Hidden Treasures

There is an underground Puglia that is not only that of the Castellana caves, the best known and most spectacular example, and which is made up of symbols and places that are equally rich in suggestion.

In Puglia there are also aqueducts and cisterns, ancient foundations of walls and towers, ossuaries and rock churches. Evocative and rich is, for example, the heritage of the “underground Gravina”. It includes the aqueduct built around 1750 and the network of tunnels that starts from the cathedral and is twice the historical center.

In the Ionian area, we find instead a real “Via degli ipogei” with the three examples, different from the typological point of view, of the Village of Triglie in the municipality of Statte, the “vicinities” and the tunnels in the historic center of Massafra and of Laterza’s artificial cavities.

For Puglia there is an added value that gives karst a historical connotation: it is the relationship with man, which from prehistory to the late Middle Ages and even beyond – a phenomenon similar to that of the Sassi of Matera and the frowned Sicilians of Ispica and of the Val di Noto – he used the cave as his home, up to shaping it as a privileged place for his relationship with the sacred.

Carsism in Apulia
Sanctuaries of Apulia
Caves of Putignano

Less known to most of the Caves of Castellana, the Caves of Putignano represent a phenomenon of karstic nature in the territory of the town of Puglia worthy of attention.
Of notable historical and speleological interest is the “Grotta del trullo” (500 m from the inhabited area): it is a beautiful example of karst (chemical and mechanical action of rainwater on water-soluble rocks) with the presence of numerous stalactites and stalagmites. Discovered by chance in 1931 during some excavation work, it was the first Apulian cave to be equipped for visitors.
The ground is accessed via some trulli. The main cave is divided, for convenience, into two parts: the upper and lower cavities.
Considering them together, the total quota below the entrance shaft reaches approximately 20 m. Here the “tourist” route ends. Below this, there is a “speleological path” to which access to the public is forbidden, which still drops for another 20 m (beyond which it narrows so much that it is no longer practicable) along a tunnel that leads to the new cave discovered in 2006, through a succession of smaller spechi compared to the upper cavity, in which flow and disperse in a myriad of secondary “veins”, the underground waters that, flowing from above, feed the karst phenomenon.
Some of these cavities in past centuries (and millennia) have been used as shelters for people and animals or as places of worship even in pre-Roman and early Christian ages. Examples of such use are the cave of San Michele in Monte Laureto (3 km on the state road to Noci) with frescoes, altars and a statue of the Archangel made by Stefano da Putignano (16th century) and the grotto of the Madonna delle Grazie, located at the foot of an old farmhouse in a large area of ​​woods.

Caves of Montenero - Gargano

It is the most famous cave of the entire Gargano promontory, near the mountain of the same name of Montenero. It is about a mile and a half long and is divided into many chambers through which the passage is possible through large holes. The vaults, and the walls of them are guilloche of stalactitic concretions, which form tunnels, domes, theaters, trees and other original figures. Access to the cave by visitors is via a gate. It has been equipped with a stairway and some railings that facilitate the internal path that is nevertheless easy to walk.

Passing the entrance you enter a huge room 20 meters long and 10 meters high. This environment is characterized by the presence of large limestone blocks cemented by calcite flows. On the left, a few meters from the entrance, there is a fireplace that rises almost to the outside. A stalagmite of considerable size opens a second large domiforme salon, 20 meters long and 5 meters wide and just as tall. characterized by a marked depression that once housed a pond.
Along the left wall, at a height of 10 meters, opens a hole 1.5 meters in diameter that allows access in a richly concrezioned gallery that, after 20 meters, suddenly bends to the left, shrinking into a narrow narrow (then artificially expanded), which leads into a tunnel adorned with white stalactites, of various shapes and sizes, which after a few meters becomes impractical. Climbed over the great landslide that marks the end of this second cavern, we arrive in a third environment of a more modest size from which some rooms branch off.

