HISTORIC BUILDINGS

PALAZZO VITI – DE ANGELIS

PALAZZOVITIDEANGELIS-300x200This is perhaps the oldest palazzo of Altamura, and surely one of the most beautiful. It was probably built in the XV century on a preexisting structure by the will of the feudal lord prince Raimondello Orsini del Balzo. It is adjacent to the most prominent remains of medieval walls and Porta Bari, the only city gate preserved in its former aspect. The extensive three-story building comprises a palace chapel and the wonderful inner courtyard is paved with limestone slabs. A staircase leads up to a turret with Neo-Gothic battlements. Notable are the sumptuous Renaissance portal and the loggia with elegant columns and capitals. One of these capitals exhibits the coat of arms of the De Angelis family that acquired the building immediately after the Del Balzo family and before the Viti family. The latter are still the owners of the palazzo.

 

PALAZZO MELODIA

palazzomelodia-300x200The palazzo is located in front of the cathedral and overlooks the cathedral square. It was built in the mid-nineteenth century according to the drawings of architect and engineer Orazio Lerario. It is a building in pure neoclassical style. The lower floor counts twelve tall columns, which support a large balcony with ten windows. Always owned by the noble Melodia family, in the early years of the XX century it was bought by the farmer Giuseppe Incampo.

 

 

 

 

BIRTH HOUSE OF SAVERIO MERCADANTE

saverio-mercadante-300x200Although it looks rather insignificant from the architectural point of view, it is the birth house of the famous Saverio Mercadante (1795), one of the greatest amongst the Italian composers of the XIX century. It is located opposite the church of San Nicola dei Greci and overlooks Corso Federico II.

 

 

 

 

 

PALAZZO BALDASSARRE

PALAZZO-BALDASARRA-3-300x200The palazzo is situated in proximity to Piazza Foggiali and opens onto Via Fratelli Baldassarre. It is a three-story building dating back to the XV century which was almost completely rebuilt in the XVII century. This architectural masterpiece shows many details of artistic importance, such as the wrought iron balcony in Baroque style. It was owned by the eponymous family, having become with time the city’s most eminent family of constructors. The two brothers Michele and Giuseppe are still remembered for their important role in the resistance shown against the siege of Cardinal Ruffo’s troops, in 1799.

 

 

PALAZZO VESCOVILE (FORMER UNIVERSITY BUILDING)

palazzovescovile-300x200Leaning against the Arch of the Cathedral. During the second half of the XVIII century it housed the University of Altamura. As attested by a commemorative plaque affixed to the wall, the Royal University of Altamura was founded in 1748 by a decree of King Charles III. It soon became a thriving cultural center and earned the city the sobriquet “Athens of Apulia.” The University was maintained by the “Monte a Moltiplico fund” (ecclesiastical revenues and savings of the lay confraternities) set up in 1619 to erect the Bishop’s palace, never carried out, and used, therefore, for the University as schools fund. With the end of the revolution of 1799 the university shared the dire fate of the conquered and devastated city. In 1811, after a short phase of Goacchino Murat’s reign, the Royal University was closed for good.

 

PALAZZO DE GEMMIS - CAGNAZZI

palazzogemmis-cagnazzi-300x200This palazzo has a splendid eighteenth-century facade and presents an entrance supported by columns with the coat of arms at the top. The building was the residence of the Cagnazzi family, descendants of Samuel de Samuel (the elder), a Greek nobleman who in 1554 had moved to Altamura from the kingdom of Macedonia. In 1628 a certain Marino Cagnazzi offered Samuel de Samuel (the younger) all of its assets, provided that he would assist him in his old age, add the symbol of a “dog” to his family crest and assumed the name Cagnazzi (De Samuel Cagnazzi) as a second last name. However, those who have brought prestige to the Palace are the two brothers Luca and Giuseppe De Samuel, great representatives of the nobility of Altamura in the late eighteenth century. In 1785 Giuseppe de Samuel, brother of the archdeacon Luigi, married Elisabetta De Gemmis. He bequeathed to his son Ippolito the noble title of the stately building. The heirs of Ippolito and his wife Antoinette Martucci lived in the building throughout the nineteenth century. The recent heirs finally sold the edifice to the Clemente family. Today the palazzo houses the ‘Hotel San Nicola’. The two upper floors have been converted into luxury rooms. The staircase is adorned with a stone artifact depicting St. Nicholas from which the hotel takes its name.

ALTAMURA’S MOST IMPORTANT PERSONALITIES.

SAVERIO MERCADANTE

SAVERIO-MERCADANTE-copia-232x300Giuseppe Saverio Raffaele Mercadante is one of the most important Italian composers of the nineteenth century. He was born in 1795 in Altamura and from an early age he began his studies in Naples. The debut took place in 1818; He was, in fact, commissioned to write the dances for the Teatro Saint Carlo. He met with great success, especially in Spain, Portugal and Austria. He became a close friend of Gioacchino Rossini, in 1837 He obtained a great success with The Oath, one of his masterpieces. In 1862 lost his eyesight. He died in 1870. His opera production is very wide. In 1895, one hundred years after his birth, the Altamura inaugurate a new theater dedicated to him. In 2013, after years of neglect, the Mercadante theater is back to shine forth thanks to the Teatro Mercadante Ltd., that after a painstaking and extensive restoration, has return it back to the town.

 

 

 

 

 

LUCA DE SAMUELE CAGNAZZI

LUCA-DE-SAMUELE-CAGNAZZI-_-ABMC-200x300He was an historian, a mathematician, an economist, a scientist who was born in Altamura in 1764. He conducted his studies first at the University of his hometown, subsequently at that of Naples, where he graduated. He was mentioned on the list of the most illustrious men of Altamura and he was one of the strongest encyclopedists of his time, but also a lyrical poet and a metaphysician, a geologist and an archaeologist, a theologian and a botanist and a founder, in Italy, of the modern statistical science. He taught first at the University of Florence, at a later time (1806-1821) at the University of Naples. He invented the phonograph, an instrument used for the study of sound vibrations, a copy of which is currently preserved at the Archives Library City Museum of Altamura. Having undergone trial, he died in Naples on 26 September 1852. One of his most important public works was “Leges in Catholic Ecclesia vigentes apto order digestae”. The High School” Liceo Classico” is named after the Archdeacon Luca de Samuel Cagnazzi. The splendid Cagnazzi building, situated near the church of St. Nicholas of the Greeks, is now home to a hotel.

 

 

 

 

TOMMASO FIORE

Tommaso-Fiore-228x300Born in Altamura in 1884, He was one of the most important figures of Southern Italy. As a strenuous socialist, he took consistently care of the condition of the laborers of the Southern people. In 1920 he was elected mayor of Altamura and because of his strong anti-fascism campaign he was jailed in 1942. Friend and collaborator of Pietro Nenni, Piero Gobetti and Carlo Rosselli, He was one of the most respected intellectuals of the period. He died in Bari in 1973. His birthplace is located in the cloister Cinfio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAFFAELE E TINA LAUDATI

Raffaele-e-Tina-Laudati-300x225Respectively father (Naples 1864-1941) and his daughter (Altamura 1910-2000) represent two of the most distinguished painters in the artistic panorama of their time, in Italy and abroad. Raffaele, a descendant of an old noble family in Altamura, returned to the city of his ancestors at the age of 14 and later, after his father’s death he moved to Naples in order to complete his studies, showing from the beginning great passion for painting. He began with drawing and soon moved to Paris, exercising his talent in caricature, infact he started a collaboration with “La caricatura” and “Charivari”. For a couple of years he resided in London, but soon decided to return to Italy where he studied painting with Morelli and was initiated to pointillism by Previati and Segantini. He is commonly considered one of the most important painters of Apulia of the nineteenth and twentieth century and is remembered as the undisputed master of the representation of light. Among his works we can find, for example: The derelicts, the woman undressing, the self-portrait (1926), Le Maquis de vieux Montmartre (1928). His daughter Tina was influenced by the works of her father as well as by the culture and the cosmopolitan life of Paris, where she studied. She embraced impressionism, a love that even deepened upon her return to Altamura by coming in contact with the popular culture of Apulia. The artist has represented the reality of Altamura, by synthesizing a wide variety of subjects drawn from real life.  With her relocation to Naples she experienced the transition from the early impressionistic aesthetics to a style which saw her givig more attention to graphics. In 1975, with her final return to her native town, she devoted herself to paintings of still life and landscapes of the Murgia, works where it is still remarkable the willingness to represent light. Among her works: The mother and the child (1938), The waiting (1987), A portrait of a woman with a hat, the cityscape and the self-portrait. After a first exhibition of paintings by Rafaele and Tina Laudati in 2009, at the town hall, the definitive place for them is now at the Gallery of the Archive Library Museum of Altamura.

MONUMENTS AND PLACES OF INTEREST

THE MEGALITHIC WALLS

muramegalitiche-300x200Testimony to the kind of the classical age fortification (V-IV century BC.), Also spread to other centers of Peucezia, the megalithic walls of Altamura are presented as a double circuit: an inner city wall, smaller, which enclosed the acropolis, with a development of about 1500 meters, and an outer one, larger, which stretched to 3,600 meters. To be understood as work made necessary by the specific situation in which the indigenous people of the whole Peucezia found themselves having to face the expansionist aims of Taranto and neighboring Lucan and Samnite centers, the megalithic walls are of great importance from the civil and military point of view.

The construction technique used involves the use of large blocks (the term “megalithic” derives, in fact, from the Greek: mega, large, and lithos, stone), roughly hewn, arranged as interlocking with each other, then seated dry. The walls had a width of 5.5 meters and a height of more than 4 meters. The wall consists of two facings, one external and the other internal, in the central part of which, the emplecton, is a compound of earth and stones. The walls had to be open at various points of the roads leading to the nearby centers; the only well preserved today is Porta Alba or Aurea, to which a trapezoidal tower is flanked in its internal area. In correspondence with this door a true and genuine necropolis was found with shaft-and-chamber tombs that can be dated – according to the outfits tombs unearthed in the excavations by Ponzetti (mid-twentieth century) – to the sixth and fifth centuries BC, so preexisting compared to the erection of the wall itself. The currently preserved part of the whole city walls, therefore still visible, is approximately 1800 meters.

