The Italian Almanac

the orthodox church in Bari

Russian Church in Bari

A Russian orthodox church in the city of Bari will be formally handed over to Russia, completing a two-year process. The city council will consign the building to the Patriarchate of Moscow at a long-awaited ceremony, Bari town hall said. Among those attending the ceremony will be Russian Ambassador Aleksej Meshkov.

The church, dedicated to St Nicholas, was built in the early 20th century to welcome Russian pilgrims coming to the city to visit the 11th-century Basilica of St Nicholas, where the saint's relics lie. It was later acquired by Bari city council. The church, which has been housing municipal offices, is expected to return to its original function following the handover.

The return of the church has been the subject of talks since March 2007, when former Russian president and current premier, Vladimir Putin, made an official request for its return during an Italo-Russian summit in the city. Two years later, on March 1, 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Italian counterpart Giorgio Napolitano attended a ceremony to start returning the church. The ceremony was originally scheduled to coincide with the saint's feast day, December 6, marking the anniversary of his death in 333 AD.

Bari is the most popular destination in the world for Russian orthodox pilgrims, for whom St Nicholas holds great importance. A fourth-century bishop in what is now Turkey, St Nicholas was famous for his generosity and later developed in some regions of the world into the figure of Santa Claus. Sailors from Bari stole his remains from the ancient city of Myra in 1087.