The Vore of Barbarano of Capo

The Convent-Sanctuary of San Matteo dates back to the 6th century. Pilgrims were heading for Monte Sant’Angelo. In 1311 it passed to the Cistercians who remained there until 1578, when the Franciscan Minor Friars took over. It appears surrounded by high walls like a fortress. In the Church, which is located inside the city walls, there is a relic (a tooth) of St. Matthew and the wooden statue of the Apostle, of Byzantine origin. A very bright corridor leads to the church, with a barrel vault, a single nave and side niches with baroque altars. Recent restorations have brought to light a Gothic arch and remains of frescoes of not easy dating. The mosaics describe the pilgrimage of San Francesco to the cave of San Michele Arcangelo, while the stained glass windows depict the life and martyrdom of Saint Matthew; a table of the ninth century, depicting St. Matthew, is carried in procession every 21 of September. The convent also has a rich and ancient library and many paintings from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the museum of sacred art and the crib. Very impressive is the Cloister of sixteenth-century origin.

Inserted in the Gargano National Park, the Sanctuary of San Matteo Apostolo is surrounded by a rich wooded area both for the number of botanical species and for the width of the horizons and the variety of its landscape, preserved substantially intact

The Vore and the Doline of Salento

The rocks of Salento have been subject, over the course of millions of years, to a particular set of phenomena, known as karst phenomena, which have shaped the rocks, producing a great variety of forms, constituting a major asset.
The most famous karst manifestations are certainly the caves, but it is right to mention among them also the cavities of a few centimeters that “bucher” a rock, or the much larger dolinas.
The sinkholes are large surface karst forms (from a few tens to some hundreds of meters), closed with circular perimeter. The bottom of the sinkholes is generally covered by earthy deposits and, at times, it is topographically lower than the water table, so as to emerge creating small marsh areas.
Another typical, but less well known, form of the Salento karst is that of swallows or vices: they are natural chasms in which a few and temporary streams of Salento flow together, especially in coincidence of strong rainy events. The characteristics are characterized by having the initial sub-vertical stroke. At their bottom is therefore created a sort of underground river fed by spectacular waterfalls. In fact, think that the vertical section of the vore is often a few tens of meters.

The Lama of Thoughts and Gravina di Riggio - Grottaglie

The vectors of Barbarano, a small municipality of Morciano di Leuca, are two cavities that open up into the calcarenites (tufi), one from the other around 300 m, and having a depth of 35 m the large and 25 the small. “Vora” is the dialectal version of the term chasm which indicates a deep and vertical cave. The large vora has a large ellipse-shaped surface opening whose diameters measure 24 m in length and 16 m in width. The area where the vora is located is slightly depressed compared to the surrounding land, so as to be fenced for security reasons. The small vora has an elliptical shape, is 22 m long and 16 m wide. Its walls descend to the bottom. They are made up of stratified calcareous sandbanks. Through a corridor that runs on the walls, you can go down to a depth of about 10 m.

The Lama of Thoughts

It is a small gravina, located south of the city center. The walls of it are not overhanging, but only bumpy.
Archaeologists have identified traces of inhabited hamlets (in particular, holes for poles from the Bronze Age); while, on the bottom, ceramic fragments from the Bronze Age and the Iron Age have been collected, as well as ceramic material from the Hellenistic age and light sealed ceramics from the late Roman imperial age.
The medieval rock settlement of the Lama dei Pensieri, also known as Casalpiccolo, is made up of numerous caves on several levels, many of which were obtained by rehabilitating natural cavities.
The village consists of about twenty caves. Access to it is possible through a staircase, carved into the rock, which opens near a rock church. The access stairway constituted the terminal of an ancient carraia. The village must have been protected by a tower in the past. Numerous caves, including the church, are today without the façade, due to collapses and anthropic interventions related to the reuse of the caves after their abandonment.
The oldest houses are those located near the place of worship, characterized by a very simple plan: they are composed of a single room and an open space in front.
The reuse of some Bronze Age cave tombs also appears to be ancient.
In the terminal part of the blade, find the rock church mentioned above. The frescoes in the interior date back to the 13th century and are flanked by some Greek inscriptions.
The presence of a fairly large system of wells and cisterns suggests a possible use of water for production purposes (perhaps, for the local production of ceramics).
The presence of sheep breeding is certain, confirmed by the discovery of two pairs of shears for sheep shearing.

