St. Nicholas (255-333/334) was bishop of Myra in Asia Minor (now Turkey). Holy universal, revered in the East and West, he is a sign of unity in the Church, a symbol of peace and reconciliation among people.
On April 20, 1087 sixty-two sailors from Bari robbed the bones of the Saint to translate them from Myra to Bari on May the 8th. To keep these holy bones a Basilica was built in Romanesque style and since that first years, it arose the custom of celebrating the feast of the arrival of the relics in Bari.
Apart from the liturgical feast of December the 6th, it was added the one of Translation on May the 8th. A russian author wrote of the Legend of Kiev: “That day, the Pope of Rome, Germano (= Urban II), the bishops and all citizens instituted a great festival in honor of the Saint, that takes place every year till today. They ate, drank, and they celebrated during that days and made many gifts to the poor.”
Bari became then a place of pilgrimage in its threefold dimension: Ecumenical, European, Mediterranean.The town identifies its fate with that of St. Nicholas “which illuminated the hearts of the faithfuls of the East and of the West” The first detailed informations about the celebration of the Translation are provided by Beatillo Antonio historian of Bari in the early ‘600, who uses old maps of the Basilica today missing. In late 700 and early 800, the procession crossed the walls of the Basilica, till reaching the dock and giving rise to the traditional procession to the sea on 8th of May.
The thousands of “pilgrims” who come to Bari, some on foot, in the days of the festival, and the massive participation to the various events organized by the Feasts Committee in conjunction with the Basilica of San Nicola and the City of Bari makes this festival one of the most important religious, socio-economic and cultural events of Southern Italy