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Though it had been around for several centuries beforehand, Bari (then known as Barium) did not become an important city until the third century BC, when it became part of the Roman Empire, thanks to its location on a road from Rome to Tarentum. Bari rose to regional prominence as the principle harbor and fishing port in the province.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Bari changed hands several times, putting it alternately under the control of the Lombards and Saracen. Bari was granted provincial status by the Holy See in Rome in 1025, and thereafter became a center of Catholicism. The Basilica di San Nicola was founded in 1087 to hold the remains of Saint Nicolas; this ecclesial landmark proved a boon to the city’s economy as pilgrims flocked to visit the site. Then, in 1098, the Council of Bari was convened here to resolve contentions between the two Christian Churches (Greek and Latin). Though the irreconcilable differences eventually resulted in the Great Schism, Bari’s prominence as an important city of Catholicism rose.
During the Middle Ages, several other religious edifices were constructed, including the Cattedrale di Bari, which was surrounded by some of the city’s most impressive plazas and served as a central meeting point.
The Renaissance brought political unrest to Bari, and it was not until 1860 that the city was united with the Kingdom of Italy. After this time, industrialization and urbanization began to occur in earnest, resulting in the modern metropolis of Bari today.