MERCADANTE THEATRE

TEATRO-MERCADANTE-300x200Built in 1895, one hundred years after the birth of the composer Saverio Mercadante. Completed in just seven months thanks to the project of Vincenzo Striccoli from Altamura, it was recently restored thanks to the intervention of the Teatro Mercadante Co.Ltd. which reported it the former splendor. The main entrance of the theater, on Piazza Saverio Mercadante, leads into the vestibule which houses the bust of the Altamura musician made in 1844 by sculptor Angelini. Beyond the relief corridor you have access to the stalls, which are in the shape of a horseshoe, with 190 seats. Above this first row there are two tiers of boxes and the gallery (the “dove house”). Overall, the room has 60 boxes: 18 in the first row, 21 in second and third row. The gallery, in the shape of an amphitheater, had a capacity of about 300 seats.

The decoration of the boxes shelves of the 2nd and 3rd order and the parapet of the gallery, with festoons and masks, was entrusted to the Altamura painter Pasquale Rossi, who, like the engineer Striccoli, lent his work free of charge. The stage measuring 9.50 × 10 m and has a proscenium of 3 m. The proscenium arch is topped by a medallion with a portrait of Mercadante painted by Pasquale Rossi (a student of the Altamura Francesco Lorusso and, first, of the Neapolitan Domenico Morelli). The curtain, made in 1856 by Montagano (representing Frederick II of Swabia who participates in the works for the construction of Altamura Cathedral), appeared smaller than the size of the proscenium of the new theater, so Rossi painted in addition, on the right, a group of warriors.

SAN MICHELE DELLE GROTTE

San-Michele_interno-300x192It is a rock settlement located to the north, outside the old town centre and now incorporated into the urban fabric. Formerly known as “Sant’Angelo della Rizza”, it is one of the most interesting hypogean environments of the city, due to the structural system and the existing wall paintings.
Its construction probably dates back to the tenth century, built as a hermit foundation of the monks of St. Basil, whose presence on the territory Altamura is attested in numerous rock churches (see the crypts of Iesce, San Giorgio, in Fornello area). The brickwork facade has, above the entrance portal, a sixteenth century niche decorated with Corinthian capitals, where the stone statue of St. Michael the Archangel is kept, a work, with a clear late -Renaissance setting, made at the end of the XVI century. The interior, entirely dug into the tufa, consists of low vaults, supported by five pillars that divide the church into four aisles, and it is embellished with a tiled floor made in Laterza in 1690. Despite originally presenting itself entirely painted, the crypt still preserves frescoes worthy of note, including, on the first pillar on the left, the image of half- bust Saint Lucia whose predominant stylistic character dates her back to the fourteenth century, and, in the next column, the coeval Saint Nicola dei Greci, by the hallowed headwith with a solemn face and blessing pose. On the backdrop of the first right nave a font embedded in the wall is found, framed with decorations in racemes of the eighteenth century and topped by a scroll, whose recording recalls the link at one time existing with the michaelico sanctuary of Gargano.The second right aisle ends with the baroque altar in polychrome stone dedicated to the eponymous saint of the church, whose seventeenth-century effigy of Saints Lorenzo and Leonardo is clearly visible in the upper register. Along the side walls you can find, instead, the images of Tobias and the Angel Gabriel to the left, and those of St. Dionysius the Areopagite on the right, dating back to a time between the end ofthe sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth between. It follows the main altar in tuff, whose frontal is centrally surmounted by a radiate cross and it is flanked by large spiral scrolls. In the above apse the painting of the Deesis is remarkable, in which the image of the blessing Christ flanked by the Virgin and St. John the Baptist predominates, made by anonymous fresco artist in the first decades of 1300. Finally, the first left aisle also ends with a fine Baroque stone altar, on which in a raised perspective the statue of Saint Lucia was placed, now preserved at the museum of ABMC in Altamura.

THE CHURCHES

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THE CATHEDRAL (photo by Luca Bellarosa)

Historical information
The Cathedral of Altamura, situated in the land of Bari- in Apulia, is dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, our lady of the Assumption and it represents the religious, historical and artistic centre of the city.

Altamura Cathedral has a unique and striking appearance thanks to its variety of artistic influences and major changes which took place in the 16th century. Its overall heaviness and austerity reflects its late Romanesque origins under Frederick II and the twin towers of the facade are reminiscent of the medieval cathedrals of Germany.

It was built between 1230-1232 on the will of Frederick II of Swabia, who, after having rebuilt Altamura, had the cathedral built free and exempted from every jurisdiction both of the local bishop and archbishop. It was only subject to the emperor who appointed the archpriest (dean), and to the church of Rome. The papal bull, issued by pope Innocenzo IV approved the appointment of the dean and the privileges of the Emperor. The first dean was Riccardo da Brindisi, a close relative of the Emperor. The holy temple assembles a variety of styles (Romanic-Apulian, Gothic, Baroque, Moresco), nicely blended together as to give the perception of one harmonic beauty. Some scholars even speak of a style typical of Frederick himself for the personal touch that the emperor was able to impress upon its construction, imprint that has remained intact in the magnificent portal, in the capitals of the interior columns, in the mullioned windows and  in the women’s galleries.

The Cathedral, originally, was not as we see it today: the entrance was on the opposite side with a magnificent portal and two side doors, the apse was located on the current façade , the mullioned window ( with two lights), which is currently on the Arc of Duomo was displayed where the rose window is  at present .There was only one bell tower, the one on the right, without neither the third floor (level) nor the dome. The consecration took place around 1270 under Charles of Anjou.

On 29 January, 1316 the Temple was partially damaged most probably by an earthquake or by a collapse accident due to the work which was going on in order to raise the bell tower. This hypothesis seems to be supported by the subsequent construction of the octagonal tower clamped at the base of the tower. According to some historians the collapse of the cathedral was an opportunity for the Angevins to erase the cultural evidence left behind by Frederick, the great emperor, who was their terrible enemy. Amongst the reconstruction work of the current main façade Roberto I of Anjou entrusted the building of a door that looked into Piazza Duomo to the sons of Consiglio family of Bitonto. The event is remembered in an inscription placed on the arc over the door that faces the North side, looking into piazza Duomo, built in that year for the will of King Roberto of Anjou.
In 1485 the church obtained the privilege of being elevated from the rank of Parish to a collegiate church and therefore there was a significant increase in the number of Chapter members.

Under the archpriest Francesco Rossi, of Altamura,  appointed by the King of Naples Ferdinand I of Aragon, the work of  building extension begun with the construction of the new presbytery( chancel) and chapter house, work that was finished in 1494 as evidenced by the presence of three coats of arms, the one  of Ferdinand I of Aragon placed on the current posterior  wall, the other one over the door that takes to  the church from Via O. Candiota and the last one ,on the left wall, as soon as you enter from this side, which shows the date of the king’s death. The work was resumed in 1521 at the death of Francesco Rossi and ended only in the first half of the sixteenth century with the appointment of dean Niccolò Sapio, a priest from Altamura, not named by the sovereign, but by Pope Clement VII who ignored the royal decree. Niccolò continued the unfinished work: he changed and modified the architecture of the sacred place by replacing the initial entry of the cathedral from West to East, he also built the choir, the pulpit and the bishop chair, all in walnut wood. An inscription engraved in Latin the choir wood reads:” ANNO DOMINI MCCCCXXXXIII IN TEMPORE NICOLAI SAPII ARCHIPTR” “In the Lord’s year 1543 at the time of Nicola Sapio, the archpriest”. After that, in 1550, the Spanish Vincenzo of Avyla de Salazar, appointed by the emperor Charles V of Hapsburg, took possession by the force of weapons, by breaking down the door of the cathedral which clerics treacherously had closed in his face to prevent him from entering. The new door was made in walnut, ash and larch by Master Pietro de Marzano and it is surmounted by an inscription (by Francesco de Nunno) as a reminder that the church was under royal collation(Jurisdiction). The same door (as it results from an addition to the old inscription, was restored in 1660). This prelate, following the footsteps of his predecessors, ordered the construction of the second bell tower, the one on the left, towards south, (1551-1555) having affixed on the front three coats of arm carved in stone: the Emperor Charles V in the middle, the viceroy Peter from Toledo to the right and the archpriest Salazar to the left. Below the coats of arm you can see the inscription, ruined in the final part, which reports the most important events lived by Altamura Church. During the time of archpriest Antonio de Rinaldis (1727-1746) the third floors of the two bell towers with the domes above them were built, also the “loggetta”.

THE EXTERNAL

The exterior: an architectural wonder that harmonizes the transformations of various ages; the soaring bells towers shoot up towards the sky, as to emphasize the mystery of   the Virgin Mary’s Assumption in which Frederick II, although considered by some sectarian literature of the time as an Antichrist and Atheist, wanted to dedicate this single religious monument, as a testimony of his faith and devotion, to the mother of Christ. We can appreciate various architectonic styles: the magnificent two bell towers (Romanesque), characterized in the second level by double lancet windows (Gothic).

The two bell towers may seem identical at first look, but they are diverse and belong to different periods: the one on the right represents the bell of the early construction, at the time of the emperor Frederick, around 1232. It rose up to the second level and was at the back façade as the entrance was at the west side. The bell on the left was, most probably, built between 1551 and 1555 up to the second level when the dean in charge was Vincenzo de Salazaar. During the time of archpriest Antonio de Rinaldis (1727-1746) the third floors of the two bell towers with the domes above them were built

La Loggetta (balcony, porch) was built in 1729 when the dean was Antonio De Rinaldis. In the middle, under the arch we can see the statue of the Virgin “Assunta”, on the left the statue of S. Peter, holding the keys and on the right the statue of S. Paul, holding the sword. All statues, in mazzaro (type of local stone) were sculptured by a priest of Altamura, named don Nicola Masiello. With the building of the loggetta the bell towers looked somehow squashed(pressed) on the entire façade) so the third levels (with smaller towers) were built with the relative domes. The domes were made in tufa (Baroque style) to match the loggetta. (Rounded, concave lines and with the final positioning of little crosses and flags the cathedral reached the height of meters 45,70.)