The Ravine di Riggio

La Ravine di Riggio è situata a nord-ovest del centro abitato di Grottaglie. E’ una profonda incisione che si sviluppa per circa un chilometro. La Gravina di Riggio ha restituito tracce di una lontana frequentazione antropica. Infatti, vi sono state rinvenute alcune tombe a grotticella (databili ad un periodo compreso tra il neolitico, l’età del bronzo e l’età del ferro) in continuità con un villaggio capannicolo preistorico di cui si identificano numerosi fori di palificazione scavati nella roccia della gravina (databile in virtù dei reperti ceramici ritrovati ai secoli precedenti la metà del II millennio a.C.). Invece, alcune tombe a fossa scavate sul ciglio della gravina vengono riferite ad un insediamento stabile sviluppatosi tra il VI e il IV secolo a.C.
Sull’origine del villaggio rupestre medievale, pur mancando dati archeologici certi, ci si può riferire ad epoca non anteriore al X secolo.
L’insediamento rupestre occupa l’intera gravina, ma è possibile identificarne tre distinti nuclei: un primo a nord, con residui di fortificazioni; un successivo, nell’area centrale della gravina ed uno all’estremità meridionale del solco erosivo, ai piedi della masseria.
Tra le grotte più interessanti va ricordata la “casa fortezza”, che si sviluppa su tre livelli ed è frutto di successivi riadattamenti di cavità naturali.
Vanno menzionati il “cavernone”, vano naturale con ingresso regolarizzato; la cosiddetta “farmacia”, vano quadrangolare di 25 metri quadri circa, alle cui pareti si possono contare 114 nicchie molto probabilmente destinate all’allevamento dei colombi; il “cenobio”, un complesso di quattro abitazioni bicellulari, collegate tra loro in epoca tarda, una delle quali sembra dotata di servizio igienico; alcuni locali scavati nella parte sommatale della gravina, di fronte al cenobio ed alla casa fortezza, comunemente indicati come “vedette”.
Nel nucleo più meridionale si trovano le due chiese anonime, riccamente affrescate e databili tra il X e l’XI secolo.

The so-called Anonymous Church I

The so-called anonymous church I, perhaps dedicated to San Salvatore, is composed of a square hall equipped with a perimeter stone seat. The back wall is characterized by the presence of two decentralized apses, divided by a thin partition. The apses are surrounded by a deep archaic type ring decoration.
The anonymous church I preserves some cycles of frescoes, whose oldest layer is datable (for the style style and iconography very similar to that of Cappadocian and Syro-Palestinian painting), to the first half of the tenth century.
It is therefore considered as one of the first examples of rock painting in Puglia. The cycle of frescoes lacks complete Christological cycles and includes the presence of the oldest Deesis of southern Italy in the small left apse. On the eastern wall appears, for the first and only time in Puglia, the scene of “Elijah who gives his cloak to Elisha”, dominated by the presence of a monumental chariot and the vivacity of the colors.
A second cycle of frescoes, placed on the right wall of the anonymous church I, depicts the images of seven bishops. It is certainly dated to the eleventh century.

The so-called Anonymous Church II

The anonymous church II is an example of a cemetery church, with tombs on the outside, with a reverse plan. The rectangular-shaped classroom, equipped with a perimeter seat and destined to house the faithful and the non-officiating clergy, is accessed through a continuous transitional bema arch. The apse is located at the right end of the bema, characterized by the presence of a chair and a diaconicon; on the opposite side, there is the altar that can be identified as prothesis.

