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Bari - Castello Normanno-Svevo | by Martin M. Miles - is on the road again
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Bari - Castello Normanno-Svevo

Bari was an early settlement and passed under Roman rule in the 3rd century BC. It developed strategic significance as the point of junction between the coast road and the Via Traiana and as a port for eastward trade. The first bishop of Bari was Gervasius who is known from the Council of Sardica in 347.


After the decline of the Roman Empire, the town was devasted and taken by Alaric´s Visigothic troops, then was under Lombardian rule, before the Byzantines took over. In 755 it was conquered by Pepin the Short (Charlemagne´s father) and from 847 on it was an Islamic Emirate. The Byzantine fleet returned in 871 and since 885 Bari ws the residence of the local Byzantine governor.


Following a three-year siege, Bari was captured by Robert Guiscard in 1071. After the relics of Saint Nicholas, which were surreptitiously brought from Myra in Lycia (Byzantine territory), arrived in Bari, the Basilica di San Nicola was founded in 1087. This attracted pilgrims, whose encouragement and care became central to the economy of Bari. Pope Urban II consecrated the Basilica in 1089. In 1096 a crusader army embarked in the port of Bari for the First Crusade.


After the murder of archbishop Griso in 1117 a civil war broke our and the control was seized by Grimoald Alferanites, a native Lombard, in opposition to the Normans. He later did homage to Roger II of Sicily, but rebelled and was defeated in 1132.


The Castello Normanno-Svevo (aka "Castello di Bari") was probably built around 1132 by Norman King Roger II. When in 1155 the Baresi rebelled against the Normans, the castle got destroyed, so as a retaliatory action, William I of Sicily (aka William the Wicked") had the city destroyed except for the cathedral and the Basilica of St. Nicola.


Bari recovered and had its heydays under Emperor Frederick II., who rebuilt and reinforced the castle. According to the tradition, in 1221 Emperor Frederick II met St. Francis of Assisi in this castle.


During the Angevin domination, it went through several transformations, and after being acquired by Duke Ferdinand of Aragon, was donated to the Sforza family and passed to Bona Sforza, Queen of Poland. After Bona's death, it was returned under the King of Naples and transformed into a prison and barracks.

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Taken in October 2019