Trani Cathedral - History and Facts | History Hit

Trani Cathedral

Trani, Apulia, Italy

Trani Cathedral is a medieval church in Apulia, Italy.

Antara Bate

09 Apr 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Trani Cathedral

Trani Cathedral is a 12th century church in the port of Trani, Apulia in Italy. Built from 1159 to 1186, this medieval structure is dedicated to a little known saint, St. Nicholas the Pilgrim, whose crypt is open to the public.

This Romanesque cathedral is the main historic site in Trani and contains numerous sculptures and a 59 metre bell tower.

Trani Cathedral history

This 12th century cathedral is in the Apulian Romanesque style and features, with its 3 underground crypts and a pointed arch under the bell tower.

Legend has it that Saint Nicholas the Pilgrim, who originally came from the Greek monastery of San Luca in Focide, landed in Trani after travelling through Greece and Dalmatia. He was beloved and proclaimed a Saint by the archbishop of Byzantium, in recognition of a number of miracles that occurred after his death. After his canonization, it was decided, in 1099, to construct a church in his honour over the ruins of the Church of Santa Maria della Scala. His remains were placed in the crypt upon the cathedral’s completion in 1194. The distinctive bell tower, which is unusual in that it has an arched gateway as its foundation, was added later.

The bell tower was mostly built in 1230-1239, although the floors above the second one were completed only in the 14th century under bishop Giacomo Tura Scottini. As is typical in Romanesque structures, the openings become wider in the upper floors.

The lower church was the original chapel and became the crypt. It features graceful arches and its columns are decorated with Romanesque capitals. The upper basilica is a lofty stone space. The exterior is comprised of a  honey coloured stone with the Pugliese style of Romanesque, decorated with delicately carved portals and a rose window. The bronze doors were sculpted by a local artist, Barisano da Trani, in 1175. The exterior ones seen today are replicas, with the originals inside to protect them.

Trani Cathedral today

There is a booking system to facilitate group visits to the Basilica of 7 or more. Clothing that covers the shoulders and legs is required. Photographs and videos are not allowed. It is possible to visit the bell tower for a small donation fee and this vantage point offers beautiful views.

Getting to Trani Cathedral

The church sits apart from the other buildings, making it a distinctive structure and a focal point. The site is accessible by public transport and the Trani Light Rail station is around a 20 minute walk away.