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).