The rock churches
The rock churches that are dotted around the Sassi and the gorges of the Murgia Materana Natural Park are of exceptional historical, artistic and archaeological value. In fact, the park is sometimes known as the Park of the Rock Churches. In the Matera area, differently from other regions of southern Italy, there are no written records of the existence of Byzantine hermit monks or any lavrotic use of the caves located in the immediate vicinity of the rock churches in medieval times. In the city and in the Sassi districts only large monasteries built of brick can be found, none of which were ever a Byzantine monastery. Frescoes with inscriptions bearing clients’ names and more significantly, the tombs dug both inside and outside the churches and in their immediate vicinity clearly indicate that they were private churches and that their function was mainly funerary. The oldest rock churches are closely tied to the economy of the Lombard Benedictine monasteries.