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Church of the Arch-confraternity of the Holy Trinity and the Holy Phisicyans Saints Cosmas and Damian

Ancient Church of the Trinity

Federico II di Svevia square, 30 - 6010 - 70122
Tuesday 9.30 18.00 holidays 10.00-11.15
+390805218209
Free -
Owner Benedictine order
Beginning of construction First half of the 11th century
Current use Church
The ancient church of the Holy Trinity, presently the Church of the Holy Trinity Confraternity and the Holy Physicians Saints Cosmas and Damian, was incorporated within the walls of a late 18th-century Baroque-style building. The church was probably erected around the first half of the 11th century at the old city gates, near the area where the Norman castle now stands. The history of this building has been lost in the pages of the Apulian archives, and, the little that has been extrapolated, is fragmented and discontinuous, just like the known vicissitudes of this church. Its origins are certainly attributable to the expansion of the Benedictine Order in Apulia between the 10th and 11th centuries; to contrast the Italian-Greek monasticism, numerous monasteries were constructed throughout the territory. Indeed, the city of Bari alone had three built (St. Benedict, St. Scholastica, and St. Felix).
However, the influence of the Benedictine Order in Apulia did not suffice to save the building from demolition; little of the main structure remains today. As for the original 18th-century façade, only early 20th-century photographs are evidence. Today, the church is encompassed in the 1939 building, the year private individuals donated it to the Confraternity of the Saints Cosmas and Damian. The Confraternity statute attests that the church acted as a place of both worship and mutual assistance among its members, mainly peasants. The only surviving trace of the old church is the high-relief lunette located above the central entrance gate. It depicts the Holy Trinity, as well as an image of the person who commissioned the artwork, portrayed at the bottom between the Holy Saints Scholastica and Gertrude.
Beginning of construction First half of the 11th century
End of construction 11th century
Consecration 11th century
Owner Benedictine order
The ancient monastery of the Holy Trinity is an example of the Benedictine monasteries built in the land of Bari and the Apulian region between the 10th and 11th centuries. Lombardi dates its construction back to 780 BC. However, the first reference to the church, found in a parchment document in the Abbey of Cava dei Tirreni archive, mentions a monastery abbot named Marco. This information brings the date of the monastery up to 1047. Furthermore, other references found in 1048 and 1060 documents would confirm the construction date of around the 1st century. Shortly thereafter, ample documentation relative to the building appears, but then all traces are lost in subsequent years. Indeed, evidence of the former monastery ceases to exist in 1053 when Pope Leo IX conceded ownership of the Church of St. Nicholas " of Torre Musarra outside the walls” to the abbot Marco. This church probably belonged to the same Holy Trinity Monastery. From this point onwards, information regarding the monastery becomes ever scarcer.
In 1156, the building became a nunnery and passed under the patronage of St. Scholastica. This is mentioned in a 1358 list of properties belonging to the abbey, as well as in a 1555 deed which stipulated that a brotherhood (Confraternity of The Holy Trinity) had been founded within the church at the behest of the Benedictine nuns. The deed also stated that in the event of dissolution, the church would return under the patronage of St. Scholastica. The Confraternity of the Holy Trinity, which had also acquired the title of the Holy Physicians Saints Cosmas and Damian (1871), was hosted in the nearby church of St. James between 1921 and 1937. On June 25th, 1924, the status of the brotherhood was elevated to Arch-Confraternity, as recorded in an epigraph placed under the portico. However, by 1937, the local congregation was no longer allowed to utilize the annex of the Church of St. James, and was forced to return to their church in Via S. Giacomo. It is said that the brotherhood practiced the “odd” annual tradition of gifting a candle and a white hen to the St. Scholastica Abbey to honour the feast of St. Matthias. The church underwent a major refurbishment in the 13th century, but then all traces were lost following a demolition, and reappeared only in 1964 with its current structure. All that remains of the ancient church is the 16th-17th-century bas-relief above the main door.