 The rose window

Supported by a small telamon, it was most probably built around the 1550, it is adorned by floral motifs. In the centre there is the “Agnus Dei ,”God’s lamb”.From the center 15 slender columns branch out ending with arabesque interwoven arches, enclosed by three concentric rings richly decorated. The capitals are different from one another. In a shape of a wheel with 15 rays and not 12, as you would see usually in a rose window, it represents possibly the date of the 15th of August when the religious festivity of the Lady of Assumption takes place.

 

 

The mullioned window with two lights (bifora)

The mullioned window placed on the Duomo Arch goes back to 1232 and it used to be right in the middle when the main façade was at the west side of the cathedral and together with the apse and one bell tower (the one you see on the right now) up to the second level only characterized the façade. The original Gothic window of the apse, which had been in place since the original construction in 1232, was moved to the left side to make room for the rose window.  It recalls some motifs present in the portal: we can see two side columns supported by two lions and a rich leafy decoration that acts as a frame. We can also admire a variety of animals , amongst these lions ,elephant ,griffon, snake placed on the main façade and also on side walls just because it was typical of Apulia decorations and also because Frederick  II loved animals, he was certainly a good hunter.

 

The coats of arms

The three coats of arm go back to 1550. The one in the middle, the largest one, represents the emperor Charles V of Habsburg; the one on the right represents the dean Vincenzo de Salazar and the one on the left the vice-King Pietro da Toledo. These coats of arm were deliberately put up by the dean V. Salazar to confirm and show publicly that only the emperor could appoint a dean. This unfortunately, cannot be made out clearly from the inscription.

The Gothic Portal

The star attraction of Altamura Cathedral is its main portal, built in the fourteenth century, after the collapse which took place in 1316, under the reign of Roberto of Anjou, when the entrance was moved from the west façade to the east side. Below the apex there are the coats of arms of Queen Joanna I of Anjou and her husband Louis of Anjou, branch of Taranto. Over the coat of arms a small statue of the blessing Christ seated on the throne.
The unique portal has an unusual local style with gothic and Romanesque influences. It is especially remarkable for its wealth of busy detail: a large number of biblical scenes are squeezed into a small space. Its effects are obtained by sharp contrasts due to heavy undercutting and embrasure.
The portal centres on a tympanum featuring the beautiful Virgin and Child flanked by two kneeling angels. In contrast to the rest of the portal, this part is spacious and serene. The lintel below is occupied by a fascinating depiction of the Last Supper with the Twelve Disciples. The long rectangular table is spread with loaves of bread, pairs of fish, and baskets. Instead of his usual position in the centre, Christ is seated on the far left, where he is being embraced and kissed on the cheek by a short-haired, beardless figure. This is probably a variation on the common theme of John, “the beloved disciple,” reclining on his breast as they dined. Alternatively, although the setting is wrong and the gesture seems too tender, it could represent the Kiss of Judas (which took place outside in the garden according to the Gospels). The inner    archivolt of the portal is carved with long vines that grow from vases held by women at the base, the water being an important source of life. The outer archivolt is framed by the Annunciation scene, with the Archangel Gabriel on the left and the Virgin Mary on the right. Between these two larger figures there are 22 miniature scenes from the life of Christ the balcony between the two bell towers with the statues of the Virgin of the Assumption, St. Peter holding the keys (on the left) and St. Paul holding the sword (on the right). Also the third floors of both bell towers with the domes were built in baroque style to match the loggetta. The surface of the church is of 1,188 square meters (54×22), reaching 45.70 meters high. The entire church was restored in its interior from 1854 to 1861 by the archpriest Falconi who replaced the floor in marble, lined the lower parts of the columns in marble and painted the top parts with stucco resembling marble enriching them with a wealth of gildings. The internal of the cathedral measures meters 35,50 in length, meters 18 in width and meters 23,80 in height. In 1869 it was declared a national monument. In February of 1975 the first works of Static consolidation funded by Cassa del Mezzogiorno were made, and in early 2000 new restoration work took place both inside and outside, which led also to new discoveries.

The Angevin door- Porta Angioina

The north side of the cathedral has not been changed since its construction in the 13th century. Large blind arches are pierced by slender Gothic windows, and above an elegant triforium runs. The third arch contains a deep niche called Porta Angioina, which was built 1316) at the behest of King Roberto I of Anjou by the sons of Consiglio, citizens of Bitonto, experts in the art. The coat of arms with a dedicatory inscription that appears above the door bear witness to this. The inscription in Latin in the tympanum reads: “I am a regal chapel, nobody dares challenge me because I, Roberto protected by the heavens will protect it”. The text is a clear testimony to the independence of the church of Altamura from any jurisdiction of the bishop and archbishop, subject only to papal authority. Higher up there is a bas-relief panel of a smiling St. Michael the Archangel standing on the dragon. The 12 mullioned window with 3 lights (trifore) date back to Frederick time. Decorated with floral motifs, finely fret worked, with an inner frame saw edge, the door is a typical example of the 14th century Angevin sculptured work. The wooden door is decorated with panels made up of high relief work depicting at the top, St. Peter, the Assumption, St. Joseph and St. Paul, heraldic arms, including the emblem of the city of Altamura as well as a number of bearded faces, at the bottom.
 

THE INTERIOR 

After having admired the exterior of the building, enchanted by the simple shapes and elegant stone work, one passing inside cannot hide his surprise.
The interior, in fact, is not what you would expect to find. It is the result of a laborious and costly intervention of modernization and restoration work
between 1854-60 under the arch prelacy of Giandomenico Falconi. The work was entrusted to Frederick Travaglini, assisted by the architect
Corradino de Judicibus. The church lost its ancient simplicity when its stone columns were covered with white and green marble from Calabria, with painted stuccos. Only the capitals were spared. The wooden ceiling was rebuilt, decorated with stucco and gildings, on which the arms of the most famous families who ruled the Kingdom of Naples (Angevin, Aragon, Habsburg, Savoy) as well those of Pope Pius IX and the prelate Falconi were affixed. The interior also was soon transformed into a great art gallery. Famous Neapolitan artists of the nineteenth century were called, with their works, embellished the side chapels. The inside of the church has a plan of a Romanic basilica with three naves and the structure plan of Frederick times: a rectangle with a central aisle, two side aisles The current entrance, originally, was the apse. His remains have been reported to light in 1997 from an excavation carried out by the Superintendence for Archaeological, Artistic and Historical Heritage of Puglia. The excavation brought to light twenty-three tombs containing some human remains and some elements of outfit.

The central aisle

The central aisle is characterized by 14 cylindrical columns, having an octagonal base, surmounted by beautiful capitals. The pillars support round arches, above them and on both side of the central aisle we can appreciate double mullioned windows, with various capitals of different styles and shapes. The small windows are also linked together by round arches and provide light to the women’s galleries placed on both sides.

The two Fonts

Entering the temple we see immediately on your right and left two fonts from the 1735 realized in marble representing the Virgin as it is raised to heaven surrounded by angels, all in a baroque style.

Ambo-The stone pulpit

Further onto the right we see the Ambo, an ancient pulpit in white stone, leaning against the door that leads to the bell tower overlooking Piazza Duomo. According to the priest Santoro Orazio, the pulpit made in limestone from Putignano was built in 1545 by master Francesco Pogheso also from Putignano. Also according to Santoro, its original location would have been next to the Episcopal chair near the first pillar in the presbytery.  It was placed in the current place in 1969. It has an octagonal shape with 7 slender columns which support panels representing bas-relief scenes from the life of Christ. The capitals have grotesque decorations. It was used to read passages from the bible and readings for mass.

The Presbytery
It is the result of the great extension work of the church, which began
almost immediately after the privilege granted in 1485 that raised the church from Parish to distinguished Collegiate church with a significant increase in the number of canons and chaplains. The need for an extension of the building could not be postponed. The work, however had to suffer a setback in 1494, the year of death of King Ferdinand I of Aragon. The Dean Francesco Rossi of Altamura could only resume the work in 1521, as the presbytery needed urgent repair work having been abandoned for several years. He could not, however, complete the work as he died in 1527, while in Altamura plague raged.
It was his successor, Niccolò Sapio who completed the work, making consolidation work to the structures and commissioned  the interior design.
He ordered that  three Neapolitan artists  built the precious wooden choir, the Episcopal chair, the pulpit  whereas the altarpiece was painted by Leonardo Castellano. The majesty of the main altar is what strikes the visitor, just as he crosses the main entrance. Built in 1735 with white and polychrome marble which replaced the wood one of the sixteenth century. In 1793 the brothers Cimafonte of Naples graced it by  placing  at the center  the altarpiece.
In the same year the statues of the Eternal Father, the two kneeling cherubims, the Holy Spirit and the two-head Eagle  were made  by the sculptor Antonio Beliazzi. The double eagle was the heraldic symbol of Charles V of Habsburg , who was  emperor during the construction of the temple, while  the two Seraphims  we carved in 1879 by Francesco Paolo Evangelista. Looking up at the ceiling, you can see  at  the four corners of the large side arches  the frescoes of the four Evangelists, works of Molinari.

