Inside the Crypt (Underground church)
Inside the crypt, in the right hand corner behind the iron grating, stands the miraculous column (first mentioned in 1359) believed to have been erected by St. Nicholas himself when his relics were lain there by Pope Urban II on September 30th, 1089.
In the crypt, the beautiful Byzantine capitals embellished with foliage most likely came from the former Catepan Court. The Norman capitals, in particular the four central ones depicting vicious animals, are also very breathtaking. Beyond the iron-gated central apse, one can catch sight of the sombre, massive altar-like tomb of Saint Nicholas. The Saint’s relics are protected inside four, reinforced concrete blocks underneath. The small hole in the upper front panel of the sarcophagus is unsealed on the evening of May 9th in order to extract the holy manna. The astounding icon hanging behind the altar of the Saint was donated to the Basilica around 1327, probably by Uros III Decansky, Tsar of Serbia.
The apse in the left hand corner is the chapel which the Dominican Fathers have reserved for the Orthodox faithful ever since 1966. It is worthy to note that, aside from the Sunday liturgy, both Catholic and Russian Orthodox pilgrims, pray over the same tomb belonging to the same Saint. Before climbing back up to the upper church level, on the front wall, it is possible to admire “lunettes” (crescent-shaped paintings) which depict scenes from the life of the Saint.
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