I was wandering the labyrinthine streets of Bari Vecchia when the narrow street I was following suddenly opened up into a much larger one. Emerging from the Str. Palazzo di Città, I found myself in a wide and empty piazza, looking skyward at the upward thrust of a pointed facade. I was immediately drawn to the two stone oxen on either side of the elaborately craved main portal. On their backs, they seemed to support a band of intricately carved figures and religious symbols woven together in an arabesque style that arched along the wooden doorway. (I learned later that the pair of oxen had been repurposed from an earlier Byzantine structure.) Inside, the central nave is covered by a wooden ceiling which frames the beautiful ornate work of Italian painter Carlo Rosa. At the end of the central nave stands the high altar and the apse houses a marble bishop’s throne known as Elias’s Cathedral. On either side of the Basilica, there are wide staircases that lead down into the crypt which contains the relics of Saint Nicholas of Myra, the patron saint of Bari. It also contains an Orthodox chapel and the most beautiful mosaic floors I have ever seen.
Always with love,