Bari celebrates Saint Nicholas of Myra
From May 7 -9th, Bari gets dress up for the commemoration of its patron Saint Nicholas, evoking the translation of his relics from Myra to Bari. The remains were first preserved in the cathedral of Myra, an ancient Hellenic city now located near Demre, in Turkey and of which St. Nicholas was a bishop until exile in 305. Here they remained until 1087, the year in which the city fell into the hands of Muslims. At this point, Bari and Venice, always rivals in the maritime traffic with the East, competed to transfer the relics of the saint in the West. A Bari expedition of 62 sailors aboard three ships disembarked at Myra and returned to Bari on May 8, 1087, bringing with them about half of the skeleton of Saint Nicholas; the rest of the body (mostly the smallest fragments) was left in place and subsequently taken by the Venetians during the first crusade and transported to the abbey of Saint Nicolò.
St. Nicholas is admired as a saint by both the Catholic and the Orthodox Church, so much that many European places considered him the saint patron (only in Italy there are almost 300). In fact, hundreds of Orthodox pilgrims, especially from Russia and from other Eastern countries, such as Ukraine, Serbia and Romania, calculate themselves for hundreds: for them St. Nicholas represents the greatest intercessor with God..
In the Julian calendar followed by the Russian Orthodox, St. Nicholas is celebrated 13 days later than in the Western world, which instead follows the Gregorian calendar. Thus, the feast of Translation for the Orthodox Church occurs on May 22, while the liturgical solemnity that Catholics commemorate on December 6 (the day of the saint's death), by the Orthodox is celebrated on December 19. This means that Bari celebrates the Saint throughout the month of May.
The official celebrations will begin on the afternoon of 7 at the San Giorgio Bay with the Holy Mass and in the evening the long the Corteo Storico, a great procession of people in 11th century costume that, starting from Piazza Federico II of Swabia, will arrive about a couple of hours later in Piazza Saint Nicholas. The next day will be dedicated to the procession at sea. After a brief pyrotechnic show and the blessing of the sea, the Saint will be boarded from the Molo of Saint Nicholas at 10 am. Here it will disembark again at around 8 pm, with the lighting of the lights. The day will end with fireworks show on the Molo di Sant'Antonio.
The 9th of May will be the exact day in which the anniversary of the translation takes place - this year 931 °. It will begin in the early morning with the diurnal fireworks, and will reach the end of the celebrations at 6 pm with the Solemn Eucharistic Concelebration at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas and the removal of the Holy Manna. That is, a liquid which has always accumulated around the relics. The water of particular purity which, for some liturgies, would spring from the bones of the Saint inside his tomb. The forum is opened only once a year, May 9th, in fact, in the presence of a large faithful crowd and the water withdrawn, poured into bottles of holy water, is then distributed during the rest of the year.
The pyrotechnic show and the musical show in Piazza Mercantile will end the official celebrations. The celebrations in Bari in honour of St. Nicholas represent one of the most extraordinary and important events in Italy and, believers or not, they must personally be experienced at least once in their lifetime.