The Cathedral in Nicosia, Sicily, built in the 14th Century, is dedicated to St. Nicholas of Bari, which is said to be how the town got it’s name. Yes, this is the same St. Nick associated with gift-giving, but he is also the patron saint of sailors and merchants, which would make sense if he was actually from Sicily. But he’s not. He was born and died in Myra (Turkey). So this is the same St. Nicholas of Myra of Lycia. (Hope that’s not too confusing.) About 800 years after his death, Italian thieves stole some of his remains and brought them to Bari. And eventually some of those bones made their way to Nicosia, where they are on display under his portrait. But I digress. Knowing this history, it’s not surprising that Nicolas is the patron saint of thieves. But why prostitutes and students also call him their own, I haven’t quite figured out.
Like everywhere I visited after Covid19 lockdown was lifted and restrictions eased, I didn’t see much of the town. I wasn’t comfortable mingling with people on the street. But I did see the cathedral. I love visiting churches. Particularly when they are not full. The art, the history, the stillness. Containers built specifically for communication with the Divine. The entire building is a portal to something beyond ourselves. An axis-mundi where the sacred and the profane intersect; the center of the world, the center of all creation. And during the pandemic, they were particularly quiet. Exceptionally safe. As they are meant to be. A refuge. A Sanctuary. So I parked my car, walked briskly through the streets, and arrived here, at Duomo di Nicosia.
My two favorite photos from inside. Doors. I always love doors.
First, I want to note that all churches are doing what they can to prevent the spread of Covid19. Hand sanitizer is always at the entrance. Signs are posted. Chairs are set at a distance, in most cases. In pews, small squares mark where you can sit safely at a distance from others. You can’t see it very clearly in this photo of pews (the tiny white square) so I’m including photo from the cathedral in Cefalu as an example that I see everywhere. (For context, these photos were taken on 16 June 2020.)
St. Nicholas, looking surprisingly modern. (Ok, it’s not a surprise. But keep in mind he lived during the 3rd Century Common Era – which is to say, 200 and some years after Jesus. In the early 6th century, he is listed as a participant in the Nicene Council, which took place in 325 CE, which would have made him quite old at the time.) Below his portrait are his bones. Holy relics.
In the square outside the cathedral, life was returning to *normal*. Men gather on the street to talk. I stopped at a cafe for coffee and to watch.
16 June 2020, one month after lockdown ended and restrictions began to loosen. I wonder what it looks like today.