The body of St. Nicholas remained at Mira about 750 years while his cult spread universally.
The translation took place in 1087 by a group of sailors and merchants from Bari who broke the tomb of the saint and stole his body to take him to the port of Apulia. This event caused great enthusiasm throughout Christianity. The fall of Antioch into the hands of the Muslims in 1084 seemed in fact the premise for the devastation of Lycia and the destruction of the church of the saint, already attempted by the Muslims 250 years earlier.
Even today on May 9, this event is commemorated in the Catholic Church and in the Orthodox Church. The May 9 celebration, together with that of the Saint’s death, on December 6, constitute two great moments of faith and popular piety involving thousands of Catholic and Orthodox pilgrims mainly from Russia. The spirit of the celebration of the transfer was marked from the beginning by a strong ecumenism.
In the Sermon on the Transfer, composed around 1093 in Kiev, we find written: Blessed really is the city of Bari and sanctified is its church (Blaženyj po istine grad Barskij i cerkvi ego os(vja)ščenna). The rite is also pervaded with an ecumenical spirit, underlining the many miracles that the Saint performs both in the East and in the West.
Continue reading, learn more “The Russian orthodox pilgrimage to the Basilica of Bari”.