The Tagghjates of San Giorgio Ionico

The so-called Tagghjate of San Giorgio Ionico develop for about 2 kilometers on the side of the Belvedere hill: the “cuts” in the tufaceous rock are often even 10 to 15 meters deep.
The Tagghjate (from tagghju, which in the local dialect means, in fact, cut), also called zzuccate, from the name of the particular pickaxe used in the past to extract the blocks of tuff (lo zzueccu), still present, today, as an articulate and suggestive succession of rooms, steps, facades and towering blocks: a complex whole, often enriched by sculptures and cavities.
Moreover, the Tagghjates have the particularity of following the change of light, going from white to yellowish and orange, from rust to pink, from gray to blackish, depending on the exposure, the time, the weather conditions, thus increasing the suggestion of these places.
Certainly, one of the most fascinating aspects of these places is represented by the presence of tall isolated tufaceous blocks, as if they were watchtowers on the landscape of the quarry.

Cave of San Biagio - Ostuni

It is a karstic cavity that opens onto the calcareous hollow spur above the homonymous sanctuary.
It was discovered by chance in 1950. Numerous findings have been found, suggesting that the area was already frequented in the Neolithic and Eneolithic periods. The ceramics found are characterized by some being in clay decorated with red or brown bands, others are even trichrome. Their integrity also suggests that they were used mostly for ritual purposes.
They can instead date back to the V-IV millennium BC. the numerous flint blades, the bone awls, polished stone axes, pendants, a small idol on a shell, a bone bracelet and a clay pintadera with a spiral pattern in relief, which still retains ocher residues, probably used to decorate bodies during ritual ceremonies.
During the Eneolithic period, a noticeable change in the production of ceramics was identified: large containers were found in dough with external decoration, vases with brown or blackish dough, decorated with grooves and decorated with strips and pads applied.
The cave continued to be used certainly until the second half of the fourth millennium, if not yet at the beginning of the third millennium BC.

The Sanctuary of Santa Maria Maggiore in Siponto - Manfredonia

The church is located about 3 Km. From Manfredonia and is a splendid example of Romanesque-Pugliese architecture, with Islamic and Armenian influences.

The building, which consists of two superimposed churches, occupies a square area of ​​about 18 m on each side. The upper church constitutes the actual Basilica.

The only documented date is 1117, the year of the solemn consecration and reposition of the relics of San Lorenzo under the high altar, after having been restored and restored by the wounds inflicted in a tumultuous past made of Slavic, Saracen and Longobard invasions: the ancient Basilica of Santa Maria, and not the “new factory, scion of the ancient cathedral of the old Siponto” – mentioned in the sources for the first time only in 1508 – which surely corresponds to the church that still survives today, and which could not get the title of cathedral, if not very late.

Set between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries on the layout of a pre-existing building belonging to the area of ​​the ancient cathedral, destined to a tormented construction process resolved in the sum of anomalies and constructive inconsistencies that we can still observe today, arose perhaps as a chapel entitled to S. Nicola: it is the suggestive thesis born from the rereading of the sources and from a series of comparisons involving facts, characters and architectures of the time, first of all the Bari factory of S. Nicola, whose “crypt ad oratorio” ( vast independent classroom extended to a width equal to the upper environment) may have provided more than an opportunity in the excavation phase of the lower siponto church.

It was consecrated, as stated in a commemorative plaque, on 23 June 1675 by Cardinal Vincenzo Maria Orsini.

The lower church, or crypt, which is accessed via an external staircase, was set up in 1708 with the remains of the ancient and prestigious Siponto Cathedral. Thus we read in a plaque walled on the door.

Of particular value is the portal, consisting of a set of arches, all finely embellished with foliage or geometric carvings and well harmonized with each other. Two of them, protruding and superimposed, rest on shelves supported by columns on lions.

On the shelves two smaller animals. Two more arches, recessed and strengthened, show their fullness on the lightest material, giving the whole vivacity and movement.

