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.



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.






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-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.




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.



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.



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.


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_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 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 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.


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.

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.


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.


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-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.








(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.


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.



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





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.





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.






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.


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).


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.