The Altarpiece

The Assumption of the Virgin painting, 1546,  is one of the few surviving works by the Neapolitan painter Leonardo Castellano, an artist well known in his time .The work was commissioned to him in 1545 by Archpriest Niccolò Sapio and it was completed the following year when it was sent from Naples along with the  wooden perspective decorations which were assembled locally by Master Virgilio Imperato, a professional gilder.
The altarpiece had to wait until 1548 to be placed in its proper place. Master Leonardo spent a period of time between March 1547 and June of the following year to touch up and finish the painting. It was certainly at this time that he painted at the back of St. Peter, the figure of a man with beard and a hat, probably Niccolò Sapio, the dean, portrayed in the praying position. In 1793, when the prospect of wood was replaced with the marble, the framework was reduced to its current size by the painter Paolo Linari, who shortened the canvas both at the top and at the bottom.

The choir
The wooden choir, along with the Episcopal chair and the pulpit, is a testimony to the Neapolitan art of carving in the sixteenth century. The three artists who worked here building a true masterpiece  are: Colantonio Bonafida, Teodoro Marzano e Candiloro di Fanello. The choir, divided into two parts, consists of 64 stalls, divided into two levels: 38 at the top, and 26 at the bottom,( each side having 19 at the top and 13 at the bottom) .The upper stalls, in the form of a niche, are limited by slender columns and have the back carved in bas relief with figures of saints and personified Virtues. Those below are divided by consoles and have armrests worked with plant and animal motifs. Looking at the high altar, on the left there is the inscription that shows the year of completion and the name of the archpriest who commissioned the work, on the right the names of the artists who created the work. The Episcopal chair, during the recent restoration, was moved from its original position and placed at the center of the main altar, it also has the back  containing a bas-relief depicting the conversion of St. Paul, and above a carved canopy with the emblem of Archpriest Niccolò Sapio, in the center.
The marble balustrade which surrounded the whole area, built in 1823 by Gaetano Gravone ,marble workers of Naples and Giuseppe Scala of Corato, has been largely dismantled and some items have been  used to hold the central altar.

The Pulpit
Finely carved in walnut wood, it is the work of the same artists  who created the choir and the Episcopal chair.

Organs
On both sides of the perimeter walls of the chancel,  down to the two side aisles , there are two organs. The smaller one to the left, is the work of Fratelli Baldassare, church organ builders of Altamura and it was built in 1860, the other one, however, with 72 voices, was purchased from t Bossi-Vegezzi firm, of Turin in 1879.

The ceiling
The major renovations made in the nineteenth century also interested the ceiling that was totally renovated. The new wooden ceiling was enriched with stucco and gildings decorations . A series of emblems (coats of arm) ideally traces the history of the monument rich in royal collation (imprints, signs, evidence). On the ceiling of the sanctuary, starting from the presbyter, there are the coats of arm of Pope Pius IX and the archpriest Giandomenico Falconi (commissioner of the restoration), going forwards towards the exit, in the first section, the  double headed eagle, mistakenly placed there to indicate the coat of arms of Frederick II of Swabia and further on the Angevin one. This is followed, in the 2nd section, by the coat of arms of Aragon, Charles V of Habsburg and finally, in the 3rf section, the House of Savoy.

SAN NICOLA DEI GRECI

chiesas.nicola-198x300Bibliographic source from the book :

“San Nicola dei Greci” in the centenary1913- 2013(Parrocchia S. Nicola dei greci)

Chiesa S. Nicola dei Greci- Historical notes
The church of St. Nicholas of the Greeks (in Gothic-Roman style) was built in 1232 and it is located in Altamura, along the Corso Federico II of Swabia, a short walk from the Cathedral. It was authorized by Emperor Frederick II of Swabia, erected and consecrated at the same time of the Palatine Chapel of St. Mary, our lady of the Assumption, which later became a cathedral in 1232, with the parish function, to provide for the spiritual assistance of a thick community of Greek Eastern rites. These migrated from neighboring Greece, because of the iconoclastic persecution by the Byzantine Emperor Leo Isaulico. The Greek and Latin communities were two quite distinct and different realities and within the city they had their own legal and administrative representatives who defended the interests of their own group. The Greeks, unlike the Latin, handed down in addition to their traditions also their usages, customs, language and Greek culture, all of this in order to emphasize the unwillingness of integration between the two ethnic groups. The largest part of the clergy was the one of the priests of Greek-orthodox rite. Around the Church of St. Nicholas, the Greeks  homes by giving life and birth to a Greek quarter characterized by narrow alleys and small arched courtyards inhabited by families from the same family stock; the Latins populated the area around the cathedral and their quarter was characterized by closed roads in the shape of a bowel,a urban typology learned from Arab and Saracen towns. As time went by the elements characterizing the Greek rite decayed starting a massive Latinization and they slowly died out. In 1602 the clergy of Greek rite was replaced by a collegiate chapter of the Latin rite.

The portal
After a time of well-being for the Greek community which lasted nearly two centuries, the sacred building went through a period of decline due to the state of poverty of the Greek clergy. Therefore, in 1575 restoration work was needed, work that was entrusted to a local artisan named Nicola Gessa. The artisan created the portal with Gothic lines so that it was in harmony both with the rest of the building and also with the portal of Altamura Cathedral and with many other portals in Puglia. A large window above the porch was replaced with the rose window that we see today in the main façade. A triple decorative band embraces the lunette of the portal: the inner one ends at the height of the lintel and it consists of 8 panels, whose inner side is adorned with 8 stylized bas relief roses; the central one, which reaches down to the base, is composed of 30 panels; the external one which delimits the single arch of the porch portal (small porch), is decorated with a pattern of stylized thistle leaves. The porch portal, rests on two large shelves having the function of capitals that seem that suggest that in the past they surmounted two small columns which rested on two stone bases placed at the feet of the portal.The date 1576 carved on the porch summit indicates the date of its realization, while in the left corner the coat of arms of the prelate Vincenzo Palagano is represented in bas- relief (1557-1579) and the one on the right, always in bas- relief, the coat of arms of Ottavio Farnese (1542- 1586). The lintel, formed in a single block, is adorned with 6 tiles. The bas-reliefs of the lateral boards and architrave narrate with popular taste the stories of the Old and New Testament. It is interesting the image of the earthly paradise, a rich arboreal vegetation garden, surrounded by walls with one access door. The scenes of creation, the story of Cain and Abel, the construction of the ark and the Deluge flow. On the right vertical strip we find the scenes of the angel’s announcement to Mary, the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth, those of a very simple Nativity with angels, lambs and two delicious bagpipers. The left vertical strip, instead, shows the scene of the original sin and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden. Below there is the representation of Hell populated with horned devils, more grotesque than frightening. The infernal pains are synthesized by the huge pot in which a damned soul bakes.Hell is depicted as a city surrounded by battlemented walls, beneath the earthly Paradise. At the bottom of Hell,  Lucifer is seen falling chained into the abyss. In the classic tradition and in the Vulgate of St. Jerome the Abyss is personified by an unforgettable image of an old man with flowing hair and beard, symbols of Chaos.

The church interior has a single nave with six side chapels, three on each side, each having its own altar. These altars were built in 1600 drawing inspiration from the Spanish retablos. (Retablo: altar backbone Table). The typical plant of the chapels’ altar envisaged to the center the statue of the saint to whom it was dedicated, flanked by other figures of saints, separated by columns and cornices. Entering the church you can appreciate the baptismal font, made of local stone covered with bronze, which is one of the few evidences remaining of the old church. Continuing on the right side there are, in the respective chapels, the altars of St. Anthony of Padua, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Beatrice. On the left side, instead, you can admire the altars of Our Lady of La Salette, the Crucifix and St. Nicholas.The presbytery is characterized by a major pointed arch, which marks the division of the nave with the chancel, on which there is the inscription in Greek which means “free us from the eternal death, oh Lord, ‘and also the date 1550. The high altar, dedicated to the coronation of the Assumption, is characterized by a structure in wood and plaster, and it is covered with polychrome marble inlays recalling strongly the Neapolitan architecture of the period.The high altar can be attributed to the work of two masters: the marble table with fine sculptures to a Neapolitan artist and the painting of Mary crowned by the heavenly father among the angels and saints can be attributed to a local artist.The wooden choir, located in the presbytery, was removed and deposited in the nearby church of San Biagio, causing in this way the loss of many of the compositional elements. All that is left and located in the presbytery of St. Nicholas church are 14 dorsals of the old wooden choir which depict the Redeemer and thirteen saints. Another valuable element of the interior of the church is the splendid wooden coffered ceiling that covers the entire nave.Made of wooden painted slats, it has at its center a painting of the “glory of St. Nicholas” and to the 4 corners other oil paintings on canvas depicting the miracles of the saint. The pulpit, dating back to the eighteenth century, is made of wood with decorations in gilded stucco by an unknown local sculptor.

SAN BIAGIO

chiesasanbiagio-198x300The Chapel of San Biagio

The church of Saint Biagio, situated in Via Luca Samuele Cagnazzi, was built around 1621-22 on an ancient underground, the façade has simple architectural lines dating back to the restoration work carried out in 1742 as reported by the date on the facade. On the portal, on a pedestal  there is the polychrome statue of Saint Biagio and to the left of the façade a large fresco of 5 metersis placed, it  depicts St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers,a work by the artist Niccolò Maramonte of Altamura. The image represents, in a giant stature, Christopher, a Saint of the third century, a converted and martyred pagan. On the left shoulder he carries Christ the child from one bank of a river to another. From this legend the name “Christopher, the Christ-bearer.”On thetop of the facade you can see a large window flanked by two semi-pillars resting on tuff shelves and decorated with an angel’s head. It soon became the seat of the local Brotherhood of St. Crispin, the patron saint of shoemakers, and tanners. Later it became the seat of the Congregation of St. Blaise and it was limited to a few local and distinct families of artisan tradition. In ancient times Greek ritual celebrations took place in this church.On the side facade overlooking the course, you see a blind circular rose window and a door, while on Via Cagnazzi a small bell gable. Inside, in fact, there are two altars, the large one is dedicated to St. Blaise, the smaller one to St. Crispin. The interior has a single nave and, beside the altar, there are two more altars made of stone with gold decorations typical of the eighteenth century; a forepart where a precious wooden organ was placed is with a square plan with a star vault. There are also two sculptures representing St. Bonaventure and our Lady of sorrows.

