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Saint Nicolas de Bari Church

Bilbao, Bizkaia

Audioguide of the Saint Nicolas de Bari Church

What to see in the Saint Nicolas de Bari Church

The English merchant Edward Merial walked faster and faster on that frosty night of 1654. Beside the walls of San Nicolas church, he heard the sound of a sword being drawn, quickly, he reached for his own. Seconds later, the British womaniser, lay on the path, wounded by a deadly stroke. The shadows had swallowed the murderer, and the motives were forever a mystery between speculations about political intrigues and broken heart lovers.

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The English merchant Edward Merial walked faster and faster on that frosty night of 1654. Beside the walls of San Nicolas church, he heard the sound of a sword being drawn, quickly, he reached for his own. Seconds later, the British womaniser, lay on the path, wounded by a deadly stroke. The shadows had swallowed the murderer, and the motives were forever a mystery between speculations about political intrigues and broken heart lovers.

Ironically, the medieval fishermen had built that church in honour of their patron, San Nicolas of Bari, and the purpose of this place was to save lives, not to commit murders. The Saint would watch over those men when they went to sea to work and risked their lives fighting against the waves, winds and storms.

The land where today lies El Arenal park was only a modest seaside neighbourhood back in the fifteenth century when the small church was built. Then, after hundreds of floods and inclement conditions it was reduced to dust, and in 1756 a new temple was erected, to which history also kept some fun surprises.

San Nicolas church closed its doors during the Independence War, and right after it, in 1816,  the heavens opened, and it was struck by lightning. It would still have to endure more avatars of that kind, but luckily it is still with us today with its Greek cross shape and its Churrigueresque Baroque period towers.

Although it is a Baroque building from the eighteenth century, it will surprise you for its simplicity, and it makes one think that it looks more like the Roman church of Gesú and the beginnings of that style. Its dome is also different from the other temples of the city. Also, masters such as Juan de Mena worked on the sumptuous interior and they have kept Rococo altarpieces that are well worth looking at.

If you didn’t think it was enough with the religious dimension, the artistic values and the catastrophic history of the temple, we could still add its political side. In 1813, with the city of Bilbao in the hands of the Spanish, Portuguese and British troops fighting against Napoleon, it was necessary to choose a place to proclaim the Constitution of Cádiz solemnly. Can you guess where it was?


Saint Nicolas de Bari Church

Plaza de San Nicolás, s/n
48006 Bilbao
(+34) 944 16 34 24

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