Bari Sailors - 1087

St Nicholas
Parchement, dated ca 1175, is in the St Nicholas Muiseum at the Basilica di San Nicola, Bari, Itlay. It is by the administrator who kept accounts of the Basilica. The sailors' names are on the left; their heirs listed on the right. The ones with a red cross renounced their payments in favor of the church.
Photo: Centro Studi Nicolaiani

The Barian sailors who brought the relics from Myra to Bari in 1087—the Translation—have been named in several listings. There are sixty-three names in the contemporary (1087) account by Nicephorus and sixty-two names on the parchment written by the accounts administrator around 1175. However, they aren't all the same.

  • Albertus Nauclerius • N
  • Iohannacius de Caro
  • Elias nauclerii
  • CristaniIdelmannus de Poliniano
  • Sifandus f(ilius) Iohannis W
  • Benedictus Manicella
  • Nicolaus de Poliniano
  • Stephanus Tarantinus E
  • Faracus
  • Romano Sancte Pelagie
  • Mele de Caloiohanne E (?)
  • Meliacca Boccalata
  • Symeon Dentica
  • Iohannes de Poliniano
  • Bisantius Monopolitanus
  • Kirizzius de Urania
  • Barda de Gisilfo
  • Miro de Poliniano
  • Topatius N
  • Elephantus
  • Mele de presbitero Basilio
  • Disigius de Alberto • N
  • Summus
  • Urso de presbitero
  • Melis de presbitero Germano
  • Lupus presbiter •
  • Melis de Germano
  • Stephanus Bos W
  • Matheus •
  • Romoaldus Bulpannha •
  • Bonus Homo
  • Gittanhus
  • Summissimus W
  • Maraldizzius Monopolitanus
  • Iohannoccarus Nauclerius W
  • Sire Azzo Caballo •
  • Petracca Caperrone
  • Demetrius Bazzus
  • Leo de Guisanda
  • Iohannes de Poliniano
  • Iohannoccarus Mancus
  • Petracca Pelillus
  • Leo Pelillus W
  • Maio de Poliniano
  • Leo de Lado N
  • Petracca de Rossemanno E (?)
  • Lupus de Chiunata
  • Grimoaldus Presbiter •
  • Michahel de Zizula S (?)
  • Nicolaus de Alba (de Alberto ?) •
  • Petrus de Sikinolfo
  • Stasius Scannoria (Eustasius Tranensis ?) • (?)
  • Maio de Adelfo
  • Leo Sapatici N
  • Pandolfus de Poliniano
  • Stephanus de Cretazariis N
  • Bisantius Bucconus
  • Petronus Nasus
  • Dalfius Monopolitanus
  • Leo de Iacono Disigio
  • Meliciacca Corbario S
  • Bisantius Saragolla • N

    Nauclerius = ship captain; • = active participation in the expedition;
    N S E W = burial on North, South, East or West side of the Basilica

    These are listed by Nicephorus, but not on the parchment: Nycolaus, Spararus, Lupus, and 8 people from Trani (Mundus, Maraldus, Iohannes, Anastasius, Eustasius, Iohannes sclavus, Petrus sclavus and Andreas sclavus.

    The parchment includes these that aren't in Nicephorus list: Romano Sancte Pelagie, Bisantius Monopolitanus, Elephantus, Melis de presbitero Romano, Melis de Germano, Sire Azzo Caballo, Petracca de Rossemanno, Michahel de Zizula, Leo Sapatici, Petronus Nasus, Leo de iacono Disigio.

    In addition there were two pilgrims who boarded at Antioch. One was Greek and the other French, Alexander from Auvergne. Eight sailors from Trani were also part of the expedition and were paid in one payment.

    The total was most likely 73 (62 + 11). The sixty-two have been categorized as 4 naucleri (naval cptains), 13 nobles, 5 priests and clerics, 4 sons of clerics, 10 merchants, and 26 sailors.

    The expedition had three ships. The expedition captain and co-owner of one ship was Iohannoccarus and he's buried next to one of the oxen at the portal to the Basilica. The other two ship captains were Albertus and Summissimus.

    On their return the sailors received a number of concessions for giving up the relics. They received the right to be buried along the wall of the Basilica. Seventeen epigraphs remain, with their names inscribed in the stone above their burial site. There were probably more, as restoration interventions most likely erased some of the epigraphs, though there are traces still on some stones. Excavations have shown that there are simple graves all around the Basilica perimeter.

    The sailors and their heirs were each entitled to their due percentage from the Church income. The amount varied from one half, one third, or one fourth, of the share. This was to be paid at the Feast of the Translation, May 9th. The parchment shows an entire red cross for the sixteen who renounced the payment on behalf of the Church, or a partial cross showing the amounts for the others.

    The six concessions as described in Leo Pilillus' parchment:

    • A chair in the Basilica for the sailor and his wife;
    • A grave around the outside wall of the Basilica;
    • A percentage from the income of the church at the Feast of the Translation;
    • Help from the Basilica if the sailor fell into extreme poverty;
    • Possible entrance into clerical life without payment;
    • If accepted into clerical life, the St Nicholas clergy should give him a "benefice" (a guaranteed payment in exchange for fixed prayers).