SAN MICHELE AL CORSO

SAN-MICHELE-AL-CORSO-198x300It was built by the powerful brotherhood of Purgatory in the seventeenth century and it was dedicated precisely to the souls in Purgatory. It has a simple façade on which a rectangular large window stands. The bell tower contains two bells dating back to the nineteenth-century, the larger one on the left (1839), the smaller one placed on the right (1892). The interior contains valuable paintings of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, among which the Madonna of the Purgatory by Francesco Guarini, the greatest painter of the seventeenth century from Gravina town. The high altar and the presbytery are rococo masterpieces. Amazing even the nineteenth century organ by Tommaso Capitelli from Altamura town.

 

 

 

 

 

SAN DOMENICO

San-Domenico-luca-bellarosa

(photo by Luca Bellarosa)

A Church dating back to 1716, located on Piazza Zanardelli, once “planicio Sancti Marci”, (flat area of St. Marc”), when it was outside the walls, extending into the long building of the convent. The Dominicansbuilt the entire complex from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. The convent during the nineteenth century was first turned into a seminary and later into a boarding school. Today ithouses the Archive Library Museum and above it the classical Cagnazzi high school. The church of San Domenico was built in 1716. The facade is made of tufa and it is complemented at the topby lovely dome, with an octagonal plan, lined with bright majolica tiles, which reaches more than 37 meters in height.The bell tower, incomplete at the top, has two storeys of windows. The church is a noble example of Apulian Baroque featuring in its interior paintings and altars typical of the eighteenth century style and its precious majolica tiled floor of 1750, which imposes itself for its clean and elegant lines which are powerful together at the same time. The second chapel on the left, enclosed by a marble balustrade, is dedicated to the Brotherhood of SS. Rosario and it contains the most magnificent and valuable altar of the church, in whose perspective the large canvas by Giuseppe Porta (1748) is set. The painting depicts the Madonna of the Rosary with St. Dominic, St. Catherine and St. Rosa.The second chapel on the right (of Saint Thomas of Aquinas) houses a tomb slab of Viti family. At the center of the presbytery the sumptuous high altarrich in polychrome marbles and magnificent sculptures stands, behind which the wooden choiris located, a work by a local craftsman (1855). On the back wall there is the valuable painting of the Sacred Family (from the first half of the seventeenth century), attributed to the painter Massimo Stanzione.At the height of the 1799 rebellion, the Republicans raised the tree of freedom in Piazza Duomo, which was carried in procession by the entire people, starting from the church of San Domenico.

SANTA CHIARA

chiesasantachiara-200x300The church was completed in its first phase of construction in 1679 while the foundation of the monastery of the Poor Clares dates back to 15 November 1682 with the solemn entry into the new monastery of Sister Battista Costantini and Brigida Viti from the monastery of S. Maria del Soccorso already established in the city of Altamura, altogether there were seventeen novices and two nuns.The façade, characterized by a compact masonry of well squared blocks, was completed in 1705-1706: it is articulated in two registers by a string course cornice, which goes along, in the movement, with the recesses and protrusions of the four pilasters resting on a rusticated pedestal placed at the sides of the central portal. On the lintel of the latter, decorated with triglyphs and rosettes, between two scrolls a niche is inserted which houses the statue of the Immaculate, while two more niches, open up at the sides of the portal,decorated with frames and elegant clamshell bowl, welcome the statues of St. Chiara on the right and St. Francis, on the left. The Baroque bell tower, which riseson the right side of the church, was rebuilt between 1722 and 173 following a collapse of the bell tower itself. It is marked horizontally into four sections by molded cornices and ended with a termination bulb. The ornamental refinement is entrusted to the alternation of rustication, of smooth pilasters, now marked by horizontal blocks, from the large openings bounded by balusters.In addition to the main entrance there is a second lateral one that opens onto Via Santa Chiara.
The interior,with a single nave, with a flat termination presbytery presents some side altars, made of simple shapes, but embellished with paintings of unknown painters of the eighteenth century.Of considerable interest is the rich wooden decoration, with its profusion of plant motifs that cover the soffits of the arches and complete the picture frames. On the second pillar on the right there is the wooden pulpit, with dense leafy scrolls decoration, carved and gilded, and with a big opened eagle carved in the base and ending with an elegant canopy; this is probably the work of workers from Lucania.The presbytery is enriched by an altar in white and polychromemarble, elevated on three steps, above which the canvas of Saints Francis, Clare and Antonio (around the first half of the eighteenth century). is positioned.Among the paintings it is worth mentioning the passing of St Joseph, the Martyrdom of the medical saints Cosmos and Damian, the Virgin and Child between St. Mark and St. Francis of Paola, St. Mary Magdalene, the repentant, and St. Stephen.The religious complex was founded thanks to the legacy of a priest of Altamura, Jacobutio de Cobutiis, who in 1519 donated many goods with the desire a monastery of the Poor Clares could be built. The monastery is still home to a community of the order of St. Clare, taking up an entire block in the heart of the old town center.

MUSEUMS

NATIONAL ARCHEOLOGIC MUSEUM

MUSEO-ARCHEOLOGICO-NAZIONALE-300x200It is located on Via Santeramo. It is the most important state museum of the territory. It was founded in 1964 by the will of Altamura ABMC (Archive Library Museum), it was then handed on to the State in 1987. Its realization was made possible thanks to the extraordinary commitment of Fabio Perinei, a known local political figure, who died a few years ago. On the first floor of the museum the evolution of the people of the Alta Murgia is documented: from the Lamalunga field (site of the Archaic Man’s discovery) to the Neolithic village of Malerba. There is also a section dedicated to the early medieval site of Belmonte, where you can admire exhibits of the highest value

 

 

THE ARCHIVE LIBRARY MUSEUM

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abmc-300x200Located in the large Piazza Zanardelli, within the complex that houses the classical high school “Cagnazzi”, it is flanked by the imposing church of San Domenico. Strongly wanted in the 60s, by Count Sabini Celio, it is now the most important cultural center of the city. You will find  here a rich archival heritage that counts medieval parchments and books of great historical value and a library of thousands of volumes, consulted daily by students and scholars for their research.

 

 

 

THE ETHNOGRAPHIC MUSEUM OF ALTA MURGIA

museo-etno-300x225It finds its origin in the Museum of Rural Civilization. It was founded in 1980 by Pietro Locapo. The museum heritage consists of one thousand objects, related to a period between the last decades of the1800 and the 1950s. The museum offers the visitor a trip in rural and pastoral civilization of the Alta Murgia. There are many objects, divided by category, from those of the agricultural and pastoral sector to those of domestic life and the crafts and trades world.

 

 

 

 

THE MUSEUM OF PRINTING ART “PORTOGHESE”

tipografiaportoghese-300x200The Portoghese Printing Firm, founded in 1891 and closed in 2000, retains the printing machines dating back to more than a century, the platen press, ancient paper cutters, and a rich collection of printing plates (municipal coats of arms, symbols of political parties for ballot papers, etc.) and a collection of movable wooden and lead letters. The museum was opened in 2010 and today carries out interesting educational activities aimed at the restoration of the ancient art of printing.

GATEWAYS AND PLAZAS

Altamura4

Located at the four cardinal points, the access doors to the acropolis were placed along the circumference of the city walls, dating back to the Classical Age and fortified during the Middle Ages.

The best preserved city gate is the north gate: Porta Bari (of the remaining doors, however, nothing remains except the access gate). It dates back to the seventeenth century, it is in baroque style and holds the statues, made in mazzaro, of the town’s patron saints, St. Irene and St. Joseph. The gate’s top is surmounted by a twentieth century monstrance, a symbol of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. It overlooks Piazza Unità d’Italia, on which a column with the statue of ‘Our Lady of Buoncammino’ stands.

Following the city wall in an eastern and clockwise direction you will come upon ‘Porta dei Martiri’ (Gate of the Martyrs), commonly known as “Purtecedde”. Passing under its arc, the gate leads to the square of the same name. This gate was one of the minor entrances, the so-called “small doors”, which usually were located between two major gates. This gate, infact, is situated right between ‘Porta Graecorum’, to the north, and ‘Porta delle Fosse’, to the east. It was built in the thirteenth century and, in course of time, has undergone various alterations, losing its original defensive aspect and becoming a simple stone arch. surmounted by private construction who opened doors and windows. Today, in fact, it is possible to distinguish the ashlar portal and the deep arc fornix. In its external parts you can appreciatd a small piece of fortifications built during the rule of the house of Aragon who had ordered the extension and the renovation of the old walls built by Sparano da Bari.

Located further to the southeast was ‘Porta Foggiali’, which no longer exists, whose name derived from the extensive underground caverns which had been dug right beneath the nearby square of the same name and served as the city’s granaries.

‘Porta Matera’ (no longer existing) was located to the south. A plaque attached to a nearby building commemorates the siege and sack of the city by the anti-Republican Army of the “Holy Faith”, organized and led by the fanatic cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo. The square outside the former gate saw some of the fiercest fightings of the year 1799 and is still named Piazza della Resistenza (Square of the REsistance). Finally, located to the west, and close to the eponymous church, is ‘Porta Santa Teresa’. From here the inhabitants of Altamura fled to the countryside after the plundering hordes of cardinal Ruffo had entered the city from the south. In the middle of the road axis Matera-Bari, the current “Corso Federico II di Svevia”, there is Piazza Duomo, the main square: the spiritual, social and economic heart of the city, also called Plataea rerum venalium, once on a square plan, with a porch, where several workshops were hosted. It was the place of residence of some prestigious families of origin, both Latin and Greek, and on it the majestic Cathedral is implanted.

