop’s throne and the Renaissance marble tomb of Bona Sforza are highlights of the basilica’s art works. Other works of art, including a collection of 12th century candlesticks, are housed in the Museum of the Basilica.
The basilica facade resembles a fortress and has a tower on either side. The interior has been remodeled several times over the years and reflects different architectural styles although most of the Baroque additions were removed during the modern restoration.
Saint Nicholas feast day is December 6 and is celebrated with festivities in Bari. On this day a flask is lowered into his tomb to extract some of the myrrh believed to exude from his relics.
People often incorrectly think that the Basilica di San Nicola is Bari’s cathedral, however it is the Cathedral di San Sabino.