The front portico of the church can be accessed via three arches; two lower lateral arches, and a higher central round arch.

A wooden crucifix and the medieval remains of a column with capital from the ancient church are located inside the portico. The bronze church door is a modern artwork by the sculptor Mario Colonna. The external part of the door that greets the worshippers displays six panels, while the internal part consists of two smooth-surfaced central panels.

The church consists of a single hall with two lateral niches in which votive altars have been inserted. The apse houses a bronze high altar by the sculptor Mario Colonna. Behind it stands a brightly coloured mosaic depicting the Holy Trinity with symbols of the four evangelists on either side of Christ, and, below that, the Saints Cosmas and Damian. Three upper windows allow the light into the church, and each window pane displays a phrase: "The Son is the Wisdom of Love", "The Father is Love", "The Holy Spirit is the Power of Love." The lateral niches are marble-framed and highlighted with geometric mirrors. Both niches contain a marble shelf that supports a statue; a white marble statue of the Virgin Mary with Child on the left-hand one; a statue of the Holy Physicians, on the right-hand one.

A wainscoting runs along the church walls, and is surmounted by white plaster walls that interrupt above the niches to house paintings by Umberto Colonna (1977) depicting the history of salvation. On the left, there are: the "Creation of Adam," The Promise of Salvation to the Prophets from Moses to John the Baptist ", and "The Annunciation "; while, on the right, there are "The Sermon on the Mount ", "Testimonies of the early Church through word, miracle, fraternity and martyrdom", and "The Mission of the Church in the world through sacrifice, announcement, and community members". The counter-façade houses the choir with a pipe organ, and a wooden crucifix.

The marble flooring displays a 1986 mosaic at the front entrance bearing the symbol of the Arch-Confraternity. The roof is made of wood and supported by eight trusses. Nothing currently remains of the ancient church façade. What remains of the small ancient church of the Trinity are the traces of the façade bounded by pilasters with Ionic capitals, and three rectangular windows with a portal surmounted by a mixtilinear tympanum.

According to tradition, Cosmas (from the Greek "ornate") and Damian (from Demàsein, to tame) were twins of five brothers. Little is known about the other three brothers, Antimo, Leander, and Euprepio, even though they are cited in an Arab passage and in the Golden Legend.
Cosmas and Damian, on the other hand, were known in Rome as early as the 6th century. They were called the “moneyless physicians” as they did not charge fees for their services. Their family, of probable Arab descent, immigrated to Cilicia (today, the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey). In Aegean, the twin brothers began practicing as medical physicians for the humble, as well as converters to the Christian faith. Upon their death, their relics were transferred to Rome (the date is unknown). Iconographies depict the saints wearing a red gown and a turban; the first, symbolises their medical profession, the latter, their Eastern origins. Inscriptions attribute them with having performed the first transplant in history: they had transplanted the necrotic lower limb of a church custodian with the healthy limb of a black donor.


How do I reach downtown?
airport Airport  

From the international airport Karol Wojtyla in Bari,
Take Viale Enzo Ferrari in the direction of Strada Provinciale 204 / Viale Gabriele d'Annunzio / SP204.
Take Viale Europa and Via Napoli in the direction of Via S. Francesco D'Assisi in Bari.
Take the SS 16.
Exit the SS 16 via Exit 4 towards “Bari Centro-Porto”.
Continue down Via Napoli and then Via San Francesco d'Assisi.
Drive in the direction of Piazza Federico II di Svevia.

motorway Toll road  

Take E843, Viale Giuseppe Tatarella and the underpass Sottopassaggio Giuseppe Filippo in the direction of Via Napoli in Bari.
Continue along Via Napoli and drive in the direction of Piazza Federico II di Svevia.

other Public Transport  

AMTAB bus lines #3, #12, #12/, #21, and #35 stop near the castle.

park Parking lots  

Piazza Massari-Piazza Federico II di Svevia-Piazza Prefettura