‘Porta Santa Teresa’ Opened at the beginning of the seventeenth century with the construction of the convent of the Barefoot Carmelites. It was opposite the homonymous church, from which the Altamura population fled to the surrounding countryside during the siege of the Sanfedists in 1799.

‘Porta Alba’ It is the oldest, it opens onto the megalithic walls built by Peucetii and it looks to the east, where dawn rises.
It is visible, to the extreme of the homonymous street, among the ruins of the boulders and walls, in what it is left of it: two strong door jambs that break the continuity of the walls in the place where the Peucetii placed the door as the street entrance to their fortified city.

 

 

Located almost at the center of the axis Porta Bari – Porta Matera, Corso Federico II di Svevia, is Piazza Duomo (Dome’s Square), the religious, social and commercial focal point of the city. Also called Platea rerum venalium, the square once featured a porch which hosted several workshops of local craftsmen. Also some of the most prestigious families of the old city, both Greek and Latin, used to reside here. Noteworthy among the many squares of the old town are further: Piazza Matteotti (commonly known as Piazza Castello, because of the ancient Norman castle that stood on it until it was demolished in the last century), until a few year ago it housed also the town’s biggest fruit and vegetable market; Piazza Municipio (Town Hall Square) with Altamura’s town hall which was built on the site of the likewise demolished Franciscan convent and church from the fifteenth century; Piazza Zanardelli (commonly known as “villetta”, in order to distinguish it from the larger “Villa Comunale”, a broad and tree-lined square which extends from the Consolation Church to the church San Domenico. It features a Monument to the Fallen of World War I and occupies a part of the former Planitio Sancti Marcii*); Piazza San Giovanni (small square behind the cathedral which once featured also a chapel of the same name); Piazza Resistenza (outside the city wall, in proximity of ‘Porta Matera’, its name commemorates the siege and sack of Altamura in 1799 by the hand of cardinal Ruffo and his “Army of the Holy Faith”); Piazza Mercadante (adjacent to the homonymous square, on which stands a monument with the bust of the great musician and composer, a work of sculptor Zocchi).

CLOISTERS

CLAUSTRO-TRICARICO-300x198

Deriving from the Latin claustrum (enclosed space), “gnostre” in the local dialect, the cloisters are an element of uniqueness due to their history and architectural originality. They represent the symbiosis of various ethnicities in Altamura called by Emperor Frederick II of Swabia in 1232 with the intent to repopulate the city, granting tax exemptions to: Greek, Latin, Jewish, Arab.  They are, therefore, an architectural testimony and tangible evidence of peaceful coexistence of different religious communities.  The cloisters are presented as small squares, more or less wide, enclosed by houses that overlook on them and they open up onto the main streets of the historic center: you have access to their courty ard from a narrow alley. The courtyard is slightly inclined inward for the collection of rain water – in fact, inside them, there are tanks from which the various families could, in the past, draw water. They are characterized by the presence of some special architectural elements, although with some variations: stairs, arches, balconies, lodges, balconies, windows, small terraces, stone rings, “rock seats”, and they are enriched with ornamental elements carved into the tuff: grotesque masks, coats of arms, votive figures. The function of these special spaces of the Altamura urban fabric was mainly intended to help the aggregation of various families, but they also served as a defensive purpose, that’s why the “claustri” have only one entrance. There are more than 80 claustri in which the ancient center of the city is divided, some of which are particularly noteworthy.

 The Claustro of Giudecca, located on Via S. Lucia, which derives from Judah, one of Jacob’s sons who settled in the country of Judea, is the most unique in planimetric layout, consisting of a branched Square: seen from above, in fact, it reminds the Jewish Menorah (chandelier with three arms, corresponding to three small blind alleys that depart from the central square). The name reminds that this cloister was inhabited by the Jewish community, one of the most numerous and lively ethnic groups in Apulia region since the ninth century mainly dedicated to trade; at the entrance of the cloister, right at the top, a small caryatid called Synagogue, placed there as to protect the inhabitants of the cloister, welcomes those who enter.

 Among others, worthy of a visit are: Claustro Tradimento, situated on Via G. Falconi, of average size, whose name refers to the legend of the alleged “betrayal” of some of Altamura people that would have let the city capitulate in 1799, so allowing it to return again under the Bourbon monarchy. It is characterized by low relief sculptures placed on the walls of a dwelling (apotropaic grotesque masks, flowers and shells).

The Claustro Tricarico, on Via S. Lucia, which takes its name from the owner of the building located inside it, professor of medicine at the University of Altamura (mid-eighteenth century), presents in the courtyard, in addition to the water spring well, the remains of an ancient mill, used for the working of cereals;

The Claustro dei Mori, situated on via G. Santini, dedicated to the ethnic group of the Moors or Saracens, who lived there until the arrival of the Longobards and Normans, is located below the ground level: it is accessed, in fact, going down a flight of steps.

The Claustro Altieri, on Via M. Continisio, dedicated to the local sculptor Giuseppe Nicola Altieri (late sixteenth century), a fine expert in woodworking, is also remembered with the name of “puppets”, clearly referring to the existence of artisan workshopsonsite.

The Claustro fratelli Salvatore, on Via Laudati, has in the middle an ancient cistern rainwater in common use, is decorated with arches and a beautiful statue of the Madonna with child, placed in a shrine.

The Claustro Antodaro, on Via Santa Chiara, on the ground floor has a small porch delimited by a column with Romanesque capital. On a second-story window you can see a Latin inscription and on the right wall stands out a bas-relief of a large mask. It was inhabited mostly by priests and is handed on that it was a shelter for the elderly.

THE LANDSCAPE OF THE MURGE

Foto Murgia 3

Territory: the Murge of Apulia and Altamura

The territory of Apulia, which is a narrow strip of land, can be subdivided into five sub-regions; three of them – Gargano, Murge, and Salento – are composed of a powerfu lsequence of limestone rock that was deposited in a shallow sea during the Mesozoic Age, between 200 and 100 million years ago. In particular, the Murge is a wide area of tablel and, 50 Km wide and 150 Km long, of a basically rectangular shape, with a North-West to South-East orientation; it is placed mostly in the province of Bari, whilst a minor part of it is located in the provinces of Brindisi and Taranto. The northwestern portion, called “Murgia Alta”, that is high Murgia, is a slightly hilly tableland area sloping towards the Adriatic Sea by a series of blunt-edged terraces. The whole area is marked by karstic phenomena related to the dissolution of calcium carbonate stone by rainfall, which has given rise to caves, swallow holes and dolines – some of them quite large and deep, locally termed as “puli” (see the pulo of Altamura). This area is almost stripped bare of vegetation and poor in surface running water on account of the thick mesh of stone cracks that channel all the rainfall towards the underlying karstic water layer; it is a bleak landscape where traditional forms of human settlement have been preserved. In addition to these landscape features, the Altamura area includes items of outstanding cultural and archaeological interest as shown by two locations – the De Lucia quarry, with thousands of dinosaur footprints dating back to about 70 million years ago, and the Lamalunga cave, where the only complete skeleton of a man existing in our world dating back to 130,000- 100,00 years ago. Both of them bear a unique testimony to the history of Earth and to the evolution of our species.

 

HIGH MURGIA NATIONAL PARK

foto parco nazionale High Murgia national park

  • Region: Puglia
    • Province: Bari, Barletta, Andria and Trani
    • Municipalities: 13
    • Extension: 68,033 hectares
    • Institution: Law no. 426 of December 9, 1998, Presidential Decree ofMarch 10, 2004
    • Managing body: National Park Authority of the High Murgia

The park is spread over a steppic territory that goes from Barletta coastup to the calcareous plateau of the Murgia that marks the border with Basilicata. Some of the most interesting towns of Apulia like Altamura and the architectural masterpiece of Castel del Monte, a historic hunting reserve of Frederick II, are within the area concerned.The foundation of the park is due to the significant natural values of the territory – which is one of the most important steppe areas in Italy, with the presence of various endemic flora and one of the largest populations of birds of the steppes. The area has also a high landscape and cultural value and, thanks to the presence of karst phenomena that shaped the limestone of the area (making possible the original rural architecture: “jazzi” or sheep farms, farmhouses, snow-houses, shrines, dry stone walls) numerous prehistoric remains such as the finds of the Altamura Man.The main aspect of the territory is characterized by landscapes almost “lunar” that are the result of an action of a thousand years old erosion caused by the wind and the rainwater which have shaped over the centuries the calcareous plateau forms, by creating an exceptional heritage of karstic phenomena. The most widespread are the karstic basins and sinkholes like the Pulo of Altamura with its 550 meters in diameter and 92 meters deep and the Pulicchio of Gravina. The most obvious consequence of the karst is the almost total disappearance of surface hydrography, perennial watercourses that is perennial watercourse such as lakes and streams, of which today only the numerous erosion furrows, the so-called “lame” remain.The underground hydrography is much more developed and can reach up to 400 meters below sea level. The most common forms are underground wells, sinkholes, chasms, caverns and caves, often adorned with stalactites and stalagmite formations like the cave of Torre di Lesco. Most of the Murgia area, today, is covered with sub-steppe vegetation of the herbaceous or low shrub type.Today the presence of oak trees along the northern border facing towards the Adriatic prevails. In this area about 1,500 plant species have been counted, that is 25 percent of the species present on the whole national territory. Of particular relevance and variety are the micro-landscapes of lichens, mosses, steppe grasses or lands in which some sort of stipa commonly called ‘flax of the fairies’ grows.In the pasture, we find the most representative endemic species among whichwild orchids, some are bushy, other arboraceous. The grass layer is mainly composed of graminaceous plantsand it is distinguished by the presence of ferule (a type of giant wild fennel plant) and asphodels. In the woods the prevailing species are the downy oak, theQuercus trojana(another type of oak), the Kermes oak, holm oak, turkey oak and quercus farnetto. The fauna that colonizes these environments has adapted itself to the vegetation, although hunting and the environmental changes have led to extinction many species from the beginning of this century like the wolf, the Egyptian vulture, the wild cat, the little bustard. Small animals prevail (insects and other invertebrates, small birds, micro-mammals).The wild birds of this area are characterized by about 75 species, mostly related to open environments, cereal crops, pastures, uncultivated grounds. In fact, many birds nest directly onto the ground like the grille, theshort-toed lark,the Skylark, the crested lark and the woodlark. Of particular interest are the birds of prey; besides the buzzard, the sparrow hawk and the Lanner, the High Murgia houses the largest and most numerouspopulationof Kestrel hawk in Europe, best known as the lesser kestrel, recognized by the EU as “priority conservation species “. Amphibians by their nature arefound in the vicinity of karst ponds, tanks or wells. The arid and rocky environment that characterizes the High Murgia is the ideal habitat for many species of reptiles. Among these, because of the fact that they present only here, the gecko Kotschy and leopard snake arouse interest. The populations of thecommon tortoise are also significant. The class of mammals registers smaller presence, with about 25 species, among which the shrew, the Savi’s water vole, the field mouse. Among the predators the fox, the weasel, the marten must be enumerated. In the few forest areas the rate and the porcupine are present.

