The Saint Nicolas Tour starts in Bari at the Basilica di San Nicola, founded in 1087 by the Benedictine abbot Elijah. It was originally used as a place to contain relics of the Saint found by sailors from Bari in Asia Minor, now Turkey. The sanctuary is a reference point for it’s medieval architecture and influenced numerous other buildings in the area. The tour continues to the Russian Church of Bari, built by S. Wsievold Subbutin in Medieval Russian style and dedicated to Saint Nicholas. The group then moves on to the Provincial Art Gallery of Bari founded in 1928 and exhibiting Apulian art from the XI to the XIX centuries. Among the XIII century icons we find one depicting the life and miracles of Saint Nicholas. The Saint is again present in a XV century polyptych attributed to Bartolomeo Vivarini representing an aging bishop performing a miracle. Lastly we find a XVI century painting of Saint Nicholas calming stormy waters for sailors by the rococo artist Corrado Giaquinto.
Lunch based on fish in a typical restaurant on the seaside of Bari.
Transfer to Matera to the heart of the Sassi and visit to the breathtaking cave churches where medieval frescoes of Saint Nicholas can be admired. The first is San Nicola dei Greci, which together with that of Madonna delle Virtù, make up a fascinating X century cave complex where international exhibits of sculptures are organized each summer.
The next stop is the cave church of Santa Lucia alle Malve, IX century female Benedictine Sanctuary divided into three separate aisles that still bears remains of a XIV century fresco of Saint Nicholas as well as other frescoes, despite it was modified various times.
In the last cave church in the itinerary, San Giovanni in Monterrone, entirely carved out of the peak of a huge rocky outcrop, we find a XIV century Saint Nicholas depicted in the classic Oriental version: dark complexion and white beard.