Piazza San Nicola includes the area in front of the Basilica, which also overlooks the Museum, the Church of San Gregorio and the Portico dei Pellegrini. The Angevin arch, which is one of the three possible entrances from the historic center of Bari to the Nicolaian Citadel, and wasnamed in honor of Charles II of Anjou. The particular devotion of Charles of Anjou to Saint Nicholas is well known, a devotion that led him to make the Basilica his royal chapel.
Between the Church of San Gregorio and the Angevin Arch since 2003 you can admire an imposing bronze statue depicting St. Nicholas. The statue, with a double inscription in Russian and Italian, is a gift from Vladimir Putin to the Nicolaian Citadel on behalf of the Russian people.
Also a point of particular interest during the visit to the exterior of the Basilica is the so-called Lion’s Gate, which is located next to the Torre delle Milizie. On the gates are carved war scenes, rural and religious motifs. It is likely that the battle depicted, which occupies a significant portion of the upper part of the gate, is one of the battles of the First Crusade, in which Bohemond of Hauteville miraculously defeated the Muslim leader Kerbogha thanks to the appearance on the battlefield of an army of saints. The probable reference to this battle allows us to date the Portal approximately between the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
The building in front of the Basilica, on the opposite side of St. Nicholas’ Square, is called “Portico dei Pellegrini” (Pilgrims’ Porch), even if improper: in reality the hospice where pilgrims stayed to visit the Nicolaian Citadel was located in other places. The Portico was probably in the XI century the home of some Greek nobles, and until 1928 it became a complex of private houses.
Today the Portico, after the recent restorations, is used as a room for conferences and for the preparation of exhibitions.