 

THE PULO

Foto pulo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The famous Pulo of Altamura, located approximately at 6 km from the city, is a glimpse into the horizon, without a doubt the most impressive karst of High Murgia, a huge sinkhole with a diameter of about 500 meters and 92 meters deep. Despite its look as much like a crater, its origin is not volcanic, but karstic.The walls of the northern slope, which are those in almost vertical slope, have numerous ravines and natural caves probably inhabited in prehistoric times by hominids, that with the natural evolution process would have given rise to the species to which the Man of Altamura (dating to Neanderthal man times) and his clan belong, whose discovery occurred in a place not far away from the Pulo.Thanks to its special microclimate, the Pulo has become an ideal habitat of several rare plant and animal species in the rest of the Murgia, like the raven that nests on the steep walls of the Pulo. Many of the objects found here are now preserved in the National Archaeological Museum of Altamura.

 

THE FLORA

mjurgia 7The High Murgia park displays an intense variety of flora and fauna, in a diversity that gives the landscape a unique and characteristic image. Thanks to the variety of animal and plant species the air is enriched with aromas and it is filled with recalls, while the backgrounds fade away from the dense foliage to the subtlety of the stems, or crumble violently to the instantaneous passage of a bird of prey.The flora stands up proudly at the height of the landscape in which it germinates. The oaks rise domineering, asthey are the large majority in the area, accompanied in smaller numbers by the cypress and the Aleppo pine. To the latter, since 1930, active reforestation plants are dedicated which extend themselves as much in the internal areas as in those coastal regions of Puglia for about 25 thousand hectares. The natural pastures are populated by almond trees, medlars and olive trees, while the steppe soils are covered by the herbaceous vegetation: there are many species of wild orchids growing in these areas.

 

 

THE FAUNA

animale-murgia-2-lucaAmong the wildlife many species that are also very curious must be included. The steppe is seen overflown by an important amount of diurnal birds, including the so-called Lesser Kestrel, while at night you can listen to the sounds of birds of prey such as barn owls, long eared owls or eagle owls, among the most common. The presence of the hawk proves surprisingly very important in the urban context, since its laboriously manufactured nests blend in with the architecture of the village, in a very genuine and artistic fusion. But the natural treasure of the High Murgia does not end with the birds. Many are the amphibians that tred on its soil, such as the Italian newt or the viper. As for mammals, it is very common the encounter with foxes, weasels, martens, but also rates and badgers, while the appearance of wolves is rarer.

(photo by Luca Bellarosa)

 

 

THE LESSER KESTREL

falco grillaio2

(photo by Luca Bellarosa)

The lesser kestrel is a bird of prey belonging to the Falconidae family. It is the smallest of the family as it measures just 33 cm in length with a wingspan of 70 cm. You can distinguish the two sexes for the different colour of the plumage. The male is brown with shades of gray, while the female is reddish brown, with black strikethrough.Very similar to the kestrel, the Lesser Kestrel can be recognized by the absence of dark spots on the back and for the colouring of the paws which are yellow, while in the kestrel are black.
The lesser kestrel has a very wide area of deployment that includes Europe, Asia and Africa. In Europe you can find it in the southern regions such as Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Poland and the former Soviet Union. It tends to spend the winter in Africa in particular in the Mediterranean regions. In Italy it is present mainly in the southern regions such as Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia. The natural habitat of the lesser kestrel is made up of barren lands, arid and open with low vegetation, composed mainly of grass and shrubs, where it is able to find food more easily. In winter it settles in the African savannah. It is a migratory species and attends our country during the breeding season, between March and September. The lesser kestrel nests mostly in caves and holes in Puglia and Basilicata, located under the roof spaces and in the facades of the old buildings of historic centers. The lesser kestrel owes its name to its eating habits. His diet, in fact, is composed mainly of insects such as crickets, grasshoppers and beetles. Although not equipped with powerful claws, it can occasionally capture rodents and lizards too. The hunt takes place on the ground with the ambush technique. The lesser kestrel is a very sociable bird of prey and does not fear the presence of man.

TYPICAL PRODUCT

padrepeppejpg

THE PADRE PEPPE, WALNUT LIQUEUR

Padre Peppe – The History.

In the early 19th century in a monastery of Altamura, the capuchin friar Giuseppe Ronchi started fostering a dream: producing an elixir to cure body and soul on a cold winter’s night and hot summer days. He felt that this could only be achieved by respecting nature and using mother’s nature gifts. One day, while he was looking at the walnut grove of the cloister, he had an idea: he picked the walnuts which still were in their green bull and he felt his dream was about to come true. It took several years to develop the final recipe, but friar Giuseppe had plenty of patience. His scrupulosity and his desire to create something which would have made people think of him with gratitude in the future did the rest. Now when we sip Padre Peppe we cannot fail to be grateful to friar Giuseppe and to his wonderful dream.

 

foto-cialledde

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Ciallèdde
It is the typical way to use and eat Altamura bread.
Ingredients:
Altamura stale bread, cut in thin slices and extra-virgin olive oil.

Broth:
½ litre of water;
1 sliced onion;
3 cloves of garlic;
1 stick of celery;
few cherry tomatoes;
a pinch of salt;
parsley and red-chilli pepper.

Cut the bread in thin slices and lay them on the plate. Cook all the ingredients and pour the broth onto the sliced bread. Season with extra-virgin olive oil.

Options:
With one poached egg in the broth.
With potatoes;
With black olives;
With “cime di rape”(top turnips).

 

The farmers used to eat the Ciallédde, served in the traditional plate made of clay used by the reapers, that had the shape of an inverted cone, glazed in its internal part and formerly used during wheat harvesting.

Dinosaur Footprints, The Man of Altamura, The bread of Altamura.

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DINOSAUR FOOTPRINTS

The uniqueness of Altamura is also attested by thousands of dinosaur foot prints that have been discovered in 1999 outside the city, in De Lucia quarry, in Via Santeramo. Over 25.000 foot prints of at least 5 different species of dinosaurs have been preserved in the Altamura mud. The stratigraphic layer probably dates back to the Cretaceous period, more precisely the santonian period (83,5 – 85,8 million years ago). It is the most important and best preserved discovery in Italy and in Europe.

The climate in Apulia, during that time period, was very different from today’s one: a tropical climate, much warmer. This permitted the conservation of the prints; they were dried by the sun before they were covered by other calcareous layers. One can imagine these animals moving around on a sort of muddy plain, a clear carbonate mud in which they left their imprints, quite deep even. In some foot prints it is possible to see the holes where mud was taken attached to the foot of the dinosaur. In some cases, one can see the articulation of the foot or the folds of the skin. The footprints that have been studied so far have been ascribed to the ornithischian dinosaurs, probably ornithopods (with three toes). Marginocephalia and thyreophora are not escluded. All of these dinosaurs are herbivores. It is assumed that these dinosaurs were smaller than their contemporaries.  The area in which they lived was geographically isolated. Therefore, there was less room and need for them to evolve as enormous as other dinosaurs.

The prints are important because they can give information about different aspects: the skeletal motor apparatus, posture, the walk, behavior, speed and environmental preferences of dinosaurs. The site also offers a contribution to paleo-environmental and paleo-geographic reconstructions. Infact it changed the previously assumption of a partially submerged region that was thought to be the Murgia millions of years ago. Dinosaurs need a large and stable environment in order to find enough food. The quarry is a candidate for UNESCO’s world heritage list. The footprints left by dinosaurs in the De Lucia quarry,cannot be visited for the time being as they will be shortly undergo restoration work and hopefully they are expected to be included in an ad-hoc archaeological park. Dinosaur footprints have been discovered in various places in Italy (Liguria, Veneto, Tuscany, Campania, Sardinia). For instance, at the ichnological site of Lavini di Marco (Rovereto, Trento region), footprints and trackways related to over 200 dinosaurs from the Jurassic period (Liasperiod, about 200 millions years ago) have been detected. However, the De Lucia Cave, with its thousands of footprints is a unique site. Although they had remained intact for so many years they started to deteriorate in the last 14 years and so a urgent action needed to be taken. The expropriation of the quarry by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, announced in 2011, has finally occurred. Let’s just hope that the severity of neglect lasted years (and still ongoing) may come to an end and serious work can start to prevent the numerous foot prints from undergoing more vandalism and erosion due to the atmospheric agents.

