Course  |  Italy’s Art Cities  |  Italy Online Training

Lesson 6:


Touring Matera is like experiencing a forgotten past - you feel like you are setting foot in a nativity scene when you visit this charming city in Lucania. It’s no coincidence it’s referred to as the second Bethlehem, and was the setting for Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion, In the 1950s when the inhabitants who lived in the grottos dug out of the mountain were forced to abandon those dwellings to settle in modern districts; no one would have ever thought that those grottos - the Sassi - would have become the symbol of a reborn city.

UNESCO added the Sassi of Matera to its list of World Heritage Sites in 1993. Today a visit of the Sassi is a true journey into the past of these people. However, Matera is not just the Sassi. In fact, the city encompasses several areas associated with different eras. The oldest one is in the Civita district, which can be considered a natural fortress due to its morphology. The area is also home to the Romanesque Duomo or Cathedral, built c. 1268-1270 on the acropolis. It houses many works of art including a Byzantine Madonna from the 13th century called Madonna della Bruna. The Medieval Renaissance section is located along il Piano or plain, on the outskirts of the Sassi. Matera has many churches from the 13th-19th centuries, with a large Baroque group, S. Giovanni, S. Domenico and the duomo being the oldest.

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