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Cathedral of Trani


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Trani is a seaport of Apulia, southern Italy, on the Adriatic Sea, in the province of Bari, and 40 km by railway west northwest of that town.


The city of Turenum appears for the first time in the Tabula Peutingeriana, a 13th century copy of an ancient Roman itinerary. The name, also spelled Tirenum, was that of the Greek hero Diomêdês. The city was later occupied by the Lombards and the Byzantines. First certain news of an urban settlement in Trani, however, trace back only to the 9th century.

The most flourishing age of Trani was the 11th century, when it became an episcopal see in place of Canosa, destroyed by the Saracens. Its port, well placed for the Crusades, then developed greatly, becoming the most important on the Adriatic Sea. In the year 1000 Trani issued the Ordinamenta Maris, which are considered today the most ancient maritime codex of Middle Ages. In that period many great families from the main Italian Maritime Republics (Amalfi, Pisa and Venice) established themselves in Trani. Trani, in turn, maintained a consul in Venice from 12th century. The presence of other consulates in many northern Europe centres, even in England and Netherlands, shows Trani's trading and political importance in the Middle Ages.


Facade of the Cathedral of Trani.Emperor Frederick II built a massive castle in Trani. Under his rule, in the early 13th century, the city reached its highest point of richness and prosperity.

By the 12th century, Trani already housed the largest Jewish community of Southern Italy, and was the birth place of one of the greatest medieval rabbis of Italy: Rabbi Isaiah ben Mali di Trani (c. 1180-1250), a prolific and prominent commentator and halakhic authority. The great talmudist Rabbi Moses ben Joseph di Trani (1505-1585) was born at Thessaloniki, three years after his family had fled there from Trani due to antisemitic persecution.

Trani entered a crisis under the Anjou and Aragonese rule (14th-16th centuries), as its Jewish component was persecuted. Under the House of Bourbon, however, Trani recovered a certain splendour, thanks to the generally improved condition of Southern Italy economy and the construction of several magnificent buildings. Trani was province capital until the Napoleonic age, when Joachim Murat deprived it of this status in favour of Bari. In 1799, moreover, the French troops provoked a massacre of Trani's population, as it had adhered to the Neapolitan Republic.


Trani has lost its old city walls and bastions, but the 13th-century fort has been extensively restored as a museum and performance venue and is open to the public. Some of the streets in and around the Ghetto area remain much as they were in the medieval period, and many of the houses display more or less of Norman decoration.

The main monument of Trani is the Cathedral, which is also called Cathedral of St. Nicholas the Pilgrim, a Greek assassinated at Trani in 1094 and canonized by Urban II. It lies on a raised open site near the sea, and was consecrated, before its completion, in 1143. It is a basilica with three apses, built in the characteristic white local limestone. It has also a large crypt and a lofty tower, the latter erected in 1230-1239 by the architect whose name appears on the ambo in the cathedral of Bitonto, Nicolaus Sacerdos. It has an arch under it, being supported partly on the side wall of the church, and partly on a massive pillar. The arches of the Romanesque portal are beautifully ornamented, in a manner suggestive of Arab influence; the bronze doors, executed by Barisanus of Trani in 1175, rank among the best of their period in Southern Italy. The capitals of the pillars in the crypt are fine examples of the Romanesque. The interior of the cathedral has been widely modernized, but the crypt remains similar to the origins.

Near the harbor is the Gothic Palace of the Doges of Venice, which is now used as a seminary. The Church of Ognissanti which at one stage was the chapel of a Knights Templar hospital has a Romanesque relief of the Annunciation over the door. San Giacomo and San Francesco also have Romanesque facades; the latter, together with Sant'Andrea, have Byzantine domes.

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Additional Photos by Costantino Topas (COSTANTINO) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 11264 W: 23 N: 18490] (115407)
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