On the sides of the portal, two pairs of elegant blind arches, in which four finely sculpted square panels are enclosed at man’s height. Higher up two windows with frames similar to those of the panels, but larger. Inside, the cross vault rests on four ogive arches, supported by strong square piers. The resulting effect is surprising: the vault appears, at first glance, all suspended on the columns and seems to move upwards, as if attracted to the sky. An effect of sure oriental inspiration that predisposes to mysticism and finds its climax in the beautiful lantern dome right in the center of the vault with eight elegant windows. The central baroque style altar has been replaced by a Greek marble sarcophagus, found behind the old altar and surmounted by a thick stone slab. Remarkable two apses with single lancet windows. On the left wall there are fragments of mosaics of the adjacent early Christian basilica.

The crypt is remarkable for the twenty-five times square cross-section and for the round arches resting on twenty marble columns with capitals of different shapes. There are four large circular stone piers in correspondence with those of the upper church.

In the crypt there was “the Sipontina”, a wooden statue of the IV – V sec. also known as the “Madonna with wide-eyed eyes”: it is an ancient statue, which represents the natural image of the Madonna with the child, in a frontal position. It is called “Madonna with wide eyes”, because, legend says, forced to witness an act of violence. It is dated around the 6th century; it is conserved in the Cathedral of Manfredonia.

Sanctuary of San Matteo - San Marco in Lamis

The Convent-Sanctuary of San Matteo dates back to the 6th century. Pilgrims were heading for Monte Sant’Angelo. In 1311 it passed to the Cistercians who remained there until 1578, when the Franciscan Minor Friars took over. It appears surrounded by high walls like a fortress. In the Church, which is located inside the city walls, there is a relic (a tooth) of St. Matthew and the wooden statue of the Apostle, of Byzantine origin. A very bright corridor leads to the church, with a barrel vault, a single nave and side niches with baroque altars. Recent restorations have brought to light a Gothic arch and remains of frescoes of not easy dating. The mosaics describe the pilgrimage of San Francesco to the cave of San Michele Arcangelo, while the stained glass windows depict the life and martyrdom of Saint Matthew; a table of the ninth century, depicting St. Matthew, is carried in procession every 21 of September. The convent also has a rich and ancient library and many paintings from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the museum of sacred art and the crib. Very impressive is the Cloister of sixteenth-century origin.

Inserted in the Gargano National Park, the Sanctuary of San Matteo Apostolo is surrounded by a rich wooded area both for the number of botanical species and for the width of the horizons and the variety of its landscape, preserved substantially intact.

Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Stignano - San Marco in Lamis

A legend tells that St. Francis of Assisi, in 1216, passing through the Valley of Stignano, directed to the Grotto of Archangel Michael, was ecstatic for the beauty of the places and that, moved, blessed the fruits of this land. The “Via Sacra Langobardorum” has a dense stage of high Marian and Franciscan spirituality in the Sanctuary.

The traditional story tells that Leonardo di Falco, poor and blind, in his wanderlings peregrinations one day fell asleep under an oak tree. The Virgin appeared to him pointing out to him, among the branches of a tree, a statue representing the Mother of God with the Child. The blind man, having regained his sight, told everything to the priests of Castel Pagano, who, in procession, came to reveal the sacred image. On the site a small chapel was built, of which a document of 1231 speaks, immediately became a destination for pilgrimages.

At the beginning of the 16th century, Brother Salvatore Scalzo, after a long pilgrimage, together with other friars, settled in the small chapel. But soon after the small community abandoned the monastery. In 1515, Ettore Pappacoda, feudal lord of the area, built the beautiful church that is still admired today.

During the century XVI, the Sanctuary was given to the Observant Friars Minor: with them the Sanctuary began to be known also throughout the Tavoliere and on the Gargano. The friars, among others, were appreciated for their life full of prayer and works.

Between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the sanctuaries and convent complex had its present shape. The church with the dome and the bell tower was completed.
The façade of the church was finished with the lunette of the main portal depicting the Virgin Mother of God. The characteristic reddish limestone of the façade gives the valley a warm light at sunset.

The Convent, built around the two porticoed cloisters, was designed to meet the needs of the Franciscan friars with large rooms for laboratories, warehouses, the library, meeting places, dormitories.

