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The Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Bari (Italy)

Among Italian Christian shrines for each of the Orthodox Russian people of particular importance is the city of Bari is a city that is over 900 years old serves as the final resting place of mnogochislennyh of the relics of the Great Saint of God St. Nicholas the Wonderworker.

“Castle manor” or “Bar city”, as it is called Bari Russian Chronicles, was known in Russia as such has almost from the XI century and to the later time belong the first mention of the pilgrimages performed by the Russian people to the relics of the Saint.

St Nicholas famous and glorious in all the Christian peoples, because, as he said in his life, “knows of this great Wonderworker of the East and the West.” And yet the veneration of the Saint in Russia, is special. It is no exaggeration to say that he is the most revered Saint in the Russian Orthodox people, and that there is no in Russia such a Orthodox family, the house, where there would be the icon of SVT.Nicholas. Here’s how this phenomenon gave Russian theologian, father Pavel Florensky: “the Russian conscience the type of Saint was always Nicholas-the Wonderworker. it is in him and not in anyone else people have seen the most typical implementation of the Church’s guardian of the country, the bishopric in some pre-emptive sense…, < …> the image of Nicholas the Wonderworker has long been established as not one of the many saints, but as a type of Saint, as a representative of human Holiness” (Priest Paul Florensky. Essays, vol. II, 1966. P. 405).

The mysterious ways of divine Providence St. Nicholas was linked with the destinies of Russia from the very beginning of Christianization. The first Russian Prince-the Christian Askold was baptized in the name of Saint Nicholas. Over the grave of Askold saints Princess Olga has constructed the first in Russia St. Nicholas Church. And after a while in another St. Nicholas Church in Korsun was baptized the Holy equal to the apostles Prince Vladimir. Since then in Russia was built a great many temples and Nikolsky monasteries became famous for the numerous miracles of the icon of the Saint.

So Russian pilgrim in Bari – the phenomenon is not exceptional and rare. And barici know about love simple Russian Orthodox Christian Saint Nicholas – I know, but wonder: why the Patron Saint of Bari – “St. Nicholas Lecce” – love and glorious in the distant Russia? Why during the celebration of Saint Nicholas twice a year in may and December, the city is literally occupied by hundreds and sometimes thousands of Russians? And probably in the nineteenth century anyone was wondering: why do these Russian pilgrims do not have their own Church in Bari?

Meanwhile, Russian pilgrim, who came to the relics of Saint Nicholas from Russia, until recently was surprised to discover in Bari, within the precincts of the new city, the architectural complex stands out among other buildings in town, the huge proportions and quite uncharacteristic of Italian architectural forms. The temple and the alms-house, built on the grounds of the medieval Pskov-Novgorod architecture, produced simultaneously magnificent and gloomy impression is permanently locked gates and doors, dilapidated empty building, neglected garden.

“The Russian Church” – that traditionally have referred to this complex by local residents. Few of barisev at least once visited this building, few people have seen the temple from the inside, and certainly very few who could more or less coherently to tell the story of “the Russian Church”. Why, by whom and when erected this monument in a provincial town of southern Italy? “The Russian Church” has many legends and scandals; it so happened that it was under the influence of all that is connected with this monument, for decades, has formed and changed the view of barisev about Russia and Russians. It is therefore imperative to restore the true history of the Russian presence in Bari, in order to get rid of prejudices, malicious fabrications and unwitting distortion of facts. Force us to do so also the events of recent years and that is the important fact that Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church has chosen Bari as a center of his constant spiritual presence in Italy, a bridge between the spiritual traditions of our peoples.

The history of the “Russian Church” in Bari as tragic as the history of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church in the XX century. The catastrophe of 1917, a difficult subsequent decades, and signs of revival towards the end of the century – here are the most common milestones in the history of the “Russian Church” in Bari, showing complete or almost complete accordance with what has happened and is happening in Russia today.

Russian people have always needed constant prayer at the relics of St. Nicholas, which is why in the beginning of XX century Church, the Russian Orthodox community and the Emperor himself attended to the erection in Bari temple and the hospice spiritual care for Russian pilgrims, for attention to their everyday needs. Collected throughout Russia people’s money (in a few years all charges in the Russian Orthodox churches in the days of SVT.Nicholas went to the building Fund), by the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society, by the best Russian architects using the latest achievements of engineering thought, the architectural complex was built to the 20s of the XX century and up to 1917 managed to take several hundred Russian pilgrims who traveled to Bari, even in the challenging conditions of the first world war. Russian Church of SVT.Nicholas of Bari were handed significant funds in the form of icons and Church utensils as from donors and from members of the ruling family. Belgradska the metochion of the Russian Orthodox Church with suitable for the reception of pilgrims, a beautiful temple, a beautiful large garden promised to eventually become a spiritual oasis for all Russian pilgrims before the relics of the Saint.

Then those hopes, by the sufferance of God, did not come true. The tragic events of the 1917 revolution, heavy roller across the destinies of millions of people and doomed the Russian Church and people of God in all hardships, sacrifices and martyrdom, spoke in a distant Belgrade. Russian people, for one reason or another found themselves in emigration, were the unwitting guardians of Russian Church property abroad in the Motherland. Belgradska Compound was abandoned, deprived of any livelihood, pilgrimage to the relics of St. John Chrysostom.Nicholas stopped.

The only mission of the Russian emigration in Bari would be the full preservation of the Farmstead for future revived Russia. However, unfortunately, the management of the Farmstead in the 20th arrogantly assumed people have lost faith in Russia, because of the desperate and lost hope for her deliverance in the future from the yoke of the godless authorities. One of them is Prince Nikolai Davidovich Zhevakhov, then representing the emigration of Palestinian Society , in 1937, willfully and arbitrarily sold to the city authorities all Russian Church property in Bari, built on public donations. Since then Belgradska Compound ceased to be the property of Russia and Russian Orthodox Church.

Since then, the temple has lost almost all the property – from dozens of icons of the old letters left few units disappeared gifts, vintage wares, beautiful library, etc.

In these conditions, after signing the agreement in November 1998 between the Russian Orthodox Church in the person of the Chairman of the Department for external Church relations of Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad Cyril and the mayor of Bari, Mr. S. Di caño, Abbraxa in Bari at the temple SVT.Nicholas opened the metochion of the Moscow Patriarchate, which has as its purpose the spiritual development of comprehensive relations with Italy and Bari in particular, and also engaged in the spiritual care of Russian pilgrims, many of which were attracted to the relics of the Great Saint of God. By 2000 it was largely recreated the decoration of the temple SVT.Nicholas, regular Church services were resumed and restored the foundations of normal parish life.

Every year in Bari to St. Nicholas attracts thousands of pilgrims from Russia. The Holy relics with 1087г. resting beneathe a crypt in the crypt of the Basilica of St. John Chrysostom.Nicholas of Bari, the keepers of which are the monks of the Dominican order of the Roman Catholic Church. Orthodox pilgrims from Russia have the opportunity to serve the Liturgy and prayer services directly to mnogochislennyh the relics of the Saint. Many Russian pilgrims, burdened with serious illnesses and life’s adversities, get wonderful aid right at the Tomb of the Saint in the prayers of the Great Saint of God.