 

THE MAN OF ALTAMURA

L'uomo di AltamuraIn October 1993, a group of spelaeologists exploring the Lamalunga cave, one of the numerous karstic caves in the region, run into the complete skeleton of a prehistoric man dating back to about 130,000 years ago. The man had remained trapped in the cave, which is part of the Altamura Murge area and is currently one of its most significant elements. It is made up of several galleries extended not far beneath the limestone surface, which is crossed by vertical pits. At a given stage in the long history of the cave, it is difficult to say precisely when, the palaeontological findings were deposited and subsequently dispersed on account of the periodical inflow of water; later on, the findings were covered by concretions. The maingallery in the cave, which is currently inactive and suspended on the bottom of the valley, can be accessed via a verticalpit, at whose base collapsed stones and an imposing depositconoid can be found. On the soil there are spread mostly complete bones of animals, which show higher concentrations in some areas; they belong to hyenas, deers, fallowdeers, and horses and are covered by a thin calcareous sheet as well as, in some cases, by “coralshaped” concretions. The same concretions, producing a major visual impact, cover the remains of the human skeleton located in the area called “the Man’s Apse”. Some of the bones, in particular the overturned skull, were moved about by the inflow of water that in the past was present in the cave. They are of outstanding interest for human palaeontological studies, as they provide a unique opportunity for studying the only complete skeleton existing in the world that appears to be especially well preserved also in its most fragile anatomic parts, such as the internal walls of the orbits. The decision not to remove the skeleton from this site, the skeleton being cemented to calcareous rock, has increased the difficulties and time required for an in-depth study; still, image analysis allowed attributing it to an archaicHomo sapienss howing some features that will be typical of Neandertalians. To ensure the conservation it is not possible to visit the paleontological remains within the Lamalunga cave, but scholars and visitors can view a recorded footage of the cave in its minute details through monitors placed both the Archaeological Museum of Altamura and to Masseria Ragone Lamalunga, the latter is located at just 800 meters from the cave of the Altamura man.

Examining the bones, it is clear that it concerns a male (one can tell from the pelvis) of about 1.60 or 1.65 meters in height (measuring the femur) who probably reached an age of 35. The skull is very interesting because it shows characteristics of two human species: most (the face, the jaw and the long flat head) are characteristic for the Homo erectus (who made his way into Europe about little over 500.000 years ago).  But the pronounced ridges over the eye sockets are characteristic features of the Neanderthal (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) who was in Europe possibly as early as 300.000 years ago and became extinct around 28.000 years ago.  Thus modern Italians (or humans) do not derive from this skeleton or these species.

Theory is that the man (while hunting) fell down into the cave (from the original entrance) and was unable to come out and eventually starved to death. He did not break anything in the fall. He probably walked around in search of an exit and arrived at end of the cave. Know that thousands of years ago the cave was different and some narrow passages were more spacious for sure. Note that inside the cave there’s no light besides arriving from the entrance. A total darkness can lead to panic. Other theory is that he died outside the cave and was washed inside by water or the water washed him into the corner. The bone sample, recovered in 2009 that corresponds to a portion of the right scapula, has allowed the DNA extraction and the measurement of certain morphological characteristics.The new findings place the skeleton in a period between 170 thousand and 130 thousand years ago, that is the final phase of the Middle Pleistocene, unlike most European Neanderthal artifacts that date back to the the Upper Pleistocene, instead. “This is therefore a unique fossil of inestimable scientific value. It is the oldest and most completeNeanderthal specimen of which the DNA is also known.

mappa cava uomo di Altamura

 

(The map of the Cave)

 

 

 

 

The face of the Altamura Man

volto1A study, thanks to different imaging techniques applied to the skeleton found in the Lamalunga cave, in Puglia, reveals the face of the Man of Altamura. In fact, two Paleo-Dutch artists Adrie and Alfons Kennis, were able to reconstruct the face of the Man of Altamura. The reconstruction shows that the Man of Altamura had a stocky body, a wide pelvis, not very high in stature, about 1.65m, a bulging forehead, an elongated skull in the rear part, a big nose probably due to the adaptation to the penultimate glaciation. The most striking finding of the research is the skull, which has just a very archaic shape, that is why the finding is extremely important. This reconstruction will open a new era of research that will hopefully clarify important aspects of human evolution.The Altamura Man model will be exhibited in a dedicated area for the new museum center of the Apulian town which will be inaugurated in the coming months. The operation, promoted by the municipality of Altamura and the Archaeological Superintendence of Puglia region, has benefited fromthe data obtained in more than five years of study and analysis, conducted through collaboration between Italian scientists and cavers of the Altamura speleological research center (CARS).

 

THE BREAD OF ALTAMURA

foto pane di Altamura

(Source: “Regulations for the P.D.O. Altamra Bread.”)

The bread, as a basic element of the diet in the Alta Murgia populations, traditionally produced in large pieces, in his characteristic form, called “u sckuanète”, was mixed and kneaded largely by women in their homes, and taken topublic bakeries in order to be baked. The production of the bread was therefore a choral act, socially and culturally, in which the family and the private sphere came into contact with the public one. To prevent the loaves from getting mixed up, the baker used to mark them with the initials of the owner or the head of the family, initials which were printed on an iron stamp. Only then did he proceed to bake themThe main characteristic of the bread was the durability, indispensable to ensure the sustenance of farmers and shepherds in the weeks they would be spending away from home, working in the fields or pastures, on the Murgia hills. The lunch consisted for these workers basically of a bread soup flavoured with extra virgin olive oil and salt. Altamura bread is still produced today,since the Middle Ages,following the ancient recipe handed down by farmers and shepherds throuh generations. The ingredients have remained the same over the centuries – durum wheat flour, natural yeast, salt and water – as well as the manufacturing process which consists of five stages: mixing-kneading, moulding, rising of the dough, shaping, baking in a wood burning oven.Today “Altamura’s bread” is the center of an intense industrial production, capable of responding to the needs and trends of the market, though maintaining a strong sense of continuity with tradition by keeping its original identity and working skills within a technologically modernized and an ever increasing automated context.

One of the most significant aspects of “Altamura’s bread”, together with its flavour and digestibility, is its prolonged capacity of preservation (the bread keeps its nice taste for two/three days from the date of production).

The shapes of Bread

Among the traditional forms and the most used today it is only right to mention:

  • uskuanète” (dialect for overlapped bread)
    This bread is largely consumed nowadays. It was traditionally kneaded at home and taken to the neighborhood’s bakery where the baker used to give the dough the overlapping shape, mark it with a wooden or an iron stamp on which the initials of the head of the family were engraved. Then He would bake it and, about an hour later, he would open the oven in order to allow for the formed crust to dry out and become crusty. When the baking was finished, the baker, after the bread had cooled down on wooden planks, used to have the bread delivered house – to- house on the wooden planks of the same type previously used to pick up the dough. The baker-delivery was paid with a piece of raw dough (about 300 g.), known in the local dialect as “cecì”.
  • 2- “u puènemuèdde” (soft bread or farmer’s bread)
    This bread was traditionally made for farmers and shepherds housed to live on it during their long stay sat the farms (usually 15 days). The kneading, molding and baking processes are the same as those used for the overlapped bread. Today, due to the modernization of the milling techniques, instead of durum wheat flour, re- milled wheat flour (“semola in Italian”) is commonly used, which gives the bread its straw-colouring instead of the traditional amber one.
  • 3- “u peccelatidde” (tantrumbread)
    Traditionally made and eaten while waiting for the sckuanéte (overlapped bread) to be baked. The name derives from the necessity to satisfy children’s desire (tantrum) to eat bread without waiting.
    Name: u puène a ‘mmenza stufe (bread on the stove)
    This is a special bread, meant for the city’s richer families or made on special occasions, like weddings. The finest quality of durum wheat semolina (like the one known as the “Senatore Cappelli”) was used for this valuable bread
  • .4- “u cuappidde de prèvete” (priest’shatshapedbread)
    This type of bread doesn’t have much soft part. It was made out of pieces of dough given to the the delivery baker by housewives as a payment for his service.5- “la panèdde de Sand’Andonje” (Saint Antony’sbread)
    Votive bread made for the religious festivals of Saint Antony of Padova (13th June); Saint Joseph (19th March) and Saint Anne, patroness of bakers (26th July). It is blessed on small altars set up in private houses and distributed to followers who often used to keep it in the kitchen of their homes for a whole year as a symbol of protection. At present time Saint Antony’s bread is also made for the festivals of Saint Rita, who is venerated in Saint Augustine’s church, and of the Madonna del Buoncammino (Our Lady of the Good Travel), in the sanctuary consecrated to her.

6- “la fecazzéde de la Maculète” (the Immaculate’s small focaccia bread)
This bread is made for the festivity of the Immaculate Conception (8th December). Once it was the only bread to be eaten on the vigil of the festivity (7th December), after the Cathedral’s bell had struck noon. At present the Immaculate’s bread is made solely by bakers and it is sold retail or on request.

 

Pane di Altamura 1 The PDO Altamura bread 

The culture yeastis the most important ingredient of PDO Altamura bread. It is a naturally prepared yeast that confers to the product a significant contribution to its digestibility and long shelf-life. Other ingredients are water, certified by Acquedotto pugliese, sea salt and durum wheat re-milled flour (semolina) derived from durum wheat varietes “appulo”, “arcangelo”, “duilio”, “simeto”, which are cultivated within the territory of the following municipal areas of: Altamura, Gravina in Puglia, Poggiorsini, Spinazzola, Minervino Murge.

 

 The P.D.O.trademark

The bread of Altamura was the first European product to be awarded the prestigious DOP conferred to it by the European Union in 2003 in the product category “Bread and bakery products”. The”Protected Designation of Origin”, known by the acronym PDO, is a legally protected trademark attributed to those food products whose quality characteristics depend on the geographic production. The combination of these elements allows to obtain a top-quality product, unique and inimitable flavour, taste and colour.The European disciplinary about the D.P.O. bread recognizes two shapes: the overlapped bread (u skuanète) from the high shape and the priest’s hat bread (u cappidde de Prevete) from the low shape.

The stamp of authenticity guarantee
It is the label that guarantees consumers the certainty of the PDO. It is applied directly onto the bread prior to its baking, or glued on a microperforated wrapping used for the packaging of bread loaves.