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Sant’Antonio Abate Fortino

Lungomare Imperatore Augusto - 0 - 70122
in relation to ongoing initiatives
Owner Robert Guiscard
Beginning of construction 1071
Current use Place of public interest initiatives
The Sant’Antonio Abate Fortino is situated on the Imperatore Augusto seafront, opposite the old port (renamed Sant’Antonio Pier). Together with Santa Scolastica, it is one of the four ramparts which marked the Bari city walls until the 19th century.
It is the highest point of the old town, from where it is possible to take in the outline of the medieval wall (skirting the Imperatore Augusto seafront) on the left and the expanse of early 20th century seafront on the right.
Its origins date back to the siege of Bari in 1071, when the Norman Robert Guiscard built a stone tower (turris petrinea) to guard the port. Buildings such as these generally used foundations on rock and had direct contact with the sea. They were also the most vulnerable points in the entire city defence system, and as such were often dedicated to miracle workers or saints. The Bari fortino was dedicated to Saint Antonio Abate after the discovery of the remains of a chapel which had contained a wooden statue devoted to him; he was a popular saint due to his miraculous powers against contagious diseases and protection of pets. Within the walls, the remains of an ancient church from the 11th or 12th century have been found, probably the church of San Nicola by-the-port.
The fort required a number of improvements to strengthen it. During the 15th century, it was completely rebuilt at the behest of Isabella of Aragon and the Bari Universitas. In the 16th century, it was given its fortified appearance which, after a long period of neglect, was recently restored by the local council and Culture Authority.
Nowadays, entry can be gained to the first floor rooms from Via Venezia and the ground floor rooms from the Imperatore Augusto seafront. These are used by the council for exhibitions, conferences and public meetings.
Beginning of construction 1071
Owner Robert Guiscard
During the siege of Bari in 1071, Robert Guiscard had a stone guard tower built to protect the ancient port. However, the tower already started to show signs of structural failure around 1359. Its potential collapse threatened the church underneath, which was probably dedicated to San Nicola by-the-port and is referred to in a number of historical documents from 1178 and 1226. It is from this church, as well as that of the Saint Antonio Abate chapel, that remains incorporated within the fort walls were discovered during numerous restoration programmes.
In 1440, after a series of reinforcements, Caldora, a local feudal lord, built a tower in the same spot which had “the guise of a small castle”. As with all “forceful” signs of power, the locals did not welcome this development and around thirty years later, they razed it to the ground.
During her campaign of restoration and beautification of the old town between 1501 and 1524, Isabella of Aragon oversaw the rebuilding of the tower and the renovation of its original appearance. It was inserted into the quay, which had already been embellished by a Roman column acquired from the church of San Gregorio de Falconibus. Today, this column is situated with other examples at the foot of the first section of wall by Piazza Ferrarese.
Additional restoration activity was carried out by the Bari Universitas from 1548, resulting in its fortified appearance similar to today’s (a work spanning 1560 to 1578).
Following further work during the reign of Charles III of Bourbon, the tower was taken over by the mayor of Bari but later fell into disuse.
It was not until the period 1994-2000 that the local council (owners of the building) and the Cultural Authority implemented a campaign of restoration under the direction of the architect Cusatelli in order to give the edifice back its dignity and value and to return it to the local population for different functions.
Over the years, this building overlooking the sea has served a dual function: that of a lookout post against the arrival of possible enemies but also that of a church dedicated to miracle-bestowing saints.
The name derives from a small chapel dedicated to Sant’Antonio Abate, open every year on the 17th January to mark the saint’s day. During this occasion, it is possible to admire the wooden statue of the saint as well as the inscription S. DE FRATR. M. etched into the floor.
It also customary for locals to take advantage of the miraculous powers of the saint, bringing not only their animals to be blessed but also patients suffering from Herpes Zoster (erysipelas), an ailment commonly known as St. Anthony’s Fire.
Until some years ago, during Ascension Day, the tradition was to fire three rounds from the cannon to salute the city of Venice and its fleet, which had freed Bari from the Saracens in 1002. This enjoyable ceremony was known as the “vidua vidua”, possibly as a result of the crowd shouting in dialect the phrase “la vi, la vi” (“can you see it, can you see it”), in reference to the projectiles thought to be emerging from the cannon at the moment of its detonation. (V.A. Melchiorre)

How do I reach downtown?
airport Airport  

From Viale Enzo Ferrari, continue in the direction of Strada Provinciale 204 / Viale Gabriele d'Annunzio / SP204.
Take Viale Europa, SS16, Via Napoli and Corso Vittorio Veneto in the direction of Piazza Mercantile in Bari.
Continue along Lungomare Augusto Imperatore. Piazza Ferrarese is on the right.
Walk towards Piazza Mercantile

motorway Toll road  

From the toll booth at Bari Sud of the Autostrada A14,
Take E843, Viale Giuseppe Tatarella, the underpass Sottopassaggio Giuseppe Filippo, Via Brigata Regina
Continue along Lungomare Augusto Imperatore in the direction of Piazza Mercantile in Bari.
Piazza Ferrarese is on the right.
Walk towards Piazza Mercantile

other Public Transport  

AMTAB bus lines #2, #4, #10, #12, #12/, #21, and #35 stop near Piazza Ferrarese (continue on foot to Piazza Mercantile)

park Parking lots  

Lungomare Imperatore Augusto-Corso Vittorio Emanuele