Classes are over. It's time to take the bus and to come back home. I walk toward the train station of Bari, I pass through it to reach Largo Ciaia, my stop. The bus is already there, waiting to leave with destination Taranto. I sit in the vehicle, near the window, as always. We leave.
Slowly, the buildings that overlook on Viale Unità d'Italia parade and suddenly there it is: a little shiny green dome as a candle stands out among the buildings. It's the Russian Church of Saint Nicholas.
For years I've seen this scene and each time my desire to discover how the orthodox church was inside has grown more. I've had to wait for the end of my academic studies to have the opportunity to visit it and to understand something more about a culture that is so linked with Bari.
My visit has been guided by some Russian volunteers and I couldn't have asked for more. Not only have they made their best to give us all the information they could about the church and its history, but they have spread all their vocation. Perhaps for them this church represents a little piece of their motherland, as the soil on which it has been built was donated to Russian authorities in 2007. Well, for an hour I've been a guest of Russian people.
I've always thought that when you are going to visit something alien from your own culture or religion, you shouldn't abandon yourself to expectations, because you don't know what you'll find and you may not enjoy what is in front of you. This goes for this church too. We Italians are used to a certain kind of architectural style and a richness in details, but we must remember that it's about Catholic churches. The Russian church is Orthodox and so it follows different standards. One of the main elements, for example, is iconostasis, a wall consisting in icons with a door in the centre called holy door. Prince Sirinskij-Sichmatov collected himself the effegies for the iconostasises of the churches in Bari and in St Petersburg. Unfortunately they have never been brought in Bari because of the war. Beside this divider there is the presbytery, where just the bishop and the priest can enter.
Once inside the church, it's impossible not to notice an icon in the middle of the hall. They explain that usually they expose the icon of the saint of the day but during the period of the festivity for St Nicholas. In this occasions the icon of the saint to which the church is dedicated is exposed.
They make us notice the icon of the Madonna with the baby called "God's Mother". Its peculiarity is that it bleeds. According to the legend, some infidels hit it with a sword, gashing it, and from that wound some true blood came out. The story of this icon is much longer and articulated than this, studded with miracles made by the Madonna. I was not particularly impressed by its story, by people who even sacrificed themselves to save it from raids or its travels, but by how it was told. I've seldom felt a so deep veneration and faith in religion. Seeing the emotion of the guides while they explained the events linked with the Russian church was the real surprise of this visit.
Behind the church there is a garden with many plants, some walkways and benches. From here you can enter a second church that has been build in very little time with an iconostasis certainly smaller than the previous one but very well-finished anyway.
|Puglia and Russia together|
The visit is over. It hasn't been very long, but it's been very fascinating to pass a different morning . While we walk in the garden toward the exit, a sense of peace and tranquillity comes over me in opposition to the traffic and the chaos of the near street, together with that happiness for having realized what I’ve desired for long at last.