The Convent of Stignano was built according to innovative needs: as a place where both arrival and departure were easy, where it was pleasant to stay, where the pilgrims could find a human relationship, but also the rigor of meditation.

Until the middle of the century XIX was one of the largest Marian shrines in the Capitanata.

Unfortunately, the decline of the Sanctuary of Stignano began in 1862 when it was closed by the authorities because of the brigandage then raging in the captaincy.

Reopened in 1864, it was closed again shortly after by the laws that suppressed the Religious Orders. Thus began a dark period for the Shrine, which ended in 1953 with the donation of the convent to the Friars Minor of Puglia and Molise by the current owner Francesco Centola.

Many renovations and renovations have brought back to the ancient splendor the Renaissance pozzale, the double-arched cloister and the famous wheat-colored façade.

Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Valleverde - Bovino

At 4 km. from the town of Bovino, on the provincial road that descends towards the Cervaro to graft the ancient “Strada di Puglia” that leads from Foggia to Naples, you can see a majestic church with a bold spire: it is the renovated Sanctuary of the Madonna di Valleverde. Also, like many Capitanata shrines, it is linked to the pilgrim routes to the Grotto of Archangel Michael.

Legend has it that, in 1265, a humble farmer named Nicola dreamed of having gone to wood with his donkey in the wood of Mengaga. There, a handsome young lady asked him to bring him water. Nicola refused, saying he was too busy collecting wood. The lady urged him to please her. When Nicola returned with the full jug, his donkey was already loaded and ready for departure. Then the lady revealed herself: “I am – she said – the Mother of the Son of God. I come from distant Spain, from a place called Valverde, where there is my sanctuary.The inhabitants of that region have forgotten me; I have decided to abandon them and come here to Bovino, I want a church named after Santa Maria di Valleverde to be built here “. The poor farmer understood very little of what he had been told. The following night the dream repeated itself. Also on the third night the Madonna appeared to him: she was sad because of the little attention Nicola had reserved for his message. The following day Nicholas decided to tell the whole bishop, who arrived in the forest of Mengaga in the place indicated, saw that with the flowers and grass stems had already been traced the perimeter of the church desired by Our Lady.
The church was built in just four months and immediately became a destination for pilgrimages not only from Bovino, but also from all neighboring countries.

In 1287 the bishop Mainerio built a cenobio near the church and entrusted it to the Cistercians. The monks remained there until 1608.

In 1842 the bishop Francesco Saverio Farace entrusted the custody of the sanctuary to the Friars Minor Observants who kept it, with alternating events, until 1901. On 29 August 1876 the Madonna of Valleverde was solemnly decorated with gold crown by the bishop of Bovino mons . Alessandro Cantoli.

In 1912 (until 1921) the Sanctuary was given to the Passionists. The sons of San Paolo della Croce spread even more the cult of the Madonna of Valleverde, they restored the church and enlarged the monastery.

Currently the Sanctuary is governed by Vocationist priests, who in the wake of those who preceded them, zeal the cult of Our Lady, welcome the pilgrims, preach the word of God. To them we owe the complete rebuilding of the whole complex with a majestic church one stands on the valley as a sign of hope.

The new and modern Sanctuary, inaugurated on May 25, 1987, by the Holy Father John Paul II and consecrated by Mons. Salvatore De Giorgi, Metropolitan Archbishop of Foggia-Bovino, on June 7 of the same year, is rich in precious marble, beautiful sculptures and of colored windows, it has a triangular plan, with rounded corners, and is composed of the Church, the Sacristy and the Crypt, which preserves the altar and the marble balustrade of the old church, together with other metal relics and Stone.

Among the works of art that can be admired inside the Sanctuary, the statue of the “Madonna of Valleverde with the Son in her arms” stands out for its suggestion and artistic value. It was restored by the Florentine artist Pellegrino Banella, in 1965, which, in addition to having carved a new statue of the Child, had the great merit of having brought to light the polychrome original sculpture, of the late thirteenth century, abundantly covered, starting from end of the 16th century, with rich embroidered silk dresses and with a charming wig with blond curls.

