What is Bari known for? The relics of St. Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra, who lived in the late III and early IV centuries are lying here. St. Nicholas is the most revered saint in both the East and the West Christian Churches. In 1087 Bari sailors, ahead of the Venetians stole the relics of St. Nicholas of Myra. In May 1087 the relics of Saint Nicholas arrived at the port located in the surroundings of the city of Bari. In 1089 the relics were transferred to the crypt of the Basilica which was built specifically for the shrine.
This event caused a great excitement in the Middle Ages and the crowds of pilgrims flocked to Bari. Pope Urban II personally came to consecrate the temple and to hold a solemn service. Yes, exactly the pope who announced the beginning of Crusades. After the described incidents the Crusaders always came for a blessing to St.. Nicholas before heading to the Holy Land. They also tended to return to him bringing the relics from the eastern lands. These valuable gifts are still kept in Bari.
Bari is the center uniting East and West not only in geographical terms, but also in cultural and religious ones. Bari is a home to the world’s unique temple with the only altar to hold services both for Catholic and Orthodox Churches. On the day of May 9 – the day of the celebration of the relics – the priests of the two faiths make shared services and religious ritual taking the relics away. They are opening a small window in the tomb and are annually collecting about 200 grams of chrism. This chrism is diluted with holy water and sold to all the comers.