The Italian authorities made the decision to hand back the Russian Orthodox Metochion in Bari to Russia during a visit by Vladimir Putin to Italy in March 2007.
In April 2008, the Italian Government completed internal procedures required for the handover of the centre without compensation to Russia. An act on the metochion’s handover to Russia was signed on November 13 in Rome.
The metochion includes a building for receiving pilgrims, and the Church of St Nicholas. The initiative to build a metochion for Russian pilgrims coming to Bari to worship the relics of St Nicholas the Miracle Worker belonged to Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Fyodorovna. The metochion, which was designed by the architect, Alexei Shchusev, was built in 1913–1917 and its construction was funded by donations from Orthodox faithful, including Tsar Nicholas II.
World War One and the revolution interrupted the work and left it incomplete. In 1937, facing a lack of funds for the centre’s upkeep, Russian emigres, members of the Russian Palestinian Society, handed the buildings and land to the Bari municipal authorities.
At the end of the 1990s, the city authorities gave the Moscow Patriarchate use of part of the metochion – the upper chapel and a number of residential premises.
Before the ceremony handing over the keys to the metochion took place, Dmitry Medvedev and President of Italy Giorgio Napolitano held talks. They discussed in particular expanding cooperation in the energy sector, high-technology, and industry. The two leaders also discussed the question of building a new European security architecture and measures to overcome the impact of the world financial crisis.