THE CATHEDRAL (photo by Luca Bellarosa)
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.
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 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 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.
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 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
“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.
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.
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
It 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.
The 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.