Church of Santa Maria delle Cerrate - Squinzano

The Abbey of Santa Maria delle Cerrate, almost lost in the solitude of the countryside of the territory of Squinzano, a few kilometers from Lecce, was founded at the beginning of the twelfth century by the Normans. A local legend has it that the temple was built in the place where Tancredi d’Altavilla, during a hunt, found an image of the Virgin at the foot of a deer. From deer the denomination (uncertain) Cervate, then changed to Cerrate.

Today we can admire, of what was an important Basilian monastery, among other things the site of a famous scriptorium, a building of cult much remodeled in the following ages.

The external decoration of the church with thin pilasters and small arches appears characteristic of the Salento area, while the rich thirteenth century portal is of French taste; the interior of the Basilica was covered with frescoes between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, according to a continuous activity of embellishment of the complex that, at least until the sixteenth century, was an important and active center of religious and cultural life.

The complex, later, was transformed into a farm, returning only recently to be a cultural reference point for the area: the restoration of the church and the surrounding environment has allowed, in fact, the preparation and the arrangement of an interesting Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions of Salento.

The Church is presented as a basilica with three naves, of which the lower left is connected to the thirteenth-century portico. In correspondence of the central aisle a small rose window can be admired from the rich historiated portal. The latter, dating back to the end of the twelfth century (or at most at the beginning of the 13th century), already appears at the first impact influenced by the French architectural tradition. The entrance door is framed by a minute and elegant decoration borrowed from the vegetable repertoire.

The figural elements of the archivolt, well decipherable and distributed on six segments, tell the Infancy of Christ from the Annunciation to the Birth.

The position of the Annunciation, which acts as a tax for the entire cycle, reflects the fundamental role that the announcement given by the angel Gabriel to Mary is within the exegesis of iconography. Reflection of the Annunciation, the Visitation follows the iconography of the Near East, played on the physical contact between the Virgin and Elizabeth that does not happen here in a frontal way, being subordinated to the convex structure of the stone block.

A listello in key to the arch bearing the star, binds and separates at the same time the presence of the Magi and the next scene of the Nativity as an element of mediation between ancient and new Wisdom. A “familiar” atmosphere, almost “daily”, is repeated in the final panel, dominated by the figure of the midwife bent over the basin in which Jesus is immersed. In the figure of small size and almost squashed in the inside corner of the tile we can recognize san Joseph.

The plastic decoration is concentrated in particular in the porticoed loggia on the side of the church, built during the thirteenth century and supported by 24 columns surmounted by as many capitals, all different from each other, which offer the visitor a rich repertoire of stories. The pictorial decoration of the Church, on the other hand, is located in situ and part exposed – since 1975, after being detached – in the Museum.

Inside, there are five saints with the book in their hands occupying the lower part of the central apse; while, in the basin, the Ascension stands out, saints represented in full figure in the undergrowth; other scenes unfold in the lower level of the perimeter walls, mixing tradition and protagonists of both the East and the West. The baroque style altar dedicated to Sant’Oronzo has unfortunately made some of the frescoes not visible on the right wall, overlapping with them.

Sanctuary of the Madonna della Coltura - Pàrabita

The Basilica della Madonna della Coltura is located in Pàrabita, near Gallipoli, a few kilometers from Lecce.

The name of the Culture is certainly an abbreviation of Madonna dell’Agricoltura.

The origin of the name is however very uncertain and refers to two different interpretations.

The first refers to a popular legend that tells of a farmer who, intent on plowing a field with oxen, found in the middle of the earth a monolith depicting a Madonna with Child. The village, advised of the discovery, carried in procession the sacred icon up to the Church, but the day after the stone disappeared. It was found outside the walls, near the fields and the parabitans decided to build a sanctuary there. The facts referred to refer to the original chapel of the fourteenth century, of which unfortunately no trace remains.

