The Sasso Caveoso District

The starting point for this itinerary is Piazza San Pietro Caveoso, where the church of the same name is located. It was built in the 14th century on the edge of the Gravina, an imposing canyon formed by thousands of years of water erosion. A peek inside this exceptional rupestrian habitat will give you the opportunity to admire the harmonious melding of rock-hewn architecture and what ended up being built on as extensions. However, the dwellings characterizing the Sassi of Matera are not natural caves but they were dug out by humans who could use the local calcarenite, a kind of limestone which is easy to work. The dwellings were intended for various purposes. You will be able to get a sense of what the rupestrian living environment was like by visiting one of the cave dwellings, furnished exactly as it was in the 1950s, with a kitchen, sleeping area, stable and cistern, a poignant example of how the living spaces in the Sassi were organised at that time.

What you will see

San Pietro Caveoso

Tipologia:
Church




In the 18th century, the medieval church of San Pietro Caveoso underwent restoration work which completely changed its appearance. At that time the nave was lengthened, a stone vault replaced its wooden roof and a new façade and bell tower were built, to which the spire was later added. The Baroque style stucco work by Monsignor Lanfreschi, who had the vault of the central nave covered by a wooden, painted faux ceiling, dates back to 1756. Inside one can admire the polychrome stone statues of a Madonna and Child by Altobello Persio, from the 16th century, as well as statues of St. Leonard and St. John of Matera. The wooden polyptych on the main altar, depicting a Madonna and Child between Saints Peter and Paul, with the Last Supper at the bottom, was done by an unknown painter in 1540. In the third chapel, which is dedicated to St. Anthony, there are six stone panels by Altobello Persio from 1531, with scenes from the life of the saint, while in the second chapel, dedicated to the Our Lady of the Annunciation, there are frescoes by an unknown artist from the 15th century.


Piazza San Pietro Caveoso 75100 Matera





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Santa Lucia alle Malve

Tipologia:
Rock church




This privately founded rock church was first dedicated to Saint Agatha, but its name was changed, after it was entrusted to the Benedictine order dedicated to Saint Lucy. Its splendid medieval frescoes are considered to be among some of the highest in Byzantine artistic expression in the Basilicata region. On its walls there are the images of  St. Michael the Archangel, Our Lady of Grace, St. John the Baptist and other important religious authorities such as: Pope Gregory I (or Saint Gregory the Great), whose icon covered an unknown saint of which only the face remains, and the Benedictine Order’s founders – St. Benedict and Saint Scholastica. In the right aisle a Coronation of the Virgin Mary among various saints can be admired. Above the Coronation, on the same wall, there is an icon of Saint Nicholas and the Deposition of Christ from the Cross with an unknown saint. A depiction of Saint Leonard can be seen on the counter-façade of the main entrance. Opposite the Coronation, on the pillar that separates the central nave from the right aisle there is a Madonna and Child on Throne from the 16th century, with the patron painted in prayer at the bottom. The medieval icons of a Sainted Bishop and of Saint Vitus can be seen on the other pillars and there is a 17th-century image of Saint Lucy next to the altar in the right aisle.






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This church is managed by the Oltre l’Arte Cooperative.




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Madonna de Idris

Tipologia:
Rock church and Site of interest




The rock church, which includes part of an earlier medieval cemetery dug into the rocky bank of a natural shelter, was most likely erected in the late middle ages and first dedicated to the Virgin Hodegetria, Saint Mary of Idris. In the 19th century, during the restoration of the church, a new altar was added by the Spuma family and is dated1804. At that time, the church had become Madonna de Idris (Our Lady of Water). A statue, no longer existing, was purchased, on the initiative of the Confraternity of Santa Maria de Idris, with two terracotta water pitchers at the foot of the Virgin. A fresco of the Madonna and Child was painted above the altar, with two jugs to collect water. The floor of the church had a row of ceramic bricks along which praying women would crawl on their hands and knees to obtain the grace of the Virgin and above all, abundant water. Numerous paintings were detached from the counter-façade of the main entrance in the 1960s by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage in order to better preserve them and are now exhibited at the Museum of Palazzo Lanfranchi.






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This rock church is managed by the Oltre l’Arte Cooperative.




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Casa grotta di vico Solitario

Tipologia:
Museum set-up and Site of interest




The cave house in vico Solitario offers insight into the peasant lifestyle within the Sassi district back in the 1950s. All of the original furnishings and objects in the house, placed exactly where they once were, take us back in time. The first thing to note is its stone façade, which leans against the man-made cave and is equipped with a small window to ventilate the space. The interior is a museum of rupestrian peasant culture: the kitchen, the loom, the typical terracotta dish, from which everyone ate, the brazier, the tub for washing clothes and the bread stamp, which allowed people to recognize their personal loaf after it was baked in the communal oven. Then there is the bed, with its ½ wool and ½ corn-leaf filled mattress, which would be flipped over depending on the time of the year. The bed was very high off the floor in order to be as far away as possible from the dampness of the floor. To the left of the bed, towards the back of the house, is a stable for the cow, mule or horse, while the kitchen, living room, dining room and bedroom are closer to the front of house, which is more aerated and has more light.






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This site is managed by the Teatro Matera Association.




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