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An archdiocese situated in the province of the same name, in Apulia, Southern Italy. The city of Bari is the principal city in the province, with a population of about 65,000, and is located on a peninsula which extends into the Adriatic. Anciently called Barium, it fell into the power of the Romans after the war with Pyrrhus, retaining, however, its autonomy. Being a seaport facing the Orient, Bari must have received Christianity at a very early date. According to a local tradition, St. Peter himself preached the Gospel there and consecrated the first bishop. History, however, is silent as to the beginning of Christianity in this city.
The first known Bishop of Bari was Gervasius, who, in 347, assisted at the Council of Sardica. In 530 Bishop Peter held the title of Metropolitan under Epiphanius, Patriarch of Constantinople. In 780 Bishop Leontius was present at the Seventh Oecumenical Council, the Second of Nicaea. In the ninth century the Saracens laid waste Apulia, destroyed the city of Canosa (Canusium) and captured Bari. In 841, however, the Byzantine army reconquered Bari, and in 844 St. Angelarius, Bishop of Canosa, then in ruins, brought to Bari the relics of Sts. Rufinus, Memorus, and Sabinus, which he had rescued from the ruins. Pope Sergius II conferred on him the title of Bishop of the two dioceses of Bari and Canosa, a title which the Archbishops of Bari retain to the present time. In 933 Pope John XI granted the Bishops of Bari the use of the pallium. It seems that the Bishops were dependent on the Patriarch of Constantinople until the tenth century. Giovanni II (952) was able to withdraw from this influence, refusing to accept the prescriptions of the patriarch concerning liturgical points. All connection was finally severed in the eleventh century, and Bari became a direct dependency of Rome. Archbishop Bisanzio (1025) obtained form the pope the privilege of consecrating his suffragans; he also began the construction of the new cathedral, which was continued by his successors, Nicolo (1035), Andrea (1062), and Elia (1089), the last-named a member of the Benedictine Order .
In 1097 some Bari sailors, on their return from the East, brought with them the relics of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Mira, for which Roger, Duke of Apulia, built a splendid church; this became the object of great veneration and of innumerable pilgrimages. About this time Urban II, being in Apulia, went to Bari to venerate the relics of the holy wonder-worker and to consecrate the basilica. Here also he held a council, attended by 183 bishops, to consider the reunion of the Greeks with the Church of Rome. St. Anselm of Canterbury distinguished himself at this council by his learned defence of the procession of the Holy Ghost and the use of unleavened bread for the Holy Eucharist. Another council had been held at Bari in 1064, presided over by Arnoldo, Vicar of Alexander II. Of the later provincial councils that of 1607 is worthy of mention. In the reorganization of the dioceses of the Kingdom of Naples, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Diocese of Bitetto was suppressed and made a part of the Diocese of Bari. The suffragan sees under Bari are: Conversano, Rufo, and Bitonto.
The most celebrated religious edifice of Bari is the church of San Nicolo, one of the most beautiful examples of Norman architecture. It consists of an upper and a lower church, both richly adorned with precious marbles. The cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption, is likewise remarkable for the two high bell towers with which it is flanked.
The most celebrated Archbishops of Bari, in addition to those already mentioned, are: Romualdo Grisoni (1280), distinguished for his restorations of churches; Bartolomeo Prignano (1377), later Pope Urban VI , who, however, never saw this see; Ascanio Gesualdo (1613), who gave a wonderful example of charity in the earthquake of 1632; Diego Sersale (1638), who at his own expense rebuilt the cathedral, the episcopal palace, and the seminary ; the Dominican Tommaso Maria, of the Dukes of Bagnara (1684), who died in the odour of sanctity.
The Diocese of Bari contains a population of 300,400. It contains 7 rural deaneries, 33 parishes, 260 churches, chapels, and oratories, 250 secular priests, 110 seminarists, 30 regular clergy, 34 lay brothers , 200 members of female congregations, 45 schools for boys, 35 for girls.
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