    Sailors buried around the Basilica

    It isn't known how many sailors were buried around the Basilica. However, excavations have shown that all around the external perimeter of the Basilica there are simple graves. Many of the epitaphs memorializing the sailor's graves have been lost to wear and restoration.

    The front of the Basilica, the west end, still notes these five graves.

    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Leo Pilillus, sailor of the third ship, commanded by Johannoccarus, is buried at left of the left portal. His parchment tells us about the conditions set by the sailors to abbot Helias for entrusting to him the Saint’s relics. One of these conditions was the right to have a burial place near the walls of the Saint’s church.
    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Summissimus, captain of the second ship on which travelled the priest Grimoald, remained standing guard over the ship while 47 sailors reached the Church in Myra.
    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Siph(andus), John’s son, travelled on the third ship, commanded by Iohannoccarus.
    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Iohannoc-carus was the owner of half of the third ship (as it is written in his testament). On his ship travel-led the priest Lupus and the protagonist of the adventure, Mattew. He however remained guarding his ship while 47 of them went to Myra.
    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Stephen (Bos ?). Stephen (Bos ?) travelled on the third ship, guided by Iohannoccarus.

    Three are buried on the south side of the Basilica.

    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Meliciacca Curba. Of the two sailors named Meliciacca, both on the third ship, this one seems to be the one who remained on guard of the ships.
    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Michael (de Zizula). Not mentioned in the chronicles of the translation (included in Nicephorus), is present in the parchment with the list of the 62 sailors.
    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Pet(er de Sikenolfo) could be the person buried here (Sepulcrum Pet…), judging from the sobriety of the writing. But it could be Petracca too. If he were Peter he remained on guard of the ships. If Petracca, he travelled on the ship of Summissimus.

    The north side has at least eight grave markings.

    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Disigius is the sailor to whom, on the way back, St Nicholas appeared in a dream saying: "I am Nicholas and now I am with you. The proof of this is your entering the port of Bari the twentieth day from the moment you took my body."
    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Nicholas son of Mundus. On the second ship, guided by Summissimus, travelled Mundus of Trani. Here is buried his son, Nicholas.
    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Maraldo of Trani travelled on the ship guided by Summissimus. Together with the abovementioned Mundus he belonged to the consistent group of 8 sailors from Trani, mentioned in the "Historia Translationis" by Nichephorus (Beneventan redaction). According to Babudri there were no sailors from Trani and these names are interpolated. This epigraph proves his theory wrong.
    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Bisantius Saragullus, mentioned last in the parchment list, was one of the 5 sailors (together with Romuald, Sere, Nicholas of Monopoli and Eustatius of Trani) who got possession of pieces of St Nicholas’ bones. Only when they gave them back the navigation went on happily.
    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Stephen (Cretazari) is one of the 3 sailors with the name Stephen (with S Tarantinus and S Bos) buried around the church. One travelled on the ship of Albert. The other 2 on the ship of Iohannoccarus.
    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Topazius was one of the sailors on captain Albert’s ship. He is present both in the list of the parchment and in the History by Nicephorus.
    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Leo de Mele Sapatici was one of the sailors who travelled on the ship of Iohannoccarus. In the epigraph he is said to be son of Mele.
    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Albert Nauclerius was the captain of the first ship and of the entire expedition, as shows the first place both in the parchment list and in the History by Nicephorus. Beatillo (1620) read somewhere that he was from Trieste. Probably for this reason he did not consider him as head of the expedition, but the Barian Iohannoccarus. Albert’s son, Nicholas, was protagonist of the episode of the little bird that appeared during the navigation towards Bari flying around St Nicholas’ bones.

    There is just this one grave on the east side of the Basilica.

    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Stephen Tarantinus, while in the History by Nicephorus (like the other two Stephen) has no qualification, is called so at the 8th place in the list of the parchment. From the parchment we learn that he left many things to the nephews, but did not forget the clergy of the Basilica.

    Additional unidentified epitaphs.

    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Sailor's epitaph on basilica
    Basilica grave marker
    Grave inscription for the captain, Iohannoccarus, next to the ox adjacent to the Basilica portal
    Photo: Marco Ravasini, Behance


    • Cioffari, Gerardo, op., "The Sailors Who Brought the Relics of St Nicholas from Myra to Bari," St Nicholas News, Centro Studi Nicolaiani / Bari, April 30, 2011
    • Cioffari, Gerardo, op., "Where are buried the sailors who in 1087 brought St Nicholas to Bari?" St Nicholas News, Centro Studi Nicolaiani,  Bari, October 30, 2016, including the captions shown with each epitaph.
    • Photos: Centro Studi Nicolaiani, Bari, Italy; except Maraldo, Stephen (Cretazari), Topazius, and the three unidentified epitaphs by C. Myers.

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