The second interpretation starts from the etymological analysis of the original name of the sacred image: S.M. de la Cutura. It is believed that Cutura derives from Cullura, the dialectal name of bread. In particular, the Cuddura is a cake of bread variously decorated with egg, typical of the Easter period. The Madonna of the Basilica is therefore intended as the protector of fields or bread: a reason for survival and well-being of the people of the area.

However, the title Madonna dell’Agricoltura is late compared to Cutura, Cultura, Coltura, and appears between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and for the first time is documented on the architrave of the portal of the sanctuary: virgini mariae ab agricoltura / patronae / dicatum / IV nonas maias mcmXIII.

In 1913 the parabitans dedicated a temple to their Madonna, which appeal to the “queen of the fields”.

The Madonna della Cultura (or the bread), the Madonna della Cultura (or agriculture) are titles that, therefore, are identified in one: that of Madonna della Coltura that from 1847 onwards became co-patron of Parabita, next to San Sebastiano and San Rocco.

Sanctuary of the Madonna di Corsignano - Giovinazzo

The protector of the town of Giovinazzo is the Madonna venerated under the title of Corsignano. The name is traced back to the farmhouse where the icon with its effigy was originally venerated.

The tradition, which has been handed down from the seventeenth century, wants the painting to have reached Giovinazzo during the Crusades. It is said, in fact, that he was brought into Giovinazzo by a crusader named Gereteo, returning from the Holy Land.

Scholars and art critics agree to write the icon to the century. XIII.

Altered over the centuries, this icon was subjected to careful restoration work in 1954.

The festivities in honor of the Madonna di Corsignano (whose first documentary sources date back to the 16th century) can be found in the text of the casale di Corsignano in the territory of Giovinazzo and its ancient painting, published in 1887 by the historian Giuseppe De Ninno, which reports the transcription of an act of 1388, with which the Bishop of the time proclaimed the Virgin of Corsignano patron of Giovinazzo.

The people of Giovinazzo used to invoke the Madonna di Corsignano in different circumstances, especially during periods of drought, carrying the icon in procession.

The same procession, even today, would also like to remember how from its primitive rural residence the painting of the Madonna has been translated into the Cathedral. So far, no document has been found that attests when and how such a transfer took place, but certainly it is a link of the Giovinazzesi with the primitive place of worship of the Virgin of Corsignano, where they annually go on a pilgrimage. Following the migration phenomenon in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many young people have reached America, Canada, Australia, Argentina, where the cult of the Madonna di Corsignano is very widespread.

Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Cotrino - Latiano

In Latiano, a few kilometers from Brindisi, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the popular legend tells that a blind, deaf and blind woman appeared in a dream of the Virgin. After healed, he invited her to go to the Cotrino district where he told her that he would find a picture painted on a wall, hidden among the brambles. Thus, the image was truly and prodigiously discovered.

A church dedicated to the Madonna was dedicated here. In the seventeenth century a monastery was built which, since 1922, is kept by the Cistercians of Casamari.

Next to the old church, in 1992, a new and majestic church was inaugurated for the faithful, inside which there is an effigy of the Byzantine-style Virgin of Cotrino.

Every year, on May 6th, the “Madonna di Cotrino” Festival is celebrated.

The first news on the date of the festival date back to the seventeenth century: a procession with a penitential character (the devotees carried tufts, beams or stones on their shoulders to expiate their sins and purify themselves, reciting the rosary and raising songs) departed from the streets of the country to reach celebrating mass in the Cotrino district.

Today, the festivities begin on the afternoon of 4 May when the 19th-century papier-mâché statue, kept in the Matrice di Latiano church, is carried in procession to Cotrino; from 1992 on the evening of the same day a torchlight procession takes place starting from the church of the Greca to the Sanctuary followed by a prayer vigil. The following day the statue is brought back, always in procession, to the Matrice church. Finally, on May 6th there is the solemn procession of the statue of the Virgin through the streets of Latiano.